Rotterdam examples on the development and application of circular concrete

It is important to the city of Rotterdam that initiatives are being developed to tackle the nitrogen problem, and therefore it is happy to contribute to the reduction of CO2, and to the goals of a climate neutral world in 2050. The energy transition, the circular ambitions and the environmental ambitions offer opportunities for Rotterdam to stay competitive in the long term and at the same time take the responsibility in the prevention of severe climate change.

For this reason the city of Rotterdam is involved not only in Urbcon, but in many other initiatives as well, which promote and apply circular material, as there is concrete. For instance, Rotterdam co-signed the Betonakkoord (Concrete Agreement). The Betonakkoord has the goal to handle concrete in an environmentally responsible way. 

Rotterdam examples

Furthermore, there is the Rotterdam pilot project with the circular sewer pipes, where sewer pipes are not dismissed as waste, but are reused as building material for the greening of the city. Another example is a bench of geopolymer concrete, developed by the city of Rotterdam together with TU Delft. The experimental garden of geopolymers, in which Rotterdam joins eight other cities in their effort to apply geopolymer concrete in projects; and the 100% circular concrete pits. 

In a few subsequent articles we would like to pay attention to a few of the Rotterdam initiatives mentioned above, as well as pay attention to other new initiatives and developments. In this article we’ll explain why Rotterdam is involved in the Betonakkoord.


Circularity is an expression which is often heard nowadays in connection to concrete. We are aiming for an environmentally friendly, climate neutral, CO2 free, source efficient, sustainable and circular concrete chain. In 2016 the Dutch government launched the programme ‘The Netherlands Circular in 2050’, with the ambition to reduce the use of primary raw materials with 50% in 2030. This is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, on the transition to a climate neutral economy in 2050. 

In 2018 the city of Rotterdam co-signed the Betonakkoord, with comparitive (less strict) goals for 2030. Amongst other things it states that we have the intention to use various waste flows in order to be able to develop new low-carbon binders. And we prefer that 100% of the concrete that is demolished, is being reused in new concrete.

The concrete sector has the ability and willingness to become more sustainable by collaborating more in the chain and with clients. Therefore the Betonakkoord has been established. A national chain agreement for sustainable growth of the sector. In the Betonakkoord it is agreed upon which chain partner is going to realize which goals and ambitions. 

Responsible procurement (Maatschappelijk Verantwoord inkopen)

Sustainability is of high importance to the city of Rotterdam and as a rule includes it in all its tenders. The way this is done is recorded in the Responsible procurement action plan (In Dutch Actieplan Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Inkopen).  Depending on what we are procuring, we emphasize on zero emission transport, reuse of raw materials and energy efficient production processes. 

“On various fronts the goals are being taken care of. The question is, whether concrete, different from traditional concrete, is changing depending on which kind of ‘waste’ is available and is used. Developments on material level are quite advanced. How do we manage, now and in the future, to build safely with these different non-concrete variants? We have to know if we are able to use the same rules and norms we have for traditional concrete, possibly with some adjustments. We have to act now, because 2030 is not far away!”  (Quote from the blog ‘Corona, circularity and the role of science’, to be read on Cement, the Dutch online knowledge platform on concrete constructions. Here  the entire article is to be read in Dutch.)

It is clear that the ambitions are being formulated and that a certain consensus arises in the vision of the future. That is the easy part, as the factual and responsible realisation of the ambitions is an enormous task. The participation of the city of Rotterdam in URBCON and other initiatives contributes to take further steps towards that ambition. What stands out is that many initiatives on an abstract level pursue the same ambitions, thus taking account of what happens in all these initiatives and promote the cross-pollination.

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