On the road to a sustainable future with WUR

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At the end of 2021, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), PreZero, and Witteveen+Bos signed a ten-year partnership agreement for Material Flow Management (MFM) at WUR. The agreement, which is characterised by a new perspective on raw materials and waste management, is another step towards WUR becoming a fully circular organisation. Annet de Haas, head of Location Facilities at WUR: ‘We are proud to have found partners in PreZero and Witteveen+Bos who we can work with to achieve our circularity ambitions in the coming years. Together, we are committed to reducing products and raw materials and to good waste management.’

WUR has set itself the target of halving its use of raw materials by 2030. This can be achieved in various ways: by using fewer products, by using products more intelligently, and by using and reusing products and their components for longer within WUR or elsewhere. When several contracts for waste collection and processing were due to expire, WUR took the opportunity to look for more intensive forms of collaboration. PreZero and consultancy and engineering firm Witteveen+Bos emerged as the best partners to implement MFM at WUR.

Preventing waste

Arthur Haag, healthcare and education sector manager at PreZero, explains: ‘I believe this approach is the way forward. WUR has opted for a contract in which we, as partners, are given both the freedom and the responsibility to work on reducing the use of raw materials throughout the entire use cycle. In other words, we’re helping WUR to prevent waste from being created, rather than looking for as many waste streams as possible. It’s a different approach, but it’s one that we all need to take. We need to work together to ensure that we use less of the earth's resources. The aim is to achieve a 50% reduction in the incineration and low-grade recycling of waste. By changing the way we buy and operate, we can reduce the amount of waste we produce and the cost of waste, freeing up more and more money for innovation and new solutions.’

Starting at the front-end

‘Under this contract, PreZero is focusing on the back end of the process: reuse and recycling. But to really maximise results, you need to start at the front end by making sure you use fewer raw materials,’ explains Haag. To get this right, PreZero went in search of a partner, finding one in Witteveen+Bos. They will analyse and record the entire raw materials chain – from procurement to waste – using a digital MFM model, and provide suggestions for improvement. Rob Dijcker, senior circular solutions consultant at Witteveen+Bos: ‘We have a dedicated business unit for circular and biobased solutions as well as an office on the WUR campus, which enables us to combine new knowledge with practical experience. The long-term collaboration and integrated approach create space for innovation and the systemic change needed to achieve the circular goals.’

On the road to success

Haag has high expectations for the collaboration. ‘We are proud to be able to play our part as experts. Together, we have a lot of knowledge and experience. WUR is already working on all kinds of innovative projects and solutions to replace raw materials. Witteveen+Bos knows a lot about the front-end processes, while we have a lot of knowledge about the ones at the back end. The three of us are committed to making this a success.’

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