The perspective of the circular city
recommendations for the circular city
A new development perspective for the city We live in dynamic times where various developments come together. Some are cause for concern, such as the condition and position of our economy, demograph ic changes, growing disparities between rich and underprivileged, depletion of resources and climate change. Others offer new perspectives, such as a wider value orientation, the availability of in formation and knowledge, technological developments and the emergence of a vigorous society. All these developments come together in the cities. Nevertheless, opportunities are often missed because of a traditio nal and sectoral view on the functioning of urban regions and economies. To let the Dutch cities retain their good (international) competitive position, a new strategy is needed that focuses on the needs of residents, that seizes the opportunities of the modern economy and the agglomerative advantages of the city, and that makes an effective and effi cient use of human, natural and economic resources. In this respect, the circular city offers interesting perspectives. From a historic and international perspective, the Dutch cities are success ful. They have known a long period of steady growth and are on top of various international rankings. The Netherlands is in the top ten of the most competitive countries according to the World Economic Forum, for instance; it ranks fourth in the Human Development Index and, according to Bloomberg, it is the best place after Hong Kong to do business. So the position of the Nether lands is good, but the above-mentioned developments provide new and challeng ing tasks. The cities and regions still rely heavily on foreign trade and transport and are very dependent on raw mate rials and fossil fuels. In the meantime, the competition between urban regions is growing. Emerging economies, for example, are rapidly evolving from lowwage countries to knowledge economies. And while in other countries low-value activities are relocated abroad, many knowledge-intensive companies are leaving the Netherlands.
The Dutch cities are thus more vulner able than expected. The Dutch scientific council for government policy WRR warns in its report ‘Towards a learning economy’ (2013) that the increasingly globalised world is threatening the good position of our economy - a new context in which postulates from the last century do not give any warranties for the future. In the new economy, the proven strategy of maximising scale and saving costs on the one hand and betting on the knowledge economy on the other hand, offers insufficient prospects for the Dutch city. In order to strengthen their own posi tions, cities and regions should therefore stop searching for savings and start looking for (local) added value. This demands a more sustainable economic and social orientation, based on the human, natural and economic capital in the city, such as materials, energy, labour, knowledge, relationships, infra structure, businesses and buildings. This change requires finding new connections and more circular processes. Increas ing attention is given, therefore, to the perspective of a locally oriented circular
city. Circular thinking provides the op portunities to make cities not only more sustainable, but also more independent and resilient, and provides a direction in the search for a new economy for the city and thus for the Netherlands.
In the new economy, the proven strategy of maximising scale and saving costs on the one hand and betting on the knowledge economy on the other hand, offers insufficient prospects for the Dutch city
What is the circular city?
Circulation of knowledge and abilities The circular city is a metaphor for a new way of looking at the city and of organizing it. The basis of the circular city approach is the “informational society”, the idea that information and networks are the basic raw materials for a sustainable development of the city. Connections and circulation of information and knowledge make the city smarter, stronger and more res ilient. The key recommendation of the widely endorsed WRR report ‘Towards a learning economy’, therefore, is to concentrate on knowledge circulation and the ‘learning economy’. In line with this recommendation, the concept starts from the assumption that in a modern economy, with the above-mentioned increasing competition between regions, so-called agglomeration economies (mass, density) and localisation benefits (specialisation, proximity) will prevail. As a result, organisations in the circular city are more horizontal and organic than the vertical-hierarchical and planned control we know from the (post) indus trial city.
A circular approach makes cities • Independent Circulating knowledge and skills in crease the city’s capacity to adapt and absorb. The various flows in the city are recognised and used as valuable raw materials for the new sustainable economy. Insight in the role of these
Contrary to what is often assumed, ecological aspects are not independent of developments in the economic and sociocultural areas of the circular city
Circulation of flows The idea is that linear processes in the circular city, from extraction to waste, can be (partly) replaced by circular processes and that lasting connections can be made between flows. These flows - such as goods, people, food, waste, water, wildlife and air – are the city’s metabolism that allows the city and the economy to function. Contrary to what is often assumed, ecological aspects are not independent of developments in the economic and socio-cultural areas of the circular city. Circular thinking makes it possible to better deal with the interactions between the design of the economy, socio-cultural lifestyles and the evolution of the natural environ ment, to achieve a more sustainable urban development.
