Economy requires alternative logistics

An alternative policy towards logistics can stimulate economic growth. This is the conclusion drawn by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Raad voor de Leefomgeving, Rli) in the advice 'Dutch logistics 2040: designed to last' which was presented to Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment today. Adequately responding to new trends allows the logistics sector to capitalise on economic opportunities. City logistics require innovation in order to properly deal with increasing inbound and outbound goods flows. Using Utrecht as a recent example, this will not be achieved through the introduction of environmental zones by municipal authorities. Instead, municipalities should draw up uniform requirements for liveability, safety and accessibility and, through innovative tendering, leave implementation up to the sector. As the business sector is increasingly reusing raw materials extracted from waste, the Council advises the government to respond to the opportunities this presents. This can be achieved by transforming the Netherlands into the circular hub of Europe, with the port of Rotterdam acting as manager. Policy aimed at the clustering of companies which make use of one another's residual flows shortens the logistics chains and brings down operating costs.

The number of traffic movements in municipalities is increasing due to the growth of e-commerce, reverse logistics and service and home care logistics. This presents the logistics sector with both challenges and opportunities. To retain its leading position, the Dutch logistics sector must address these challenges together with the government, scientific sector and business sector. Despite the increased size and complexity of goods flows, cities can remain liveable by establishing clear requirements in terms of liveability, accessibility and safety. More than anything, transport must be clean and noiseless and unnecessary transport movements must be prevented. The government must set the preconditions for this; through innovative tendering, the business sector should however be allowed the opportunity to come up with good measures and implement these in practice. A situation in which each municipality individually implements environmental zoning with strict conditions for such things as truck emissions hampers innovation and insufficiently contributes to solving liveability issues. The State and provincial governments have the responsibility of ensuring that the preconditions which must be met by the logistics sector are standardised.

More and more companies are using the concept of the circular economy as their starting point. This allows them to operate in a sustainable and competitive manner. Rather than ending up as waste, products are reused as long as possible in the circular economy. Providing the impact of the circular economy - globally, nationally and locally - is properly anticipated, this presents the Dutch logistics sector with new opportunities.

At the global level, the following applies: the more companies wish to exercise control over the complete life cycle of a product, the more attractive it becomes to operate close to the customer. This will consequently change the transit function of the Netherlands. Reuse and recycling as well as production closer to the customer mean changes in both volumes and kinds of goods which are to be transported.

The favourable logistical starting position of the Netherlands presents opportunities to function as a hub, whereby supply, return, recycling and service flows from Europe are streamlined. Rli advises the State to draw up a programme together with the port of Rotterdam aimed at developing the Netherlands and Rotterdam into the circular hub of Europe.

In conclusion, the Council recommends the active formation of clusters of companies which stand to benefit from one another's residual flows. This leads to shorter logistics chains and reduced operational costs. A good example of this is Kalundborg in Denmark, where steam, various raw materials (e.g. sulphur), fly ash and sludge are exchanged between companies. In the system, an oil refinery, a company producing plaster, a pharmaceutical company, a fish farm, a coal-fired power plant and the municipality are working together.

It is not always possible to physically cluster companies. Therefore, a new mindset is required in terms of thinking about waste flows. Residual flows must no longer be primarily seen as risky waste which is governed by highly restrictive legislation, but rather as raw materials for new products. The Council's proposal for the introduction of the raw materials passport is a step in the right direction to achieve this mindshift. This passport indicates which raw materials are present in a product, thus making it easier to reuse them.

A short film explaining the core of the advice is available.

For more information on the advice please contact Nicole van Buren, project manager,