“We are not the richest province in the Netherlands, yet we have the happiest people”, says Mr. Tjeerd Hazenberg, circular economy policy advisor at the Province of Friesland. He calls it the ‘Friesland paradox’. Friesland, a small 869 km² province of 650 000 inhabitants in the north of the Netherlands, has a strong cultural identity, its own language, an economy mostly devoted to agriculture, lots of companies (20 000, 99% of which are SMEs) but is facing economic and demographic challenges.

Yet it is becoming one of the best examples of a successful transition towards a circular economy. Policymakers and reporters from all over the country and the continent are coming to Leeuwarden, Friesland’s capital, to get to know more on this little miracle.

The Province has 3 lines of action when it comes to circular economy “Doing. Learning. Telling”, chants Mr Sander de Rouwe, the 39 years old Provincial Commissioner on Economy.

  • Doing: the Province has specific public policies on circular economy, finances circular SMEs, research (on the Fjildlab, a quadruple helix field-lab, read below) and has an ambition on developping public procurement. “The companies started this movement” reminds Mr Tjeerd Hazenberg. “We have a specific budget on circular economy, out of the economic department. But it is also important that other departments have circular economic rules.”
  • Learning. The Province is an active member of the Association of Cities and Regions for sustainable Resource management (ACR Plus) and is involved in different European projects: SCREEN (Horizon), REPLACE, CIRC NSR and COLOR CIRCLE. “We don’t have to invent everything on our own, that is why sharing experiences with European partners is so important” says Mr de Rowe
  • Telling: “Let’s tell our story together, ‘cause no story, no glory” says Mr de Rowe.

[Mr. Sander de Rouwe, Commissioner on Economy at the Province of Friesland and Mr Emiel Elferink from VHL on 5 February 2020, COLOR CIRCLE's 1st Interregional Learning Event.]

According to Tjeerd Hazenberg, there are 3 mains reasons why circular economy works so well in Friesland:
-    A transparent economic structure with no dominant company;
-    A culture of cooperation with knowledge institutes and local governments, the ‘Frisian Mienskip”
(litteraly the ‘community’ but used to express the interconnection needed to protect the community);
-    World class knowledge on tech and more (especially on water technology, circular plastics, and agrofood).

Two categories of stakeholders – farmers and entrepreneurs - played a key role in Friesland to put circular economy on the agenda and design new approaches with the Province. Both were able to organize networks and associations that could start and structure the dialogue. Meet them in our next article.