Ad Lansink at Global Dialogue on Waste 2018

From 2013, website be Waste Wise each year organizes the Global Dialogue on Waste, a series of webinars about all aspects of waste management, both national (US) and international, especially the UK and Europe. The 2018 series consisted from two parts: New Systems for North America (04-09-18) and Learning Across The Atlantic (05-09-18). The second series started with Ranjith Annepu (RA), talking with Ad Lansink (AL) about some issues of his book Challenging Changes. Did you miss the live event for Learning Across The Atlantic | 2018 Global Dialogue on Waste? You can watch the replay here:

(RA) Why did you write the book?  Doesn’t Circular Economy cover the waste hierarchy?
(AL) I wrote Challenging Changes for more reasons: first to explain the relation and connection between the Ladder of Lansink – the waste hierarchy and circular economy (CE). The waste hierarchy is an essential tool – a guide map – for CE. Secondly, to warn of the pitfalls during the transition to CE. Some people think, that only mentioning the word CE solves all problems. I advocate a realistic and careful approach without marketing tricks. Finally, because to the request of an English translation of my first book about Lansink’s Ladder ‘ De Kracht van de Kringloop’. But that book,  published in 2010 appeared not useful for a direct translation. In 2014 and 2015 some waste and recycling companies again asked me to write about the waste hierarchy and the interaction with the upcoming circular economy.Indeed: CE covers to a large extent the waste hierarchy. Otherwise: the waste hierarchy is a preference order. Actually, the Ladder of Lansink is a series of cycles, without landfilling unless urban mining wil be successful. Otherwise: in my book the reader will find interviews with experts from the CE field: I mention e.g. Eurocommissioner Karmenu Vella, ISWA Chairman Antonis Mavropoulos and Dominic Hoo, CEO of Eunomia (Bristol, UK)

How will new systems for will look like? Given that most recycling happens due to public pressure, do you think this will continue? Who are some new actors or stakeholders that will influence this trend positively? 
In Europe, legislation has a large influence despite the historical and economical differences between West- and East Europe. The European Waste Directives (and also other directives) play an important role. Keywords for circular economic development will be prevention, design for recycling, high recycling rates, specific level of energy recovery, future ban on landfilling. Public awareness about environmental problems is lower than one or two decades ago. So public pressure seems to decrease, especially when results remain invisible. In the Netherlands: differences between the waste collection systems of local authorities cause uncertainty among the public. New actors and stakeholders are found among active enterprises, small companies and well known industrial conglomerates such as Unilever and DSM. Furthermore, initiatives from so called breed places have to be mentioned.

What do you think about the pace of systems change? Is it different from movements in the past? How is it different?
The pace will not be very fast. Looking for my proposal for the preference order in 1979, the year of legislation (1993), the European Waste Directives (2008, 2018), it’s clear that the transitions take much time. The same will be true for the transition to CE, despite of optimistic target dates (2030, 2050). The transition to circular economy differs greatly from a relative simple waste policy. New resource management requires more knowledge, new technics and cooperation between more parties with their own capabilities and interest. Moreover, the transition from local and regional to international and global field of interest (or markets) requires another scale of thinking and working. That’s also the reason why I paid much attention to the so called circular dilemmas e.g. governmental control or producer responsibility and taxes against free market; and the so called circular leakages – technical, financial and other losses of material.

What does this difference mean to new systems?
The development of new systems takes time and requires knowledge, skills and perseverance on a multitude of topics. We have to 

  • close loops in several sectors and on various levels
  • create financial, social and other values
  • develop new technologies, also in the file of design

Furthermore: producers, consumers and governments have to share their responsibilities, creating broad – also global – support.The decoupling of economy from environmental impacts is a complicated job, also because of the necessary transition towards renewable energy. Finally, the development of workable business models is a big challenge, especially for small companies

In your book, you mention that a Circular Economy is possible but if it only creates that value. Does that mean GDP value?
GDP – Gross Domestic Product – is an important indicator. GDP’s are commonly used to determine the economic performance of a whole country or region, and to make international comparisons. But in the transition to circular economy also other values have to be mentioned: social values as employment opportunities, health, safety and welfare; and of course environmental values such as biodiversity and sustainability. It’s still a problem to compare financial and other values. But qualitative indicators may help in comparing these different values.

