Working Circularly

The background

The Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat in Dutch) has the ambition to work circularly by 2030. To make that possible, a change in the work method and culture is needed. The first step toward identifying the necessary changes has been taken with the Circular Working Implementation Program 2019-2021. Copper8 and Metabolic were asked to support Rijkswaterstaat in setting up this Implementation Program and taking the organization further in its circular thinking and working.


In 2017, the Rijkswaterstaat board decided to set up the Sustainability and Living Environment Program (Programma Duurzaamheid en Leefomgeving in Dutch). For Circular Economy, one of the project’s three focal points, an Impulse Program has been established, which Rijkswaterstaat wants to use up to and including 2021, to stimulate the development of knowledge and practical projects, and to anchor the resulting insights in all aspects of their work. The Implementation Program 2019-2021 is a further realization of the Impulse Program.

The question

Support us with the setup of our Circular Working Implementation Program, which sets out what we need to do in the coming years to make the organization work circularly. In addition, look at the changes needed in the internal organization and in the collaboration with external parties. Guide us substantively through a number of steps, including setting up a knowledge agenda and training project advisors on sustainability.

Current situation and future

Rijkswaterstaat’s core task is to ensure that the Netherlands is safe and accessible, and the transition to working circularly must occur within that. Things such as the adaptation of work processes or technical requirements must be addressed within the framework of safety and accessibility. So when introducing circular working, the inclusion of the project organization becomes an important part of the task.

The process

We mapped out the impact of circular working on the organization’s processes in the course of several full- and half-day working sessions, as well as what changes are needed in these processes. This has also clarified the knowledge that still needs to be developed in order to make the right (circular) choices. We further elaborated various components of the Implementation Program in subgroups.

The results

In recent years, Rijkswaterstaat has made great strides in the area of circular working, with the circular viaduct being an important milestone in 2019. In the coming years, circularity will become increasingly visible – for example, the reuse of bridges and bridge components, the use of bio-based materials in road furniture, and the extension of objects’ lifespans instead of their replacement. The Circular Working Implementation Program is the basis from which to make a start. The 2019 Annual Report provides a good overview of the year’s activities (only available in Dutch).

“Copper8 and Metabolic have guided us very well in drawing up the Circular Working Implementation Program, which we can get started with immediately. In our experience, their expertise and flexibility have provided enormous added value.” Frederieke Knopperts Circular Working Program Manager

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