AMS Circular Expo City Hall, 9-26 October 2017

3D Printing in the Circular City

As part of the Circular Expo, which is held 9-26 October, AMS Institute officially presents the result of the Stimulus Project “3D Printing in the Circular City”. This project explored the potential to provide an innovative way to reduce the municipal waste volume through recycling household plastics waste, locally with large-scale 3D printing. The tangible result is a 3D printed bench made from plastic bags. The official presentation of this bench in city hall marks the successful research collaboration between the City of Amsterdam, AMS Institute, The New Raw, AEB Amsterdam, Actual and TU Delft. Moreover, it opens the conversation with Marloes Michels (Deputy Director of Planning & Sustainability at the City of Amsterdam) for further upscaling of such initiatives.

Design failure of plastic
The project 3D Printing in the Circular City explored circular possibilities to expand the applications of recycled plastic. Studying how to turn plastic waste into a strong printing material was a major part of the research. “Plastic packaging has a major design failure”, state Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki, founders of The New Raw and researchers in the project 3D Printing in the Circular City at AMS Institute. “In most cases, it is used a single time, before throwing it in the trash. This results in the fact that 24,5% the municipal waste in Amsterdam is plastic”.

Panos and Foteini strongly believe that the design failure in plastic packaging can be solved by reinventing, redesigning, and reimaging the material cycle itself. The current “make-take-dispose” economy is no longer sustainable. By managing plastic as a cycle, rather than the conventional linear supply chain, it is possible to create a spiral material loop which will constantly be fed with the plastic waste of cities.

New applications for recycled plastic
The 3D printed bench weighs approximately 50 kilos, which is almost equal to 1,5 times the waste produced by an Amsterdammer in one year. Based on these numbers we could yearly produce 650.000 benches in Amsterdam. Of course, the primary focus of the City of Amsterdam will be on reducing waste volumes. But for the plastic waste that can’t be eliminated, recycling waste with the 3D printing technique offers an opportunity to make better use of waste in a circular way.

The possibilities for applications and designs with printing from recycled plastics are endless. 3D Printing in the Circular City provides a platform for the city of Amsterdam to locally build a unique public space, created from its own plastic waste, in collaboration with its own residents.

The benches were printed at Actual. Together with the other main partners in the main, AEB and TU Delft, AMS Institute is currently looking for ways to improve the process of waste collection on a neighborhood level and exploring possibilities to co-create objects for the public space, together with residents.

Investing in innovation together with local partners
AEB is committed to stimulating the circular economy, by regaining raw materials from waste. In line with this, AEB Amsterdam is now collecting all valuable streams of domestic waste, which are not separated at the source. They are gaining renewable energy from the remaining waste which cannot be recycled. To realize the circular economy, it is important to keep all the resources in the production and consumption chain. Therefore, innovation is needed in different areas: societal, technological, and in business models. AEB investigates these steps, together with a wide range of partners. The research on 3D printing with plastic waste contributes to the search on solutions towards waste disposal on a local level.

Why a Circular City?
If we want more resilient, future-proof cities, it is very important to build our future on models that limit the extraction of raw materials and the production of waste. In Circular Cities, resources that drive human activities are by definition regenerative rather than linear or degenerative: be it energy, water, materials, nutrients or clean air. Meaning the focus shifts from gradual destruction of resource-value – “take, make, waste” – to value-creation through models based on cascades and cycles. The definition that circular cities are cities that understand, establish, monitor and control circular economy principles in an urban context, whilst realizing the vision of a resilient, future-proof city.