Amsterdam as a circular city: sustainable with a closed cycle of food and materials. This is an ambition that Amsterdam alderman Choho is pleased to embrace. “Circular thinking is no longer something that is reserved for the drawing board; we are seeing that the circular economy is possible in practice and profitable too.”
“Circular thinking is all about making cities more sustainable and more independent. Gaining an insight into energy, water, food and material flows in the city. Researching how we can return or recycle everything that we use instead of throwing it away. So that we aren’t left with ‘waste’ that we can’t do anything with (no waste),” Stephan van Dijk, Programme Manager for Research & Valorisation at the AMS Institute, explains in response to the question of what we actually understand by the term ‘Circular City’.
The AMS is involved in various projects that are contributing to the realization of the circular city. “We are very proud of the proposed collaboration with the municipality of Almere for Floriade 2022. Together, we want to do research on Feed the City and present the results during the Floriade itself,” Stephan says.
“Added to this, Buiksloterham will become a living lab for the circular city, a place where we can experiment: with better waste sorting and recycling, for example, but also with local water treatment, circular construction and local and collective energy production. I’m looking forward to seeing which results will emerge from this project in the years ahead!” Stephan continues: “We have been working on the Urban Pulse project since the AMS Institute was first launched; this involves identifying the various energy, food, water and water flows in Amsterdam. Finally, we are working with our partners – the city of Amsterdam and top scientists from TU Delft, MIT and Wageningen UR – to establish the Circular City scientific agenda by the autumn of this year. This agenda will cover the years ahead.”
Scientific views on the Circular City
During the Circular City event on 27 May, organised by the AMS Institute, scientists expressed their views on the circular city and on what the realization of a circular city requires. “The Golden Age in Amsterdam was thanks primarily to turf. A city grows and blossoms if energy is affordable and easily accessible.” This is how Gijsbert Korevaar from TU Delft describes the importance of research on energy options for the city. “My ambition is to generate the energy that Amsterdam needs in Amsterdam itself. This will ensure that the city is no longer dependent on natural gas from Groningen, for example.” Grietje Zeeman from the Wageningen UR gives us the statistics: “A total of 130 litres of waste water per person, every day, and 200 grams of kitchen waste per person every day. That is not the situation we plan to have in 2025. In 2025, we will be separating toilet waste and kitchen waste and extracting nitrogen and phosphorus from it. If we were to do this throughout the Netherlands, there would be a potential to cover 25% of current fertilizer production in our country. The experiment is starting in Amsterdam.” It will be important to integrate all of the various ideas. Ellen van Bueren considers decision-making processes in complex environments involving a large number of different parties: “We are seeing wonderful, innovative technologies held up for 11 years by the licensing process. Innovation and the development of a circular city also present challenges for collaboration. It will be vital to ensure that all of the various parties involved are on the same line, because what is right for one will not always be right for another. Just going ahead and studying what happens works. You can see the truth of this in Buiksloterham.” Besides the three scientists quoted above, Peter Jan van der Hoek from TU Delft and Jan Smeets from Wageningen UR both expressed their views on the city of 2025. Hear the views of these scientists yourself in here
Impact and major changes
Alderman Choho is ‘grateful for and happy about’ the commitment shown to date. “The circular city is one of the most important aspects of the sustainability agenda that the municipal executive has prepared. It is an agenda that looks at the impact and major changes applicable; it does not focus solely on pilots and experiments. We are already doing it!”