In your book, you say that the ongoing global dialogue on circular economy and waste creates expectations that are high or not achievable. Can you give us some examples?
The first example refers to my early discussions with Michael Braungart, the cofounder of the Cradle to Cradle-concept: All waste is food. Using my philosophy. he said, human consumption may be unlimited. I asked him: what about energy, the energy content of materials and products, and what about the increasing population? Why no prevention. He answered: All energy will become renewable, and prevention is something for quilty people. A real example concerns paper fibers, which can be uses 6 – 10 times before they are useless for their original function. The same is true for other materials such as plastics, which may be used after down cycling for other functions. We don’t have enough information about the secondary resource materials from batteries. Furthermore, getting mono streams from complicated products such as print plates is a difficult job.

Also, how do natural laws fit in to understanding which expectations are high or not achievable?
Sometimes the impression that science and technology can break all boundaries, including those of nature, more and more increases. However, the transition to circular economy takes time and perseverance, and requires knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics. Closing cycles costs a lot of energy, proportional to the quantity of matter in the chain. The assumption that economy can continue to grow, independent of production and consumption volumes, is wrong. The paradigm of a never ending turnover as pointed out in the Cradle to Cradle concept, ignores the value of natural laws. Closing cycles is a necessary condition for sustainability, but not sufficient for achieving real circularity. Limiting volumes of production and consumption is difficult but also necessary. Recognizing the values of natural laws also implies that green growth remains an even wishful as paradoxical notion.

Can you talk to us a little about various implementation velocities and measures? Do you think everyone in the world is expected to do just one thing?
In Europe, the large differences between the Member States regarding their waste policy and resource management systems, resulting in recycling figures between 38% (Poland) and 78% (Belgium), require authorization of two or even more implementation velocities. The same is true for measures. Sharing knowledge and technologies may reduce the deficit for countries with relatively low figures. Aiming at the gradual transition to circular economy, a temporary derogation from the European regulation should be allowed. This allowance should be limited in time – for instance 5 or 10 years – and have substantive conditions regarding the recycling and/or incineration processes.  The world population will grow from 7 milliard people in 2011 to about 9 milliards in 2050, half of them living in Asia, with lower welfare. That’s one reason for the acceptance of different velocities. Globalization of waste and material management still demand more variation of velocities, especially in less developed countries. Otherwise: the relation with climate policy requires also attention.

Ordering your own copy

Ad Lansink, selling his book at WasteCon 2019 in Johannesburg

Be aware of the transition to circular economy. Let also your friends and colleagues recognize your leadership or interest on this challenging transition process. Send us your contact details and the number of copies you want. We will provide you as soon as possible with the book after transferring €20 per copy, excluding shipping costs. In special cases, the shipping costs may be shared. Students get a €10 discount per copy.

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Packaging and shipping costs in the Netherlands are €5.00. Orders for the Netherlands can be placed directly by transferring €25.00 to NL14 INGB 0008 7068 76 for A G W J Lansink, citing also your delivery address. Paying by PayPal is also possible, via

Ad Lansink during the Exhibition at the ISWA World Congress 2018 in Kuala LumpurKuala

Generally spoken, for Europe, the shipping costs (DHL or PostNL) are about €20,00. So within Europe, books may be ordered for €20 + €20 = €40.00 for one copy. Orders can be placed directly by transferring €40.00 to the above mentioned bank account or by PayPal. Ordering 2, 3 or 4 copies provides benefit. Then the price of each copy is €17.50, while the total shipping costs remain the same. E.g: for ordering in Europe the total costs of  4 copies amount to 4*17,50 + 1*20 = €90.00, so €22.50 per copy.

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Launching Challenging Changes at Nijmegen

Raymond Janssen interviews Harriet Tiemens and Ad Lansink (Phoyo: Sophy van Kempen)

After the book launches in Brussels, the Dutch presentation of Challenging Changes took place on 18 December 2017 in the Council Hall of Nijmegen. As an introduction, Vera Dalm, director of Milieu Centraal, pointed out the meaning of knowledge transfer: ‘Let’s keep communication about waste simple’. With examples, such as the ban on plastic bags in stores, she showed that legislation can have a major impact. ‘And why do not we make coffee at stations for people who bring their own cups cheaper?’ According to NVRD chairman Han Noten, the waste sector has long been aware of the value of raw materials. ‘But making the transition from waste to raw material still takes a long way. It will work when we do. For that we need enthusiastic people with good ideas. And of course, organizations and legislation to scale up. In addition, we jointly have to look at the bigger picture. ‘ Between the keynotes, Harriët Tiemens, Alderman for Sustainability of the municipality of Nijmegen and author Ad Lansink, were interviewed by Raymond Janssen about the production of the book and the relationship with Nijmegen as Green Capital Europe 2018.

