CIRCO and China explore circular collaboration opportunities


In May 2022, CIRCO explored whether the Netherlands and China can work more closely together on the transition to a circular economy from a design perspective. As part of the digital trade mission with the Dutch Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development and Dutch State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen for Infrastructure and Water Management, CIRCO participated in a round table discussion on circular construction. In the same week, a CIRCO Demo was organized together with the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Guangzhou China, to introduce the CIRCO Method in China and explore the fit of the method in the Chinese context.

China studio HCH and CIRCO

Photo: Roundtable discussion. From left to right: Arnoud Passenier, Senior policy officer circular economy; Freek van Eijk, Director Holland Circular Hotspot; Pieter van Os, Program manager CIRCO International

China, representing an enormous market, having the highest number of megacities and being a gigantic exporter of consumer goods and textiles and apparel, can have a massive impact when transitioning to a fully circular economy. Circular economy was formally accepted as a sustainable development strategy by the central government of China in 2002, and has been implemented and developed in a number of pilot areas. Before 2060, China wants to achieve ‘carbon neutrality’ and is very ambitious to ‘go green’.


“Circular Design and Circular Business Models are essential to spark the transition to a circular economy in China. Business, designers and government all need to take a role. With the CIRCO Demo we took a first step and we hope that it is just the first of many to come.” – Michiel Bierkens, Consul General of the Netherlands Guangzhou, China


Roundtable discussion on circularity in the Chinese construction sector

During the roundtable organized by Holland Circular Hotspot, Chinese and Dutch experts, among which CIRCO’s Pieter van Os, came together to discuss the situation and opportunities looking at the Circular Buildings & Infrastructure sector in China.

“Even though most often optimization of costs and materials is focused on the building phase, taking into account the total duration of use and total cost of ownership, gives a more realistic perspective. Looking from that ‘new’ perspective unveils opportunities on many aspects”, said van Os about the circularity in the buildings and infrastructure sector.


The CIRCO design method in a Chinese context

In connection with the virtual trade mission, a CIRCO Demo was organized in a virtual setting by CreativeNL and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Guangzhou. More than 50 participants from Chinese companies and government organizations and designers participated to learn more about the role of design in preparing for a circular economy.

Michiel Bierkens, Consul General of the Netherlands Guangzhou, officially kicked off the session with a word of welcome and Pieter van Os, Program Manager International at CIRCO demonstrated the CIRCO method. Followed by a dialogue on circular (design) ambitions and the CIRCO design methodology in a Chinese context with Junyuan Chen, China representative of Superuse Studio, lecturer at Localization Research Studio of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Zhang Xiaoyang, Senior manager of GoldonBee, responsible for project incubation and brand building to amplify sustainable development influence, and Mariet Schreurs Creative Director at Orange Creatives.



Photo: Kick-off CIRCO Demo by Michiel Bierkens, Consul General of the Netherlands Guangzhou


Circular opportunities for textiles

Another relevant sector which offers interesting ground to collaborate on circularity is the textiles and apparel sector. The Netherlands is aiming to have at least 30% recycled material in newly produced textile products in 2030. With the goal of achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. China, on the other hand, is the world’s largest textile and apparel producer and exporter and represents one of the largest textiles and apparel consumer markets in the world. There is an urgent need in China to make the textile industry more circular. Chinese companies are looking for circular solutions to upgrade the whole industry chain, where a lot of potential opportunities exist for designers, innovators and businesses, both from the Netherlands and China to work together.


“In Guangdong province alone, there are 28,276 enterprises in the business of textile and apparel export as of 1st half of 2020. As for Fujian province, the output of yarn, grey cloth, and chemical fiber ranking top in the country which makes Fujian the largest production base for sportswear and sport shoes in China. With textiles and apparel being one of CIRCO’s main topics, we might see collaboration in this field in the nearby future.” – Consulate General of the Netherlands in Guangzhou China


Next steps

After the events in May, the Consulate General of the Netherlands is proactively identifying suitable partners for CIRCO and aims for a series of CIRCO workshops to be launched in China soon. “We hope CIRCO could inspire more Chinese designers, creative entrepreneurs to pursue a more circular way when it comes to creating business”, says Bierkens about the potential collaboration.