TOWARDS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN AMSTERDAMAn interactive journey through Amsterdam's transition towards a circular economy
The City of Amsterdam is leading the transition towards a circular economy and, by 2050, aims to become a fully circular city. The circular economy presents a viable alternative to our unsustainable status quo; promising to reduce our environmental footprint, while at the same time boosting the competitiveness and livability of our cities.
Amsterdam's pioneering approach to encourage innovation, experimentation and learning at every step is paving the path towards a more sustainable future. But how did Amsterdam's circular journey start? This interactive Journey takes you through the following elements:
Chapter 1. The growing impact of cities
Chapter 2. What is the circularity gap?
Chapter 3. Presenting the circular economy
Chapter 4. The ambition for a Circular Amsterdam
Chapter 5. Adopting a fact-based approach
Chapter 6. Developing circular strategies
Chapter 7. Implementing via Learning by Doing
Chapter 8. Looking into tomorrow
Chapter oneThe Impact of Cities
Since the beginning of the 21st century, for the first time in human history, more than 50% of the Earth’s population now live in cities, with this proportion expected to reach 70% by 2050. As a result of these urban activities, cities are now responsible for more than 70% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and two-thirds of waste generated each year.
Cities are driving many of our environmental problems, but are also the solution. Globally, more than 80% of GDP is generated within cities, fuelled by their incredible innovation. The huge influence of cities make them an ideal hotbed to drive this change towards a livable and resilient future.
Watch the full video from the ISS
Over the past 3 centuries, the population of Amsterdam has witnessed a six-fold increase, reaching over 855,000 in 2017 and expected to reach 1 million by mid-2030.
These growing urban populations put increased pressures on the provision of key societal needs, such as mobility, nutrition and housing.
Watch the full video of urbanisation in Amsterdam
We all need to move through the urban jungle; for work, leisure, and back home. Each year, mobility is responsible for 13% of global resource consumption - more than 20 billion tonnes (that’s about 2600kg per person per year!).
This consumption includes the vast quantities of fossil fuels that emit pollution and CO2, as well as metals and other materials that go into creating cars, trains and buses.
Watch the full timelapse video here
Cities cover just ~2% of the world surface and are unequipped to produce the food that their citizens need. Despite a growing popularity for urban agriculture initiatives, the majority of the food consumed is imported from rural hinterlands, commonly from abroad. All this movement causes a heavy burden on the environment.
Fulfilling our needs for nutrition is responsible for 23% of global resources consumed annually - about 22 billion tonnes each year. This equals approximately 8 kg per person per day, caused, for example, by the growing global appetite for meat and dairy products, which are up to 10 times more resource intensive than corn. This is much more than what actually makes it to your plate! Approximately 30% of all the biomass that is produced is wasted.
Housing and Infrastructure
The urban fabric is created around us; the roads we travel along and houses we live in - all required materials to build. To keep up with rapid urbanisation, demand for materials is increasing, particularly stone and concrete.
Housing and Infrastructure is the single most resource intensive societal need; responsible for 45% of all resources consumed globally at over 40 billion tonnes per year. That’s about 16 kilograms per person per day! But what goes up, must come down. When these buildings are demolished, vast quantities of materials currently ends up in landfill.
Chapter TwoThe Circularity Gap
The environmental challenges that Earth is facing today are a direct symptom of our current, unsustainable economic system. It is often called a Linear Economy and is characterised by 3 steps - Take - Make - Waste
In our linear world of today, we extract 84 Billion tonnes of resources from the Earth each year - and it’s a figure that has been increasing. At our current rate of extraction, we require the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to fulfil our demand!
Although the activities involved in resource extraction are varied - from the mining of minerals and metal ores, drilling for petroleum to clearing forests for timber and agricultural land - their outcome is the same: the decimation of our planet!
Once these raw materials are extracted, they are funnelled straight into often energy intensive refining processes - such as the smelting of metals from ores, production of cement from limestone, or refined sugar from beets.
Subsequently, these refined materials can be used in the manufacture and assembly of products like automobiles from metals, plastics and glass, clothing from textiles, or the construction of roads and houses from brick and mortar. These finished products can, in turn, be used to provide services and that can satisfy our Societal needs.
The defining characteristic of our linear system is the generation of vast mountains of waste. Each year, almost 20 billion tonnes of waste is collected. Think about the plastic packaging that covers your food or the perfectly functional phone that is thrown out once the latest version is released.
