8 Amsterdam plastic pioneers turning trash to treasure
Currently only a small percentage of plastic is recycled into new products. We’ve rounded up some Amsterdam entrepreneurs who are trying to change that by turning problematic plastic into a valuable resource for design, construction and transport.
It’s easy being green in Amsterdam. The city ranks highly for eco-friendly living thanks to its cycling culture, climate conscious fashion and food scenes, use of renewable energy and circular economy programmes. Earlier this month, Amsterdam topped the Schroders sustainability index because of its comprehensive climate plans and carbon neutrality targets.
But here, and globally, more can be done to tackle the scourge of plastic waste. Luckily Amsterdam is home to innovative social enterprises and companies who are on a mission to save tonnes of plastic from waterways and landfill. Read our roundup:
The entrepreneurs behind this workshop in the north of Amsterdam see plastic as a resource, ready to be turned into furniture and whatever else the heart desires. Thanks to enormous 3D printers, plastic waste can be transformed into unique, high-quality plastic chairs, tables, plant pots, you name it. vanPlestik also creates for Fairphone and HEMA. Their vision is to bring this cost-effective solution to communities around the world, where recycling facilities are lacking, and closing the plastic loop on a local level.
You probably wouldn’t be caught buying plastic bags from the supermarket, but maybe the designers at Polimeer can convince you to feel proud to own plastic. They embrace its variety of colour, versatility and ability to withstand the harshest of environments to make unique lighting and home decor.
The Good Plastic Company
If you want to build something yourself with a durable, sustainable material, The Good Plastic Company is the place to go. It’s also on a mission to reimagine plastic as a climate positive material by producing recycled and recyclable plastic panels for creating environmentally friendly furniture. The USP is its modern aesthetic such as marble-effect. Projects have included reception areas and restaurant interiors and collaborations with Nike and Adidas.
Integrated Green Energy Solutions
Here's the answer to our plastic waste and carbon emissions conundrum: turning unrecyclable plastic into fuel for diesel engines. A world-first facility is currently under construction at the Port of Amsterdam and will eventually be turning 33,000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic into 35 million litres of clean fuel annually, saving 57,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. Set up by Dutch company Bin2Barrell, now owned by Australia-based IGE Solutions, the facility uses patented pyrolysis technology that turns plastic waste from factories into marine fuel, ready to power cargo ships, and road-ready transport fuels for land freight.
Could this be the future of construction? The team at Pretty Plastic believe they have created the first facade material to be made from 100% recycled plastic. Shredded PVC from discarded window frames and rain gutters is used to make shingles for cladding, giving a unique and, rather importantly, weather-proof finish. The company completed its first building in January at a school in the south of the Netherlands.
Next time you see a park or festival field strewn with plastic bottle caps, the eco-friendly skateboard makers at Wasteboards could probably use them. They turn hundreds of these nifty caps into solid skateboards that can withstand as much weight, travel and tricks as their regularly produced counterparts. Better yet, each hand built skateboard has a unique colour pattern thanks to its recycled components, and the slight fishtail design is a gentle reminder of Wasteboards’ mission to keep plastics out of the oceans.
There can’t be an article about plastic in Amsterdam without mentioning Plastic Whale. Best known for its plastic ‘fishing’ canal cruises (on boats made from recycled plastic, no less), they also create office furniture using plastic trash. At the Vepa furniture factory tonnes of recycled plastic fished from Amsterdam canals is turned into tables, chairs and lights, all inspired by the shape of the whale to further highlight the pressing need to save marine life from plastic pollution.
The Great Bubble Barrier
It's not turning plastic to furniture but The Great Bubble Barrier gets a mention nonetheless. This innovative device simply stops plastic from entering our oceans. An air-pumped tube creates a ‘bubble curtain’ that blocks plastics and forces them to the surface. The diagonal placement of the screen in the waterway then guides plastic waste into the catchment system, ready for collecting and recycling. The very first bubble barrier is in Amsterdam at Westerdok, strategically placed to stop as much of the outflow from Amsterdam’s city centre as possible.