elements for the functioning of the city makes it possible to create new local connections that lead to systems with less residual materials, pollution and dependence on geo-political relation ships. A good example is the extraction of green gas from waste or the recovery of waste heat.
information. Thus, the ‘smart city’ can make citizens, businesses, networks and government smarter and healthier. • Rich The circular city has a broader value, is smarter and gives itself thus access to new sources and capital. The intrinsic value of (parts of) flows in the city will be better utilised. By-products of one process can serve as raw materials for other processes. In addition to recycling materials and raw materials, the circu lar city makes clever use of space and competences in the city. Attention is also given to establishing new connecti ons that create more value. By realising employment, for instance, but also by contributing to values like health, happi ness, community, autonomy, responsi bility. Largely self-sufficient, inclusive neighbourhoods with a strong local eco nomy and a very involved community are an example of such value creation. • Energetic The creativity and innovative power of citizens and businesses presents opportunities. In the circular city, urban parties and authorities are receptive to this energy. New connections are realised between society, government, institutions and businesses, thanks to the openness of data, curiosity and the will to cooperate. This is the engine of innovation. Local energy cooperatives are an example.
• Resilient This autonomy and independence makes the circular city more resilient and better able to cope with shocks. With a local focus on city or urban region, it is pos sible to design smaller, local systems or circuits that are more flexible. The cir cular city is rather the strong, producing and reusing city than the vulnerable consuming, dependent city. The city’s regenerative ability increases with the insight in and availability of flows and 3
Pioneers in the circular city
Local energy cooperatives
Biogas from bread
Regional energy potential
Cow provides seven families with energy
There are now more than 100 energy coopera tives in the Netherlands. They provide products and services to help (households in) the region generate their own energy and reduce their energy consumption. The cooperatives contrib ute to new ownership, new connections, cycles and investment projects (direct and indirect) in a clean and sustainable city. The challenge now is to connect the stand-alone initiatives. Collectiveness in developing business models, in bundling small projects to larger, fundable portfolios and new partnerships with govern ments or taking over government functions at the local level, for example in making areas energy- and climate-neutral, are indications that these cooperatives become increasingly important.
At various places in the Netherlands experiments are taking place and use is being made of waste heat from industry and agriculture for the heating of homes and business premises. Several Dutch municipalities are experimenting with such projects. The municipality of Velsen, for ex ample, and the environmental protection agency of local and regional authorities in the Rijnmond area are exploring possibilities to cooperate with the regional industry. In Rotterdam geothermal waste heat from industry is used for heating the city and horticulture. In the mining area on the Belgian, Dutch and German border, groundwater is warmed in the earth and used to heat homes and offices.
In many city districts it is normal to see bread lying in the streets. The reason for this is that the Islamic belief tells Muslims not to dispose bread. Feeding it to the birds also attracts pests, though. In the Kolenkit area in the west of Amsterdam this problem was turned into an energy innovation. Pink Ponyexpress, in collaboration with Gascoland, developed a bread digester. It transforms bread into biogas that is used to cook the neighbourhood meals. With the gas thus produced, eight households can cook their meals. Such digesters work with more than bread alone. All kinds of food residues are fit to be fermented. In the future, they could be placed in streets or near apartment complexes.
In the new Zuiderburen residential area in Leeuwarden, 800 homes will get their energy (heat and electricity) from biogas. The gas is produced by fermenting the manure of 160 cows from the nearby experimental farm Nij Bosma Zathe. One cow provides seven families with energy.
The car battery as a means to store urban energy
Smart use can be made of the batteries in electric cars. In the Amsterdam New-West area, a Vehicle2Grid pilot enables residents to use the batteries in their electric cars to store locally generated energy. Residents can now decide what happens with energy that was generated locally, for example from their own solar panels. The energy can be sold back to the grid, used directly, or stored in the battery of an electric car to be used later for transport or domestic use. This contributes to a sustainable energy supply and makes households more self-sufficient.
