AMS Scientific views on the ‘Circular City’

During the AMS Event on 27 May, five scientists from TU Delft and Wageningen University gave their views on the circular city of 2025: how can we achieve the transition from linear flows (making, using, throwing away) to circular flows (the maximum re-use of products and raw materials)? What possibilities and dilemmas do the experts note?

Gijsbert Korevaar (TU Delft) on the subject of energy:
“The Golden Age in Amsterdam was thanks primarily to peat. There was no shortage of peat and it was cheap too. A city grows and blossoms if energy is affordable and easily accessible. Unfortunately, peat is no longer available in Amsterdam today. I believe that the ambition for Amsterdam must be to generate the energy it needs within its own city limits. In 2025, circular energy generation will give Amsterdam what peat gave it in the past: cheap energy that is easily accessible.”

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Jan Peter van der Hoek (TU Delft) on the subject of energy, raw materials and water:
“Amsterdam uses more than 44 million cubic metres of water every year. The chain is currently linear. We want it to become a circular chain. Waternet, the water company for Amsterdam, is already hard at work to achieve this change, armed with a high level of ambition and practical solutions. Besides tying in with existing infrastructure, I can also see opportunities for small-scale local concepts in 2025. For example, local drinking-water production or other self-sufficient systems.”

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Grietje Zeeman (Wageningen UR) on the subject of waste:
“Each person produces 130 litres of waste water every day and 200 grammes of kitchen waste. We want to change this situation. In 2025, we will be separating toilet and kitchen waste. We will be able to extract huge quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus from this waste, which we will then be able to use for (urban) agriculture. However, toilet and kitchen waste are also a source of biogas, which can be used to generate electricity, heat or to cook with. This to me is the key to the realisation of a circular city.”

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Peter Smeets (Wageningen UR) on the subject of food:
“Circular food production requires a broad view. Surplus stocks exist in Europe, Central Asia and America, while South-East Asia and Africa are unable to feed their people themselves. Initiatives like urban agriculture yield romantic images, but are not a solution to the question of how to feed the world. Industrial food production is the future, taking into consideration the impact this production could have on the environment. Environmentally-friendly, large-scale production has already been introduced for a number of crops. One example is the production of grain combined with the recycling of food waste and cattle feed. This approach will be introduced in the dairy farming industry in 2025 too.”

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Ellen van Bueren (TU Delft) on the subject of integration:
“New, innovative technologies inevitably experience a number of teething problems in relation to organisation, coordination and alignment. What can you do to ensure that all of the various parties commit themselves fully despite the different interests they have? One good way of studying the above is simply to go ahead and introduce them. Like Amsterdam is doing in Buiksloterham. But also, for example, by introducing the first so-called lease homes in 2025: homes in which the occupier pays to use the home, but the producers of the home continue to be the owners of all of the (raw) materials used. The result? An optimal situation for the realisation of the three Rs: reduce, re-use and recycle.”

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