But the waste that is collected is only a small part of the story. The majority of the wasted materials (51.9 billion tonnes), remain unaccounted for and are dispersed into the environment. This includes the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, particulate matter that chokes our cities, and the microplastics washed into the oceans.
The Circularity Gap
Waste is not inevitable. End-of-life materials can be cycled back into the system to provide inputs for new products and services.
However, of the almost 93 billion tonnes that are consumed by our global economic system on a yearly basis, only 8 billion tonnes come from cycled materials…
...This means that only a mere 9% of the materials consumed within the global economy are cycled.
Read the full Circularity Gap Report here
Chapter 3The Circular Economy
The circular economy means ‘enough for everyone, forever’;
a direct challenge to the ‘take-make-waste’ mentality of the linear economy. In a circular economy, materials and products are cycled at their highest value for as long as possible. Products are designed last, and waste is used as a resource.
In the Loop
In a circular economy, materials and products are designed in such a way that the most value can be captured at the end of their life. Cycling products through closed loops allow materials to be maintained at their highest potential value for as long as possible; by repair, reuse, remanufacture
Press the ‘play’ button in the bottom left corner of the screen to move the slider on this page to compare how materials are cycled in a circular economy compared to a linear economy.
Benefits of the circular economy
The past decade has seen enormous global growth in the recognition towards the many, far-reaching benefits that can be generated in a circular economy. The appeal of the circular economy is that it promises to generate benefits not just for the environment, but for the economy and society as a whole - providing a viable strategy to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
Chapter 4 Circular Amsterdam
In 2015, the city of Amsterdam affirmed their full commitment towards realising a fully circular economy; becoming the first city in the world to develop a vision and roadmap for their circular transition.
As a frontrunner in the transition towards a circular economy, Amsterdam embarked on its circular journey with a ‘learning by doing’ approach to pave the path towards a more sustainable future, learning and adapting at every step. The city, therefore, serves as a ‘living lab’; a place that encourages innovation, experimentation and learning to create a future that works for everyone.
Chapter 5 Fact-based approach
Transforming the ambition of a fully circular Amsterdam by 2050 into reality is no easy task. Being a pioneering city, there is no set path for Amsterdam to follow.
Adopting a fact-based approach can serve as a guide throughout the circular journey; able to paint an accurate picture of the hidden character of the city and identify key leverage points to contribute towards achieving the targets and agenda of the city.
The first phase of a circular Amsterdam is to determine which areas of the city are most ripe to adopt the circular economy and where the greatest impacts can be made. A material flow analysis uncovered which three key sectors in the city consume the most resources and produce the most waste.
A circular economy is created by circular jobs. A study was conducted to highlight the number of jobs within Amsterdam’s circular economy and identified key leverage points to create a resilient and circular labour force.
A material flow analysis is used to identify where the most pressing environmental issues are within the city. Amsterdam’s Circle City Scan adopted this approach to identify circular impact areas for the city.
Here, we address how resource Inputs such as water, energy, metals and minerals are used by the various industrial sectors of the city, as well as how the waste Outputs produced by these sectors is Processed. The thickness of the line represents the quantity of materials consumed by each sector. Thereby you can quickly identify where the biggest impact can be made.
Explore a material flow that was created for Amsterdam on the next page. Click on each section to uncover more detail...
Circular Jobs and Skills in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area
A circular economy is created by a circular workforce. In 2018, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) commissioned a study to measure the number of circular jobs throughout the region.
The report also explores which skills are needed to perform these circular jobs and identifies key leverage points to boost the development of these key skills to create a resilient and circular workforce to support the transition towards a circular Amsterdam.
Can’t wait for the report to be released?
Read Circle Economy’s report Circular Employment within the Netherlands now.
Chapter 6Circular strategies
Through Amsterdam’s Circle City Scan, two sectors - Construction and Biomass & Food - were identified to be ideal starting points to kick-start Amsterdam’s circular transition based on their high resource consumption and impact potential.
For each of the sectors, detailed circular strategies were identified for the city. To highlight the potential of these circular strategies, the impact on jobs creation, carbon emissions, material consumption and economic value were calculated.
A vision for a circular sector Construction
Amsterdam’s construction sector has strong roots in the economy, yet holds one of the highest environmental footprints in the city. To get a refined understanding of how Amsterdam’s construction chain can utilise its resources in a more sustainable and competitive manner, a potential future for a circular city of Amsterdam was explored.
