AMS Green Junkie

Exploring added value of a new green innovation for an economical vital city

Amsterdam, as many other cities, suffers from high particulate concentrations which have a negative impact on the air quality and the health of citizens. In this project, we tested the idea that a specially developed plant named Green Junkie could increase air quality along roads intensively used for car traffic. MyEarth had bred a variety of the Honeysuckle, with extra hairy and scaled leaves, and anticipated an extra reduction of particulate concentration in the air in comparison to other plants. 

Problem statement
Amsterdam is the centre of a large metropolitan area with high population density and key economic activity. Land is scarce and traffic movement is high. As a result, Amsterdam, as many other cities, suffers from the high particulate concentrations caused by traffic and other sources, which has a negative impact on the air quality and the health of citizens. Especially along highways and large construction sites, high concentration of particulates is found. For an excellent economic climate, environmental issues like air pollution have to be reduced to enable Amsterdam to compete with other attractive economic hotspots in Europe and beyond. Therefore, it is crucial to find sustainable solutions in order to improve the air quality and the quality of life.

It is known that plants may decrease the amount of airborne particuls pollution, especially when the leaves of the plant are more hairy and scaled. Corporation MyEarth has cultivated a special plant species named Green Junkie, a variation of the Honeysuckle. The dense and longer hairs on the leaves of the Green Junkies are expected to capture larger quantities of particulate matter compared to other plants, thereby contributing to a better air quality for greener and liveable cities. From a recent review on the scientific literature on urban vegetation and particulate air pollution it appears that both the plant species and the spatial design of the area determine the effect of plants on air pollution.

The claimed positive effects of the Green Junkie vegetation on the outdoor air quality have not been proven yet. This will limit the large scale application of the Green Junkie on city scale. Therefore, monitoring of the effects is crucial.

This project will survey the potentials of the plant Green Junkie on air quality. Our goal is to analyse what the effects of the Green Junkie is on the particulates in air. First we will analyse the effects in a controlled situation, a wind tunnel. Additionally, it will be tested whether this effect can be found in a living lab condition in Amsterdam.

The claimed effects of the plant are related to the actual application in a concrete situation with specific spatial design, which will define the impact in practice. (The effect multiplied by the application defines the impact). We will start with a quick-scan in order to analyse the effects of the special developed vegetation Green Junkie on the outdoor air quality in a dense traffic and urban living environment. The location of the Green Junkie has a considerable influence on the effects. Parameters such as airflow, traffic, weather conditions and density of the vegetation will influence the potential effects.

When the positive impact of Green Junkie on fine particulates will be explored, this vegetation can become a practical instrument to improve the quality and liveability of the city. Thereby we are focussing on the improvement of the quality of life.

Meeting the requirements of a Stimulus Projects* – an innovative solution to an urban challenge in Amsterdam, with upscaling potential and involvement of stakeholders (MyEarth, Engineering Department Amsterdam, Urban Roofscapes) – the project was taken on to research the possibilities to reduce particulate concentration with plant-powered air cleaning.

The results of the study showed that the Green Junkie only reduced the amount of soot air pollution by appr. 1.5%. Therefore, the plant is not considered effective in significantly removing soot from traffic-related sources and thereby does not sufficiently contribute to improving the air quality along roads intensively used by car traffic.

With the outcomes of the report AMS Institute sees no justification for follow-up research and will for the time being – not invest in plant-powered air cleaning.

Project duration: January – December 2016

This project is a collaboration between MyEarth, Wageningen UR, Alterra WUR, Amsterdam Engineering Bureau and Roofscapes.

Contact person:
Henk Wolfert, Program Lead Vital City, AMS Institute, henk.wolfert[a]
Bert Heusinkveld, Lead Project Partner, Wageningen University & Research, bert.heusinkveld[a]

*This project is an AMS Stimulus Project. The aim of Stimulus Projects is to give to new and existing AMS partners support to innovative research that has a strong upscaling potential. The projects should realize short-term research output, which act as a catalyst of a new solution direction, concept or approach.