Various authors have analyzed the fundamental barriers that hamper the transition towards a circular economy, e.g., economic and business, regulatory and legal, and social. This analysis questions how, under these constrained conditions, high-grade recycling can still be implemented successfully in the Netherlands. The study compares five Dutch material flows: paper and cardboard, plastics, non-wearable textiles, building and demolition waste and mattresses. It is concluded that the following four key conditions should be in place, but need a tailor-made approach for each material flow: (1) adequate collection system/logistics; (2) guaranteed volumes of material supply; (3) clear market demand for and (4) quality guarantee of recycled materials. Moreover, the following five key drivers help circumvent the fundamental barriers and realize the four key conditions: (1) mobilizing power by change agents; (2) cooperation within the material chain; (3) well-attuned financial arrangement; (4) circular procurement; and (5) technological innovation (including redesign). These drivers follow a certain sequence in implementation and circumvent the fundamental barriers each in their own way. This empirical analysis complements the mostly conceptual or theoretical literature on the transition towards high-grade recycling and the circular economy in general. Based on this analysis a conceptual model is developed, in which the key conditions, the key drivers and fundamental barriers are linked. Whether the results also hold true for other countries than the Netherlands needs additional research.
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