Circular Organic Waste in Amsterdam

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Circular Organic Waste in Amsterdam is a thesis project carried out in a collaboration between the UvA Faculty of Science, the Amsterdam Business School and the Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry)The aim of the project is to investigate on the potential of separate organic waste collection and treatment in improving the circularity of Amsterdam. Amsterdam wants to become a sustainable and circular city by 2050 and increase recycling to 65% of waste by 2020 (currently around 27%). In addition, in April 2018, the European Parliament has adopted the revised Waste Framework Directive which declares that all member states shall ensure that biowaste is separately collected by 2023. Therefore it is clear that the separate collection of organic waste represents both an opportunity for the city to get closer to its targets and a necessity.

Currently, organic waste is not separately collected and it is just incinerated with the residual waste. In this way, energy is produced but all the nutrients and organic matter are lost and so all the value. Other treatments, more specific for organic waste, could allow for the recycling of nutrients, the retention of the value and even the upcycling of some materials. However, the introduction of another waste stream separately collected raises organizational, logistic and transportation issues. Therefore, this research aims at analyzing various potential collection solutions that could minimize costs and environmental impact making feasible and convenient the separate collection of organic waste and different possible treatments for this waste stream.

The analysis will be based on interviews, case studies and literatures and will be performed from different perspectives in order to have a systemic vision. Parallelly also the city of Amsterdam and its different sub-environments will be analyzed in order to understand the specific needs, limitation and opportunities of each different area. Combining the results, the most successful case studies that fit best in the characteristics of the city will be selected and integrated in different sustainable business models.

The set of business models proposed will produce an overall strategy for the management of organic waste following the principles of sustainability and circular economy as much as possible.
At the same time, the research will be backed by a social analysis performed through a questionnaire in order to get data on the real perception about this issue among Amsterdam’s inhabitants. The questionnaire will also help to get data on what would be the best instruments to incentivise the separate collection of organic waste and what the biggest barriers to its realisation are.

You can access the questionnaire through this link:

What is the goal of the project?

Create a strategy for organic waste separate collection and treatment that could be realistically implemented and would represent a valid and convenient alternative to the current situation.

What is the result of the project?

The result will be a proposal of a stretegy for organic waste separate collection and treatment in the city and its relative roadmap for implementation. This strategy will include large scale as well as small scale solutions, therefore it is directed to everyone interested in the topic, from citizens to policy-makers. The main aim is to provide for a visualization of how the transition toward circular organic waste manamgement in amsterdam would be possible and eventually also convenient in the long-term.

Who initiated the project and which organizations are involved?

The project has been initiated by the UvA student Ludovica Viva (MSc in Environmental management) with the collaboration and supervision of dhr. prof. dr. G. Rothenberg (UvA, Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences), dr. Francesca Ciulli (UvA, Amsterdam Business School) and dr. J.C. Slootweg (UvA, Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences). The organisations involved are the UvA Faculty of Science, Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences and the Amsterdam Business School.

What is the next step?

Find partners and funds to elaborate the results obtained and propose their actual implementation.

What can other cities learn from your project?

The project can be replicated in any city and for any waste stream. The key factors are:
-The combination of the three research pillars: study of the territory, social analysis and available technologies and innovations;
-New values creations (beyond just the economic one) from the proposed sustainable business models.