The map depicted on this page details how stakeholders can work together to close resource loops throughout Amsterdam’s Metropolitan Area.
A vision for a circular sector Food & Biomass
The biomass and food sector uses large quantities of resources to grow and manufacture products food and beverages to feed Amsterdam’s large appetite. In our global food system, 30% of the edible food ends up as waste. In order to achieve a circular biomass and food sector, a vision for the city of Amsterdam was developed.
The map shown on this page details how stakeholders can work together to optimise flows throughout the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
Chapter 7Learning by Doing
A circular economy can only be created through ‘on-the-ground’ action. To facilitate implementation of practical and scalable strategies, the City of Amsterdam has developed a number of programmes to encourage innovation, experimentation and learning.
Circular innovation programme
Launched in 2016, the circular innovation programme presents a framework of innovation processes in the City of Amsterdam. The programme creates a greater understanding of what the transition from a linear to a circular economy means – and what this transition does or does not require, in order to accelerate and scale up towards a Circular Amsterdam. Want to find out more?
These municipal programmes lead to the implementation of more than 70 circular projects throughout the city, particularly in the Construction and Agri-food sectors. To get a glimpse of what is happening in the city, a few circular lighthouse projects are highlighted on the following pages - explore the maps to find out more information!
Taking Stock of Progress
As of 2018, over 70 circular projects have been realised in Amsterdam, firmly placing Amsterdam as an international frontrunner in the circular economy. Yet, in order to continue this success into the future, it is important to take stock of progress; to evaluate the challenges and successes that these projects have faced, as well as their overall effectiveness of the municipal support that was provided.
The Amsterdam Evaluation performed a thorough evaluation of 73 circular projects within the city; covering eight municipal instruments as well as five value chains, including Construction and Biomass and Food. Results of the evaluation show evidence that a circular economy is both realistic as well as profitable. Amsterdam’s approach of encouraging experimentation and implementation has been successful in both the Construction and Biomass & Food sectors, with circular procurement and knowledge dissemination being particularly important, respectively.
Read the full report here
What are the next steps that Amsterdam is taking to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy? And what can other cities do in order to kickstart their journey?
Full Video or air traffic in Europe
Towards a Circular Tomorrow
To ensure Amsterdam's progress towards a circular economy continues with the same momentum that has driven the transition, five action perspectives were also suggested through the Amsterdam Evaluation. These action perspectives are based on what is needed to scale up to the next phase of the transition.
Read the full report here
4 steps to kickstart the circular transition
Amsterdam's journey towards becoming a fully circular city will continue to in the decades to come, with more challenges, successes and learnings at each step.
Yet, the experiences generated over the past three years provide four key steps for other cities to kick-start their own journey towards the circular economy:
AboutCircle EconomyCircle Cities Programme
At Circle Economy’s Circle Cities Programme, we believe in prosperity for all within our planetary boundaries. Our mission is to future-proof cities by creating a livable environment with economic, ecological and social prosperity for its citizens through practical and scalable implementation of the circular economy. We do this by connecting and empowering a global community of cities with insights, measurement tools and services to catalyse the systemic transformation of our linear economy into a circular economy.
More information can be found on the website
Direct contact lead cities programme (Annerieke Douma)
Photo en Video Credits
Chapter 1 - Cities - David Peterson
Chapter 1 - Urbanisation GeodanNL
Chapter 1 - Mobility
Chapter 7 - Instock - Selma Seddick
Chapter 7 - Fairphone - Miquel Ballesta Salva
Chapter 7 - Amsterdam - Marieke van Doorninck
Chapter 3,6,7,8 - Pexel.com
Chapter 1,2,3,4,8 - Jurn de Winter
Chapter 1. Cities
United Nations (2016), The worlds Cities in 2016
UNHABITAT (2011), Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011
World Bank (2018), Urban Waste management
Circle Economy (2018), Circularity Gap Report
IOS Amsterdam (2018), Kerncijfers Amsterdam 2018
The Copenhagenzie Bicycle Friendly Index
FAO (2014), Key facts on food loss and waste you should know
Chapter 2. The circularity gap?
