8 Dutch startups that make the world a better place

Okay, so not every company wants the world to crash and burn. We’ve already spoken about how big companies are trying to make a difference (hello plastic-free supermarket aisles), but in the Netherlands, it’s also the smaller players that are changing the world for the better.

Many of these inspiring Dutch startups use circular design. What is it? Here’s a quick recap: circular design represents a way of designing products in a way that is — you guessed it — circular.

Instead of going for the standard produce 👉 use 👉 throw away, they are, so to say, “closing the loop” by making products that can be reused, recycled, or upcycled.

This reduces the use of resources and prevents their overexploitation. Our society is still unfortunately very much a throw-away one.

But circular design helps ensure that we live in a world where we don’t just use up all our finite resources at once. So what is it exactly that these startups do to make the world a better place?

1. Fruitleather

Based in Rotterdam, Fruitleather is an initiative that develops fruit waste into leather-like materials for fashion, footwear, and furnishings.

The whole process is very eco-friendly. Not only is fruit waste being reduced, but ultimately it serves as an alternative to real leather, for which over one billion animals get slaughtered every year.

photo-of-mangos-which-can-be-used-to-create-leather-like-material
The things you can do with fruit waste. Image: Sophie de Vos/BlueCity

The possibilities are endless with this product. Incredibly cool, huh?

They even made a tent from mango waste (263 mangos to be precise)! If you took that to a festival and told people that your tent was made out of mangoes, they’d think you’d already drank all 20 of your beers.

2. Bluehouse World

Have you ever set out to buy sustainable clothing, home decor, or beauty products just to give up your search a few hours later because it was impossible to find products that are actually good for the environment (and don’t just say there are)?

We’ve been there too. Bluehouse World is a brand-new eco-friendly platform that connects people with a large network of ethical producers.

photo-of-bluehouse-world-sustainable-starter-kit
For sustainability newbies, Bluehouse World has excellent starter kits. Image: Bluehouse World/Supplied

They make sure that every vendor who sells through their platform adheres to so-called Blue Labels — a set of Bluehouse World’s different sustainability standards.

Fairtrade and cruelty-free are a must, but you’ll also find products that are recycled, circular, or aimed at waste reduction.

3. Mud Jeans

MUD Jeans produce jeans in both an ethically and environmentally friendly way. Their cotton isn’t conventional, their mills are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) certified, and the trade is fair.

On top of that, every pair of old MUD Jeans is recycled by being shredded into pieces and then blended with new cotton to make an upcycled pair of new jeans!

The jeans also have a cool little touch that they’re named after their previous owner. So if you want your name to make a claim to fame, don’t forget to recycle your old jeans and that might just happen.

Just look at these pieces — they look brand new, but I wonder how many owners they’ve had? So cool!

4. Kromkommer

Kromkommer is the business that saves all of the “ugly” vegetables from the bin and turns them into something lekker.

Weirdly-shaped veggies don’t have to end up in landfill. Image: senatamaka@mail.ru/Depositphotos

You’ve probably noticed how all of the wonky vegetables get left in the supermarkets. I spent a couple of years working in a supermarket, and I can vouch for the fact that people just don’t want to buy wonky veggies.

Well, Kromkommer uses these wonky vegetables and turns them into soup, which then gets repackaged and sold back to us! No more excuses to overlook that wonky veg.

5. Fairphone

Let’s be honest with ourselves now, nearly every single one of us has a junk drawer. This is the drawer where we just chuck any old stuff that we what nothing do with. Sometimes, this includes an old mobile phone that we keep JUST IN CASE.

I’m guilty of saying that at one point I actually had four just-in-case-phones. (Editor’s note: that’s crazy Emma, we need to talk about this).

Fairphone recognised that this was an issue — but what they also saw was potential. That’s why they are now recycling these old phones (ethically and environmentally), so we can use them again!

This helps reduce all of the issues that come with phone waste, such as pollution and the mountains of e-waste that gets shipped to poorer countries.

6. Dick Moby

When people decide to go plastic-free or try and reduce their plastic usage, they typically don’t think about items such as sunglasses.

Well, Dick Moby, a business that sells sunglasses, has created a way to make even our sunglasses guilt-free. In collaboration with Mazzucchelli, they created black sunglasses frames from 97% recycled acetate.

The other 3% is literally just black ink. This way, we aren’t just producing plastic for the sake of it. A lot of us are guilty of buying cheap throw-away glasses without thinking about the impact.

Look how nice they are! Now you can look like the trendy sunglasses emoji AND do that knowing that you’re using recycled plastic.

7. Wasteboards

We all know that plastic pollution is a HUGE problem and it’s only getting worse. We may have seen the terribly upsetting David Attenborough documentaries showing how plastic is killing animals in the oceans and also recognize it littering our streets on a day-to-day basis.

So how does Wasteboard fit into this? The clue is in the name.

Wasteboard creates handmade skateboards from recycled bottle caps which are collected by schools and companies. This means that every single skateboard is unique and they look super cool!

8. BlueCity

Another Rotterdam-based initiative, BlueCity is more of a community than an actual business. It’s basically a place where circular startups can all work together to help combat waste.

It’s described as a ‘playground’ for circular companies (like some of the ones we mentioned above).

photo-of-entrepreneurs-rethinking-waste-in-blue-city-rotterdam
BlueCity is a community of circular entrepreneurs. Image: Sophie De Vos/BlueCity

Ever heard “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Well, this couldn’t be more true in BlueCity. Waste from one startup is a treasure for another one.

It’s basically just one massive building block of getting the most out of everything we use and working together to make it happen.


We don’t know about you, but looking at what these companies do already makes us feel like the world is a nicer place!

What other inspiring Dutch startups do you know? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2018, but was fully updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Quite frankly, I think that it is really important to build up startups, thanks to which you would make a great contribution to improving the world to some extent. I’m so glad that I came across your article and learned about such valuable Dutch startups with such interesting concepts. Before this moment I hadn’t had a clear view of such a concept as circular design, but it is absolutely unique and smart. You made me more savvy in this aspect and now I truly understand in what measure it can benefit making our world better. Honestly, I fell in love with the idea of Fruitleather because this is the first time I hear about the possibility of developing fruit waste into leather-like materials for fashion and it blows my mind. What amazes me the most is that it has a great deal of advantages and that this company is unique in its business, in my opinion. I think that this business strategy is a breakthrough which will be relevant for a long time.

  2. Startups are very cool. Two years ago myself and my company decided to organize a startup related to mask mode and COVID-19.

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