Experiencing the circular economy in Amsterdam

The linear economy – which is based on discarding all that has reached the end of its lifespan – is being replaced by a mentality of reusing products, recycling materials and rethinking manufacturing processes. And Amsterdam is en route to transforming its lead in the field into a bona-fide export product, inspiring other cities around the world.

The term ‘circular economy’ encompasses a wide variety of industries, businesses, processes and projects. This diversity becomes apparent when one looks at even a small selection of circular economy initiatives in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

Park 20|20 – A cradle-to-cradle business park

Located south of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, this business park has been created fully in accordance with the cradle-to-cradle principle: everything here will be reused in a new cycle. All buildings are energy-neutral and a sustainable financing plan is in place. The project developer is also the owner of the buildings, which means there is a proper incentive to stretch their longevity as much as possible, as well as keeping energy and material use down. The tenants have plenty of circular credentials of their own, and companies such as energy services provider Bluewater and audio equipment manufacturer Plantronics are also pioneers in new work models to improve their employees’ work-life balance. This makes working at these companies desirable, and their location in Park 20|20 is yet another factor in attracting talent.

Buiksloterham – Future-proof redevelopment

This former industrial and port area is currently being redeveloped into a neighbourhood with homes, offices and creative studios. Construction and technology firms are working closely with architects and material experts: right from the design stage, they determine where the materials and components used for the buildings and roads will be reused later. Biologists and biotechnologists are experimenting with natural methods for keeping surface water and ground clean.

De Ceuvel – Creative hotspot

Part of Buiksloterham, the former wharf De Ceuvel has been made available by the City of Amsterdam to a group of artists, architects and creative startups, who work in offices on previously discarded and now renovated houseboats. The polluted ground is being cleansed by phyto-remediating plants. In the meantime, the people and businesses of De Ceuvel use clean technologies and come up with new ways of making their lifestyle more sustainable. There is urban farming, and all energy is decentralised, using circular heat systems and solar power. A café and soon a floating bed-and-breakfast welcome curious visitors.

Philips-Schiphol cooperation – Light as a service

Philips is currently transitioning from linear to circular organisation and production, aiming to operate with a circular business model by 2025. One part of this transition is the ‘light as a service’ model developed by Philips Lighting. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the first large clients for this model, which means that the customer pays for the light it requires but does not purchase the light installation itself. All lighting equipment stays under ownership of Philips, which means the company retains control over minimising energy usage and reusing materials and components. It’s a mutually beneficial system that saves costs for both sides.

Pushing circular economy forward in Amsterdam

There is a number of initiatives working to strengthen the Netherlands’ position at the forefront of the transition to circular. The Netherlands Circular Hotspot campaign is actively supporting and promoting the status of the country as a pioneer in the field. Circle Economy is a social enterprise that accelerates the practical and scalable implementation of the circular economy with various tools and programmes. With the City of Amsterdam, it worked on an extensive ‘Circular City Scan’ to determine which role the City can play in stimulating the transition to a circular economy. Amsterdam was the first region worldwide to undergo that kind of research, and, as can be seen above, it’s already bearing fruit.