Some time ago, a video of garbage cleaning in the Netherlands sparked heated discussions on domestic social media platforms. This seemingly ordinary garbage can actually “has a universe inside”. Large-scale garbage cans are hidden underground, and the garbage cans on the surface are just the tip of the iceberg.
Through the mechanical operation of the recycling vehicle, this design not only greatly liberates the labor of cleaning workers, but also minimizes the pollution of urban waste to the environment, and there is no peculiar smell or scattering.
Nowadays, “low carbon environmental protection” has become a social consensus and a trendy way of life in the Netherlands. So how big is the environmental protection “iceberg” hidden underwater in the Netherlands?
From various creative practices to policy support, let’s take a look at how the Netherlands is adapting to nature and unlocking new ways to protect the planet.
Creative practice from fashion to technology
In recent years, “sustainable fashion” has become a new trend in the Netherlands, and people from all walks of life are using their own strength to implement the concept of environmental protection.
Taking the fashion and creative industry as an example, as a young and talented Dutch “fashion scientist”, Iris van Herpen told the story of a famous “Earthrise” in the release of the Iris van Herpen 2021 autumn and winter haute couture series. Among them, the inspiration comes from the cycle process of the earth.
By using new materials made of recycled marine plastics, these shapes not only create an unparalleled visual enjoyment of the colors and totems derived from nature, but also arouse people’s thinking about symbiosis with the earth.
Coincidentally, in the hands of Dutch artist Jon Mans, discarded plastic waste has been turned into a material for making clothes. She combines recycled plastics, old fabrics and discarded packaging, etc., with her own design concepts to create medieval-style clothes for portrait characters, giving new meaning and ideas to garbage.
According to statistics, the world consumes 1 million plastic bags every minute on average, and the total annual plastic consumption in the world is 400 million tons. At present, only 10% of the plastic packaging in the world is effectively recycled. There is no doubt that white pollution has brought great harm to the global environment. These Renaissance costumes, which look like oil paintings at first glance, are all made of non-degradable and recycled plastic and foam. Jones Mans combines environmental protection with fashion aesthetics, truly realizing “turning waste into beauty”, and hopes to awaken people’s environmental awareness through this method.
Outside the fashion circle, this new trend of environmental protection has also inspired more creativity and artistic practice.
Dutch artist and designer Rosgaard is committed to the integration of environment and technology, using technology to reinterpret nature, making buildings and public spaces more dynamic and open. He has designed the exhibition of WATERLICHT, an immersive light projection installation, which presents the coexistence of the power and poetry of water in an artistic way.
This exhibition piece creates a virtual flood scene, using the Loevstein Castle as an example, to show the century-long story of the Netherlands and water, in an attempt to draw attention to the rising sea level caused by climate change.
”We should learn to always be in awe of nature,” Rothgaard said. Through the above installation exhibition, he reminds the people living in the “low country” – not to forget the power of water and nature.
From environmental degradation to sustainable agriculture paradigm
The prevalence of modern industry and consumerism, the semi-urbanization of the vast countryside… The Netherlands in the 1950s and 1960s faced a severe crisis of environmental degradation. 65% of the country’s land is engaged in agricultural production, and the agricultural productivity ranks first in the world. The overuse of agricultural areas, the high energy consumption of heavy industry and various environmental pressures caused by urban traffic. To this end, from the legislative level to policy tools, the Dutch government has also taken various measures to manage the environmental crisis. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Netherlands achieved ecological modernization transformation.
Specifically, as one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products and food, the Netherlands has also faced increasingly serious agricultural environmental pollution problems. The developed agriculture and dense population of the Netherlands have caused the land and water resources in the country to be polluted to varying degrees. In the early 1980s, with the large-scale development of agriculture and animal husbandry, agricultural activities discharged excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants into the natural environment. Habitat, on the other hand, caused soil acidification, decreased soil quality, and affected the growth of vegetation. To this end, not only the Dutch government, but also the civil society and academia have never stopped making efforts.
For example, Wageningen University, known as the “World’s No. 1 Agricultural University”, has carried out various researches – making soil healthier and improving grain yield through alternate planting; enriching the ecology inside the soil; developing sustainable agricultural economy, etc. . Taking the concept of “from table to farm” as an example, this model aims to reduce waste of resources in agricultural activities and meet market demands in a more sustainable way.
In the early 2000s, the Dutch made a national commitment to “sustainable agriculture” with the slogan “producing twice as much food with half the resources”, using innovative technologies and knowledge to feed growing urban populations, such as promoting precision Planting and organic agriculture to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and improve resource utilization efficiency, vigorously develop vertical agriculture to increase crop yield per unit area, and reduce antibiotic usage, etc. Take antibiotic usage, for example, its use by poultry and livestock producers in the Netherlands has decreased by 60 percent since 2009. A quarter of the world’s high-end glass greenhouses are located in the Netherlands, totaling more than 11,000 hectares. Its stable yields and quality have made Dutch greenhouse technology popular around the world. In the early 21st century, the first Dutch high-end glass greenhouse settled in Shanghai Flower Port, China. Nowadays, in order to reduce the energy consumption of glass greenhouses and improve the efficiency of resource utilization, the recycling of greenhouse waste, geothermal technology and unmanned intelligent greenhouses are gradually being applied to high-end glass greenhouses. In the future, the Netherlands hopes that greenhouses will no longer consume energy, and may even be converted into energy producers. The idea of sustainable farming in the Netherlands has long since moved out of university and company labs and into thousands of family farms.