Circle Economy (2018), Circularity Gap Report
Footprintnetwork (2018), Ecological footprint
Chapter 3. Circular economy
Circle Economy (2016), Making sense of the circular economy
Ellen Mcarthur Foundation (2013), Towards the Circular Economy Vol. 2: opportunities for the consumer goods sector
WRAP (2016), Employment and the circular economy
Circle Economy, Ecofys (2016), Circular Economy: A key lever in bridging the emissions gap to a 1.5 °C pathway
Chapter 4. Circular Amsterdam
Circle Economy, Fabric, TNO (2015), Circular Amsterdam, A vision and action agenda for the city and metropolitan area
Municipality Amsterdam (2016), Circular Innovation programme
Netherlands Government (2016), A Circular Economy in the Netherlands by 2050
Chapter 5. Fact-based approach
Circle Economy (2015), Circular Amsterdam, A vision and action agenda for the city and metropolitan area
Chapter 6. Circular strategies
Circle Economy, Fabric, TNO (2015), Circular Amsterdam, A vision and action agenda for the city and metropolitan area
Chapter 7. Lighthouse projects
Power to Protein
Chapter 8. Tomorrow
Circle Economy, Copper8, Evaluation and action perspective circular amsterdam
Jurn de Winter
Herma de Walle
For inquires about this interactive website contact
Jurn de winter - Jurn@circle-economy.com
For press inquires contact
Melanie Wijnands - Melanie@circle-economy.com
Upscaling of the Construction chain
In Amsterdam, the challenges in the construction sector are great: they are not restricted to new construction, they also include renovation/transformation, public space and infrastructure. Should these projects not be built in a circular way, renovation or disassembly becomes difficult, or even impossible. It hinders the future high-value reuse of building products. The construction sector can take big steps and quickly achieve visible results with a circular approach.
The municipality of Amsterdam can accelerate the transition by a further deployment of the instruments of land issue, spatial planning and legislation & regulations. In order to realise circular projects in the short term and to guarantee circular performance in the long term, a good cooperation with market parties is essential. The Roadmap Circular Land Issue can play an important role in further upscaling.
These last years, Amsterdam’s focus on circular construction has created a movement throughout the Netherlands. Amsterdam can support this movement by maintaining its focus on this value chain. In this way, the city can make a significant contribution to the further circularisation of the construction chain.
Upscaling of the Biomass & Food chain
Biomass is a raw material for, among other things, food, cattle feed and building materials. Many biomass streams meet at a regional level. This chain has seen many activities in recent years, thanks to the Circular Innovation programme in particular. These innovative projects prove that there are many opportunities within this chain for high-value reuse.A further deployment of the instruments of spatial planning and business support by the municipality offers the greatest contribution. After all, in this chain it is the private sector that have to take the largest steps, and these need support. The innovative cooperation between municipality and market, as designed in the Circular Innovation program, is a good starting point.
Continuing the commitment to the Biomass & Food chain ensures scaling up of innovations for high-value reuse. In this action perspective, for example, attention will be paid to activities that specifically focus on food and physical space in the city for decentralised solutions. The innovation developed in Amsterdam can then be applied elsewhere, which shows how important the role of Amsterdam is in accelerating the transition to a circular economy.
Upscaling of the value chain Consumer goods
As in any urban area, many consumer goods are being consumed in Amsterdam, such as: kitchen articles, furniture and clothing. With the continued growth of the city, the demand only increases further. Even more than transport and living, these consumer goods constitute the greatest environmental burden of households.
Continued focus on this value chain will mainly be in the fields of business support and information provision. The current emphasis on the end of the chain (waste phase) can be transformed into a structural approach for the entire chain. This leads to a lower environmental pressure. Effective cooperation with the greater metropolitan region is important. If we want to reach optimal results, we need to cooperate closely with the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
Expanding circular procurement
Both at the European and the national level, procurement is seen as an important government tool to drive the circular economy. After all, for authorities, procurement is the main connection with physical products, and can involve significant volumes. An integral circular demand from the Municipality of Amsterdam drives suppliers to involve the complete chain.
The procurement instrument can be applied to all value chains. The greatest potential for municipalities, however, lies in the value chains of Construction (in the physical city) and Consumer goods (for own management). Structural circular procurement of Amsterdam creates an incentive for suppliers to produce circularly, and also offers them a secure market.
Expanding the knowledge function
The transition to a circular economy shows, in many areas, a need for more knowledge and for sharing experiences. This does not only hold for technological knowledge, but also for knowledge on economic and financial incentives. In recent years, this focus of the municipality has proven to be successful in the chains of Construction and Biomass & Food. Together with market parties, the municipality started to create a learning environment, in which new initiatives were developed, applied and improved. This calls for an entrepreneurial and proactive civil service with a common knowledge on the circular economy and sustained awareness of the importance of cooperation.
