Ready, steady, circular economy!

by Kirstin Brünjes, 02.05.2022
The future of humanity will be in cities: In 2050, every third person will live in a city. Since these places are also centres of production and consumption, urbanisation is already a challenge in terms of resource waste and massive pollution. So as not to worsen living conditions in cities - and on earth in general - even further, new approaches must be taken...

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Attention everyone: How do we want to live in the future?

On the one hand, cities are hubs of exchange, interests, and hope, as well as drivers of innovation and progress. On the other hand, these centers are facing challenges in the 21st century: Increasing urbanization and demand, finite supply of resources and waste problems. The solution is simple and in the hands of all of us: to move away from the linear economic model that entails a constant growth of waste mountains to a circular approach that enables human well-being and brings us into harmony with the environment. Amsterdam, the capital of tulips and bicycles, shows that this is possible!

Steady to take on new challenges: The vision of a circular Amsterdam.

The infrastructural, ecological, and economic development of cities is becoming a global task for the future. Amsterdam has taken up this challenge and wants to become a thriving, regenerative and inclusive city for its citizens. Therefore, the city has visualized their focus themes in its circular strategy, each of which aims to optimize value creation, CO2 reduction, material savings and job growth.

1. Amsterdam’s vision of a circular economy in the building sector

Strategies are as follows:

  • Intelligent design: Intelligent design of buildings so that they are better equipped in case their purpose changes and materials can be reused.
  • Disassembly and separation: Efficient disassembly and separation of waste streams to enable high-quality reuse.
  • High-quality recycling: High-quality recycling and reuse of materials and components.
  • Marketplace and resource bank: The exchange of resources between market and market participants to enable the reuse of materials in new buildings.

2. Amsterdam’s vision of a circular economy of organic waste streams

Strategies are as follows:

  • Central biorefinery hub: Separation of organic waste streams to produce biomaterials, such as food and animal feed, biogas, bio-based paints and oils, fertilizers or algae.
  • Waste separation and return logistics: Waste separation and intelligent return logistics for optimal utilization of organic residual flows.
  • Cascading of organic flows: Production of high-quality protein, such as insect farming – as a source of animal feed.
  • Recovery of nutrients: Nutrients from waste streams through decentralized, local processes, for example anaerobic digestion plants and techniques to convert urine into valuable nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate.

The goal is to transition to a circular economy as quickly as possible and become a genuinely green, low-waste city by 2050. For its ambitions, the city received the World Smart City Award in 2017 and is now an international pioneer in the transition to a circular city.

Let’s go: From a vision to a circular city

The circular economy offers solutions to many environmental, economic, and geopolitical challenges which cities around the world are facing. Such a transformation does not have to take decades. Change in a short time is possible – and necessary! We don’t have to wait for new laws and regulations to live better. With the prospect of 5.1 billion people living in cities by 2030, each and every one of us should take responsibility as city dwellers today and ask ourselves: How do my everyday activities – shopping, working, travelling, eating, voting, spending and investing – contribute to preserving the Earth’s life support systems and the well-being of communities. Every little contribution counts. Amsterdam is leading the way – let’s follow suit: Ready, steady, circular economy!

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