WASTED: Food for Thought?

As a by-product from businesses, government and households; waste composes a vital part of the economy (Knussen et. al, 2004). However in considering the role of waste, the potential for the more efficient use of such resources is ignored. To bolster the sustainable fabric of Amsterdam, a recent initiative has been introduced, turning “trash into treasure”.

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 04.17.30.pngFigure 1: European Commission 2016, Closing the Loop, EU Circular Economy

That is, – as shown above – closing the loop to handle all steps of the framework. In effectively collecting and recycling materials, resource productivity could increase by 30% by 2030 and enhance GDP by 1%. Yet this demands a different way of thinking about waste:

“Sustainable waste management requires the combination of skills and knowledge of physical sciences and engineering together with economics, ecology, human behavior, entrepreneurship and good governance”

– Halkos & Petrou, 2016: 220


The creation of the WASTEDLAB sees a co-creation that empowers urban populations to drive innovation and integrate scalable initiatives to tackle global problems. It fosters a dynamic and environmentally conscious society, and what is thought of as the ‘norm’ changes.

14.pngFigure 2: Overview of the circular concept, WASTEDLAB 2016

Plans implemented by WASTED induce novel incentives for locals of the Amsterdam Noord region to recycle plastic waste. For each bag of plastic, paper or textile that members recycle they get a WASTED coin to exchange for rewards at participating small local businesses. Amongst the things the digitalized currency can be exchanged for include bike and tire repairs, yoga lessons, coffee, carrot cakes and groceries.

The operation of this is facilitated with complementary pick-up and collection services and education packages for schools and concerned individuals that demonstrate the value of recycling. The projects have been a success in encouraging recycling and supporting local businesses. Up to 1257KG of waste has been recycled already (as of 2016).


15.pngPhoto 1: Plastic building blocks created from recycled plastic from WASTED recycling schemes, WASTEDLAB 2016


Recycling materials creates a mechanism of positive feedback where the creative and heavy industries reinforce each other (FABRICations). Instead of being degraded through otherwise economic activities, natural and human capital are structurally supported in such schemes.

The waste received in Amsterdam has been used in innovative ways. Reusable building blocks, furniture stances and even playground equipment have been created from the plastic. Linking to Beatriz’s post on the 3D-printed chairs of Amsterdam, we see the various ways plastic is deconstructed and constructed and repurposed effectively for new uses (Mansour et. al 2015). WASTED exemplifies one of many innovative arrangements that exists in Amsterdam’s wider transition to a circular economy, a theme to be continued in my subsequent blogs.

5.pngPhoto 2: Recycled chairs in Amsterdam as Print Your City project by the design studio ‘The New Raw’. “XXX” is the symbol of Amsterdam  – inhabitat 2017
7.pngPhoto 3: Globe made of plastic bottles in a sculpture at the Ij in Amsterdam, helping raise global environmental awareness  – Peter Smith, FaceMePLS June 2013















 Halkos, G.E. and K.N. Petrou (2016), “Moving Towards a Circular Economy: Rethinking Waste Management Practices”, Journal of economic and Social Thought, 3(2), pp. 220-240 

Knussen, C., F. Yule, J. MacKenzie and M. Wells (2004). ’An analysis of intentions to recycle household waste: The roles of past behavior, perceived habit, and perceived lack of facilities.’ Journal of environmental psychology, 24(2), pp. 237-246

Mansour, A., H. Mansour and S.A. Ali (2015), “Reusing waste plastic bottles as an alternative sustainable building material”, Energy for Sustainable Development, 24, pp. 79-85


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