Having examined the importance of water in urban metabolisms and the contextual setting of Amsterdam’s hydrological cycle, we now explore its management:
In 2016, Rotterdam extended a Paper and Cardboard Waste project with Enevo, leading innovator in smart waste-management. This project sought to increase monitoring of waste containers and use of Enevo Smart-Plan software for optimised waste collection route-planning in Rotterdam.
This video provides an introduction to the project!
The multi-storey, residential apartments in Rotterdam utilises a central waste collection system. This places the onus of ensuring that the underground containers are emptied reliably on the municipality of Rotterdam. To encourage recycling, waste collection needs to be made convenient for citizens, necessitating an optimal number and placement of receptacles along with scheduled collections to ensure space in the recycling containers.
I found the use of Geel’s (2004) framework for transitions in socio-technical regimes and Van de Poel’s (2000) framework for examining external pressure, useful in crystallising Rotterdam’s transition to a smart waste-management system.
Geel (2004) identified three dimensions of socio-technical regimes: regulative, normative, and cognitive. I identified the existing mechanisms under each heading for Rotterdam’s case-study here:
- Regulative – previous waste management system implemented by the government
- Normative – the lifestyles, habits and technical systems that people are used to
- Cognitive – core competencies of waste-management operators that turn into rigidities when operators are resistant to change
Regime transformation entails change in existing norms, regulations and beliefs that fall into these three categories (Geel, 2006).
External pressure from outsiders (definition: actors excluded from the community) are highly influential in these transitions (Van de Poel, 2000). In the case of Rotterdam, they fall into the Van de Poel’s (2000) categories of: (1) professional engineers who impart knowledge and design concepts, and (2) firms and entrepreneurs that develop technological novelties to match these concepts.
- Professional engineers introduce big data, analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to aid Rotterdam’s government in uncovering more efficient waste management and recycling practices
- Firm and entrepreneurs – Enevo and its smart waste-management solution for Rotterdam (illustrated below)
I hope the two frameworks were fruitful ways to explicate the mechanisms behind the cooperation between Rotterdam and Enevo!
I personally find that they are useful ways for understanding how rigidities and resistance to change stymie green transformations in the city. While technological solutions may be foreign and unfamiliar, they provide a propitious means to enhance the efficiency of urban metabolic flows of waste and recyclables. Using bodily metabolic processes that sustain human life to understand flows of waste underlying the everyday functioning of cities (Marvin and Medd, 2006), perhaps it is useful to think metaphorically of Enevo’s smart-plan software as akin to a pacemaker sending electric pulses to the human heart. I guess humans, and the cities we build alike, just need a little technological oomph sometimes.
For a more detailed understanding of the 2 models:
Geels, F. (2004) ‘From sectoral systems of innovation to sociotechnical systems: insights about dynamics and change from sociology and institutional theory’, Research Policy, Vol. 33, No. 6, 897 – 920.
Van de Poel, I. (2000) ‘On the role of outsiders in technical development’, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, 383 – 397.
Other resources that helped me:
Geels, F. (2006) ‘The hygienic transition from cesspools to sewer systems (1840-1930): The dynamics of regime transformation’, Research Policy, Vol. 35, 1069 – 1082.
Marvin, S. and Medd, W. (2006) “Metabolisms of Obecity: Flows of Fat through Bodies, Cities and Sewers”, Environment and Planning A, Vol. 38, Issue 2, 137 – 149.
You can also read more about this project here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/05/prweb13422549.htm
Schiphol’s status as Europe’s third largest airport often comes as a surprise to many, after all Amsterdam is home to a mere 800,000 people. Its size and growth can be accredited to the successful collaboration between KLM and the Schiphol Group; creating a transfer hub rivaling the likes of Frankfurt and Heathrow. Nonetheless, with the growth of Schiphol came its significance as a nuisance to locals; bringing the adverse effects of noise pollution and environmental degradation whilst putting downward pressure on house prices (Morrell and Lu, 2000).
Photo: Cyclists at Vijzelstraat – Joey Hou 2017
The UPE of a city looks beyond the simplistic annotations of the abundance of nature in its ‘raw’ form. Instead, it underlines the convergence between nature and society at all aspects of urban life and the socio-natural unevenness within the city that this creates (Heynen, 2014). UPE as a whole is bigger than its parts and is formed by the unique processes – be it political or ecological – that shape the urban in its current form (Keil, 2003)
“Few countries exist where man has exerted a greater formative influence in the shaping of the landscape than in the Netherlands
–Kahn and Plas, 1999: 371
Dutch Designer Daan Roosegaarde installed a 7-metre high air-purifying tower akin to a smog vacuum cleaner in Rotterdam.
Analysed as an independent space of flows (Caprotti and Romanowicz, 2013), the tower is able to clean 30,000cm3 of air an hour and leaves surrounding air 75% cleaner by:
- Sucking in dirty air
- Using ion technology filtration
- Capturing small pollution particles (PM2.5 and PM10)
- Returning clean air through the tower’s vents
It looks like this:
As a component of urban flows and circulations (Caprotti and Romanowicz, 2013), this air-purification tower acts as a metabolic vehicle in the array of components governing the circulation and exchange of air and pollution in Rotterdam. It unconventionally alters the direction of circulations of air pollution. Regular ventilation systems provide isolated and static containers, protecting the “inside” of buildings from the polluted atmosphere “outside”. Instead of acting in opposition to the environment (Gissen, 2010), the tower provides a space of flows that interacts and engages with pollution in a radical way, being the site of attraction, absorption and transformation of smog particles, collecting and releasing cleaner air to the surroundings.
On top of that, Roosegaarde applies high pressure to the soot collected to make diamonds. The sale of these diamonds made out of soot (something that is discarded, rejected and regarded as sordid to most people) carry with them powerful messages on air pollution. It enhances the tower as a nodal point of Rotterdam’s urban metabolism, for the confluence of the agency and discourse of actors, from urban-planners to designers.
Yet, the political and ideological role of eco-city projects in fashioning new urban metabolic relations is founded on asymmetric readings and conceptualisations of sustainability, environmental governance and the city. As processes of metabolic change are hardly socially neutral (Swyngedouw, 2006), I question the penetrability of this eco-tower in sending an engaging message about air pollution to a general population of city dwellers. Or is this message about air pollution restricted to avant-garde millennial consumers? Furthermore, large-scale construction and application of this tower as an actual purification system for Rotterdam is costly and unviable. Will this become a mere white elephant, expensive to build and cumbersome to maintain? With little tangible influence on the air pollution problem, is this yet another exclusive project reproducing “hollow” sustainabilities (Whitehead, 2010)?
If you would like to refer to some of the articles I was inspired by:
Caprotti, F. and Romanowicz, J. (2013) ‘Thermal Eco-cities: Green Building and Urban Thermal Metabolism’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 37, No. 6, 1949 – 1967.
Gissen, D. (2010) ‘Toxic Territories’, Architectural Design, Vol. 80, No. 3, 54 – 59.
Swyngedouw, E. (2006) ‘Metabolic Urbanisation: The Making of Cyborg Cities’ in N. Heynen, M. Kaika and E. Swyngedouw (eds.) In the Nature of Cities – Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, London, UK: Routledge, 21 – 40.
Whitehead, M. (2010) ‘Hollow Sustainabilities? Perspectives on Sustainable Development in the Post-Socialist World’, Geography Compass, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1618 – 1634.