Author Ad Lansink with Bas de Vries and Johny Kerkhof: on the screen pictures of the LokaliteitenKabinet (Photo: Sophie van Kempen)

After the speeches, the first copies of Challenging Changes were presents to Bas de Vries and Johny Kerkhof, representatives of the young guard, who designed the so called ‘LokaliteitenKabinet’. With this surprising construction, they make circular economy visible and tangible for a large public, and at the same time, operational for actors on the market for secondary raw materials market. They suit the action to the word connecting a mechanical, visible system with a digital platform: an innovative contribution matching supply and demand for the reuse of raw materials. Fortunately, the benefits of circular economy are gradually becoming known. Keywords such as environmental benefits, employment, biodiversity and energy saving are receiving more and more attention, also in Challenging Changes through a lot of interesting positive but also critical recommendations for a wide variety of target groups, including producers and consumers

Challenging Changes at 25 Year RDC Environment, Brussel

On November 20th, Ad Lansink contributed to the symposium of RDC Environment at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this well-known Belgian environmental consultancy. The meeting was held at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, Rue des Sables 20, Brussels. Ad Lansink presented his new book Challenging Changes, a.o. focussing on

  • Closing loops on various levels;
  • Creating financial, social and other values;
  • Developing new technologies;
  • Shared responsibility producers, consumers, governments;
  • Creating broad – also global – support

During the discussion an interesting point arised, namely the question why important transitions as establishing a firm climate policy and changing minds for circular economy do not get broad support in society. Possibly, the answer lies in the acceptance of an appropriate level of risks. An absolute zero level is not achievable.

Book presentations: 23 and 25-26 Oktober 2017

During the International G.STIC 2017 conference at Brussel (, Ad Lansink presented  his new book Challenging Changes – Connecting Waste Hierarchy and Circular Economy with the closing keynote of the plenary session on October 23th, the first day of the conference. In his presentation Ad Lansink considered the firm relation between the main lines of Challenging Changes and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The presentation will become available on this site within a few days.

The staff of VITO, the inspiring organizer of the G.STIC Conference, decided to  present a copy of Challenging Changes to each of the participants of the sessions on circular economy. Ad Lansink had to sign almost all books, meanwhile speaking with the people, who were lucky to receive one of the available copies. So he met interested men and women from all over the world, both from rich and less developed countries.

Ad Lansink also visited the exhibition Recycling 2017 in the Evenementenhal in Gorinchem (the Netherlands . During the BRBS-FHG-symposium on Wednesday, oktober 25th (09.30 – 12.30) about the future of circular economy, moderator Simone van Trier interviewed Ad Lansink about Challenging Changes. After the symposium, he met visitors and guests of Recycling 2017, discussing the importance of reduce, reuse and recycling for the transition to circular economy.

Both in Brussel and Gorinchem, many visitors were impressed by Challenging Changes. They appreciated the contents of the new book, but also the nice lay out. Already during the presentation at G.STIC it became clear, that Challenging Changes will inspire old and young people to proceed on the challenging road to circular economyTwo weeks after the publication already 1450 copies of the new book have been delivered.

Challenging Changes – book is out right now!

We are proud to announce that ‘Challenging Changes’, the new book by Ad Lansink, is out right now! A first impression of the lay out may be found on the website of book designer Sophie van Kempen.

On Wednesday October 11th, the book was presented at the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands in Brussels. An interested and knowledgable audience got the opportunity to hear about te book from the author himself, who presented the book to Daniel Calleja Crespo, director generaal DG Environment of the European Commission and to Harriët Tiemens, vice mayor and aldermen of the city of Nijmegen, European Green Capital 2018.

The presentation was followed by a vivid discussion, offering enough food for thought for a next book…

Did you miss the event and want to obtain copies of the book to enrich your knowledge about the circular economy and the waste hierachy? Send an e-mail to

DAR NV, involved in the project, released a press statement, which you can read by clicking this link (in Dutch).

October 11th: Book presentation event – Dutch Permanent Representation, Brussels

Challenging Changes, the new book of the well known Ad Lansink (“Lansink’s Ladder”) has been presented on October 11th, 2017 in Brussels. The author and the Editorial Board are proud that the Dutch Permanent Representation in Brussels was hosting this book presentation and the following panel discussion.

Program elements

  • Welcome by the Dutch Permanent Representation to the EU
  • Introduction by a representative of the European Commission
  • Presentation of the first two copies of Challenging Changes to:
    The representative of the European Commission
    The representative of the Municipality of Nijmegen: European Green Capital 2018
  • Presentation of the key messages of Challenging Changes by Ad Lansink
  • Panel discussion with national and EU representatives and stakeholders
  • Conclusion by the Dutch Permanent Representation
  • Completion of the book presentation in an informal atmosphere