The development of DESAR technologies in the Netherlands
Mul, J.J. de
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he Dutch government aims to have an economy that is completely circular by 2050. Resources need to be reused as much as possible in order to reach this. Current wastewater management has been criticized for being fundamentally unsustainable and it fails to close the resource cycles. Decentralized sanitation and reuse (DESAR for short) technologies are possible alternatives for parts of the current system. It is being acknowledged by the Dutch government that DESAR technologies are potential alternatives for parts of the current system, but there is no clarity on how these technologies can contribute to a sustainable transition in the Netherlands and what the conditions are for DESAR technologies to develop. The following research question has been composed: “What barriers and drivers can be identified in the DESAR innovation system in the Netherlands and how may these technologies contribute to a sustainability transition in the Dutch urban water management sector?”. An innovation system includes all important factors that influence the development, diffusion and use of innovations. In this study, a qualitative research method has been used in which sixteen experts in the field have been interviewed. The core structures and processes that are necessary for the development of DESAR technologies have been assessed. Various barriers and drivers have subsequently been identified that hamper or induce the development of DESAR technologies in the Netherlands. The main findings are: 1) There is no clear governmental policy how to develop a circular economy; 2) There is a lack of suppliers on the market that can deliver DESAR technologies; 3) Housing corporations and project developers lack the willingness to innovate; 4) Pilots are beneficial in the development of DESAR. However, a critical scale size of 2000 and 3000 housing or larger is required to make DESAR implementation profitable; 5) There is a lack of financial and human resources; 6) It has yet to be decided whether or not municipal heat companies are going to be included, creating uncertainty and slowing down the development. DESAR technologies are believed to have the potential to contribute to a sustainability transition in the Dutch urban water management sector. A hybrid system (both centralized and decentralized sanitation) will likely exist in the future, meaning that the DESAR technologies will be mainly applied in new housing estates. There is no need to fundamentally restructure the Dutch urban water management sector in order for DESAR technologies to flourish.