From green buildings to circular economy
The European Union plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and carbon reduction in the construction of buildings will play a crucial role in this. Globally, construction projects generate about 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, especially the production of steel and concrete requires a lot of energy, and the transformation of construction mode is imminent.
The Netherlands is a country with a high population density in the world. Limited space and resources determine that it must use resources in innovative ways and take the road of developing a circular economy. By 2050, the Dutch government has committed to a circular economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero. To this end, the Netherlands’ environmental goals include reducing the use of key raw materials and eliminating plastic incineration and landfilling by 2030. The Netherlands currently leads the way when it comes to mechanical recycling of plastic waste. In addition, the Netherlands ranks first in the world for material reuse and waste management, and second in the world for the sustainability of the food system.
Have you heard of “plastic tiles”? The world’s first permanent building to use “plastic tiles” is located in a concert hall at the Hinter-Albert Sports School in the Netherlands. The design of plastic waste recycling is endless in the Netherlands, and the design of “plastic tiles” is one of the classic cases of the recycling of waste plastics in the Netherlands.
Similar in form to traditional clay or wood cladding, these “plastic tiles” appear in varying shades of grey. Each “tile” is a boxy rhombus that is closely arranged outside the concert hall.
The “plastic tile” design also reveals a new future for sustainable materials. This “plastic tile” is made of waste plastic building materials (plastic window frames, water pipes, sinks, etc.), and it is a 100% recyclable plastic cladding material. 100% recyclable cladding material”.
It is worth mentioning that “plastic tiles” were once used outside a building known as the “People’s Pavilion”. All the building materials needed for the People’s Pavilion are “borrowed”, including concrete, wooden beams, lighting fixtures, glass roofs… All materials are returned to suppliers and local residents after use. The construction of the People’s Pavilion symbolizes a design manifesto for a new circular economy.
According to the “Circular Building Framework” published by the Netherlands Green Building Council, the use of fewer, more environmentally friendly, renewable, reusable, non-toxic and biodegradable raw materials is an indicator for judging circular buildings. Today, in all parts of the Netherlands, from recycling communities, recycling roads, to recycling water purification plants, recycling bird observation stations, etc., there are a wide range of application scenarios for recycling buildings. This is also evidence that the Netherlands is at the forefront of the world in the circular economy.
From solar cars to energy transition
The Netherlands has always pursued SDG action in an integrated manner, and from an environmental perspective, the Netherlands’ national priorities include the energy transition, climate action, strengthening environmental protection and biodiversity, while addressing current and future environmental pressures.
Among them, the Netherlands’ actions to achieve the SDGs at the environmental level are mainly focused on the SDGs (see figure). Taking target 7 in the figure as an example, in 2021, the Netherlands will generate 117.9 billion kWh of electricity, a year-on-year decrease of 2.2 billion kWh. Electricity generation from renewable sources increased by 22%, while generation from fossil fuels decreased by 11%. Renewables accounted for 33% of total electricity generation in the Netherlands last year, up from 27% the year before, according to Statistics Netherlands.
When it comes to new energy, we have to mention the world-famous Stella solar car. As early as 2015, the solar team from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands designed a solar car with a top speed of 126 km/h and won the championship in the World Solar Challenge. Over the years, the team has built a number of super-efficient solar cars for the World Solar Challenge.
In 2021, they launched a solar RV called Stella Vita, which according to reports, can achieve a range of up to 730 kilometers in clear weather. An 8.8-square-meter solar panel on the roof harvests energy for a 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack, also known as a “solar house on wheels”.
”By creating an innovative, energy-efficient solar car, we hope to inspire current markets and societies to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future – in terms of mobility and energy.” As the solar team’s goal states, Dutch renewables Global leader in energy, not only has one of the largest offshore wind farms in Europe and the largest floating solar park in Europe, but also ranks first in the world in terms of material reuse, waste management and food system sustainability. Its energy industry has world-class research and development facilities and offers outstanding incentive programs that support innovation.
From idea first to “100 million” point of capital
In the Netherlands, generally speaking, the people’s environmental protection concept is very strong. As early as 1979, the Netherlands began to implement a garbage classification system. Dutch children began to receive environmental protection and nature education from school age, familiar with the common sense of environmental protection, and knew the concept of garbage classification from childhood. In fact, sustainability values are deeply rooted in Dutch culture.
Known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles”, this national “two-wheel” travel mode is environmentally friendly and low-carbon. In addition, the Netherlands has a strong, environmentally friendly transport infrastructure. The Dutch Railways decided in 2017 to run trains on 100% wind energy, while the Netherlands also has the world’s highest density of electric vehicle charging stations, and has pledged to completely ban fuel vehicles by 2030. All of this reflects the environmentally friendly and sustainable way of life in the Netherlands.
Not only that, the Dutch government has been working with industry, knowledge institutions, civil society organizations and others to work together towards the SDGs. At the same time, the government continues to “give generously” to sustainable projects, either injecting investment funds or subsidizing them.
In March 2022, the Netherlands Enterprise Authority announced that the Netherlands had allocated €13 billion ($14.3 billion) for the 2022 SDE++ Renewable Energy Incentive Scheme and expanded the scope of eligible technologies.
Working together to create a green future
June 5, 2022 is the 51st World Environment Day. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is “Only One Earth”, which is also the common environmental protection goal of all mankind.
Solutions such as Dutch organic waste treatment, permeable bricks, and greenhouse technology have all entered the Chinese market. China and the Netherlands share social responsibilities. Facing the current urgency and necessity of protecting the earth and jointly building a sustainable green future, it is the right time for China and the Netherlands to start cooperation in related fields.