These efforts should be taken to the next level in all value chains in the upcoming phase of the transition. By means of research, we should be able to chart technical and economic opportunities. Education & information provision should enable us to involve new stakeholders and organisations in the transition. Furthermore, The municipality should share knowledge and experiences in our networks, enabling all those involved to engage. In order for these instruments to be strong and effective, collaboration with Amsterdam-based knowledge institutes and market parties is essential.
ConstructionDismantling and separation
By dismantling existing buildings in more efficient ways and by separating their waste streams, materials and components of old buildings can be better reused. Components can then be used in new buildings or materials be cycled into new materials such as recycled concrete. Currently a lot of the waste is mixed together and is used a fundament for roads.
High value reuse and recycling
Recovery of materials and components for high value reuse is essential in a circular economy. By repurposing existing buildings or components, or by upcycling building materials for new products, more value can be captured.
Marketplace and resourcebank
The exchange of resources between market players to enable the reuse of materials in new buildings. By matching the supply of waste streams and the demand for secondary materials, we can reduce waste and at the same time reduce the need for virgin materials. Having a digital marketplace, and physical location to store the goods, enable a transaction of residual streams.
Designing buildings in a circular way is an important strategy in the transition to a regional circular construction circular chain. Circular buildings are designed, from the very start, to be adaptable, flexible and fit for repurpose. For example, adopting building materials that are bio-based can allow for repurposing or made through 3D printers.
Benefits of a Circular EconomyJobs
Besides cycling resources to their maximum possible value, a circular economy also promises a wealth of new employment opportunities. Broken products must be repaired; renewable energy infrastructure must be installed; green buildings must be designed.
For example, one job is needed for every kilotonne of electronics that are landfilled. However, if the same quantity is recycling, then 15 jobs are created, and repairing creates 200 more!
Read more about jobs in the circular economy
Benefits of a Circular EconomyCarbon Emissions
Implementing the circular economy globally can help to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement. The emissions reduction commitments made by 195 countries at the COP21 are not sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To reach this critical ambition, it is estimated that additional emissions reductions of 15 billion tonnes of CO2 per year must be achieved by 2030. Circular economy strategies may deliver emissions reductions that could cut this gap in half.
Read more in this report
Benefits of a Circular EconomyMaterial Savings
At its very core, the circular economy is centred around the sustainable consumption of resources of our global economic system to allow us to thrive within the natural boundaries of our planet.
There are almost unlimited opportunities for the circular economy to create material savings. For example, designing products and services in such a way that allows for materials to be reused and recycled can reduce not only the quantity of materials sent to landfill, but also overall extraction of finite raw materials.
Applied to consumer goods, the circular economy has been
estimated to generate as much as $700billion in material savings globally each year.
Benefits of a Circular EconomyAdded Value
Instead of destroying value after the use phase, value is retained in a circular economy through cycles of reusing, repairing, remanufacturing or recycling. From a business perspective, the circular economy makes sense: reuse of materials can save costs and service models can deliver new business propositions and revenues. Circular businesses allow products to stay at their highest level of value for as long as possible.
It has been estimated that the circular economy could boost EU GDP by €1.8 trillion by 2030
Read more here
Waste separation and logistics
Good waste separation and smart reverse logistics are important in the optimal valorisation of organic residual streams. By separating mono-streams at the source, and be collecting it through reverse logistics, they can transformed in valuable materials and nutrients. For example coffee grounds can be used as input to grow mushrooms on!
Cascading of organic flows
In order to capture as maximum value as possible from organic waste flows, Amsterdam can cascade their organic flows. Surplus food can be sold in restaurants, residuals streams from bakeries can be used by breweries, and cooked oil can be used by cars. By cascading at the highest possible value we make the most of residual streams.
Across the whole food chain – from field to fork – only 5% of the nutrients placed in the soil are actually used to provide us with nutritional value. By capturing the remaining 95% of those nutrients, and by minimising waste, we limit the depletion of valuable natural resources.
In a central bio-refinery the highest possible value can be extracted from organic residual streams. The hub is a logistics hub where bulk products can be transported on a large scale, and where local small flows can come together. Residual streams can be used to make medicine, chemicals or to provide nutrients.