The benefit of clean water
In the Noorderhoek district in the city of Sneek, the so-called Waterschoon (Water Clean) process uses a vacuum system to collect organic waste together with toilet water (black water). The domestic wastewater (gray water), by contrast, is collected separately. Both the black and the gray water, also referred to as residual streams, are cleaned separately from each other in a local sewage treatment plant and discharged to the rainwater sewer. In addition to water being purified, energy is produced here in the form of biogas, and heat is recovered from waste streams. The energy that is released is used to heat homes. Before the water is discharged to the surface water, more than 90 percent of the pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphate and drug residues are removed. This implies a reduction in contaminated waste streams such as sewage sludge and CO2 emissions.
Sewage water pays for water treatment
The sewage water of Amsterdam contains phos phate, which is a precious and scarce fertilizer. The Water Board for the Amstel, Gooi and Vecht rivers has commissioned the Waternet water company to recover phosphate from the sewage water with a new installation. This will result in an annual cost saving of 400,000 euros. The new installation can recover up to 3,000 kilos of phosphate per day. In the future it may even be possible to recover rare minerals and metals such as nitrate, cellulose, plastics and possibly hormones. Instead of being a mere cost item, purification can thus help to financially support an urban system.
From waste company to commodities hub
The Orgaworld company collects heat and biogas from organic waste, such as outdated products from supermarkets and old vegetable fats and oils. The company has digesters in the Amsterdam port area, where billions of bacteria break down the organic material. The fermentation process takes about thirty days, and releases biogas that is converted into electricity and CO2-neutral waste heat. The digestate that remains in the tanks is separated into water and sludge. Orga world turnes the sludge into a dried fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. One hundred thousand tons of products yield five thousand tons of dried fertiliser pellets, which can serve as food for fruit and vegetable plants or other crops. Then the cycle is round.
The ports metabolism
AEB (a waste energy company), the Waternet water company and the Port of Amsterdam are joining forces to increase the production of biogas from waste, to produce plastics from renewable raw materials, to supply steam to businesses, to generate more wind power, and to stimulate innovative and sustainable start-ups in the port area. Similar initiatives are taking place in Rotterdam. The Port of Rotterdam, Rabobank Rotterdam, BIKKER & Company and Van Gansewinkel have jointly established the Circularity Center, to encourage the reuse of (raw) materials, create new revenue and acceler ate the development of a circular economy.
In 2012, the European Union recycled 34.7 percent of all plastic packaging. The Netherlands is number 1 on the list of European countries that recycle plastic
Reuse of plastics
In 2012, the European Union recycled 34.7 percent of all plastic packaging. The Netherlands is number 1 on the list of European countries that recycle plastic, partly due to the deposit system in place and use of bins for the collection of plastic waste. The waste companies too have a significant role in separating and recycling plastic. This represents a tangible part of the circular economy. Moreover, there are several commercial initiatives that regard used plastic as a raw material. The Better Future Factory company, for instance, uses used plastics as a raw material for 3D printers.
Pioneers in the circular city
Sustainability in construction
Over the coming years, the Buiksloterham area in Amsterdam will be looking for answers to the issues of energy, climate and biodiversity. People are working there on a circular city plan for the area as an example of new forms of urban development worldwide. The cleantech company Metabolic has devised a methodology that looks at energy in the city from a metabolic standpoint. Buiksloterham is to become a testing ground for the circular city. A self-sufficient zero-waste neighbourhood with self-renewing natural capital. It will become a diverse and in clusive community with a strong local economy. Residents are involved in local investments and value creation. Above all, Buiksloterham is a living lab where experimentation, research and innovation are actively encouraged and facilitated.
Market place for commodities
Clean circles in an experimental area
It is still not uncommon for one company to regard materials as waste that could well be used in a different function by another compa ny. Examples are worn materials, construction and demolition waste and unusable stock in warehouses. Oogstkaart is the name of a mar ketplace where such materials can be bought and sold. By ‘upcycling’ them, new products are created. Old car windows are turned into a shop interior and construction waste becomes a playground.
Circular area transformation
Various initiatives in the Netherlands work hard to make the circular change, also in construction and in the government. A good example is the Green Deal Cirkelstad (green deal circle city). It builds on the Cirkelstad initiative that is committed to realising the waste-free city. The Grean Deal Cirkelstad was signed by eight pri vate and public sector leaders, three ministries (Economic Affairs, Infrastructure and Environ ment, and Interior) and the Central Government Real Estate Agency. Another example is the Energiesprong (energy jump) innovation programme commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The goal is to create demand and supply for buildings that function without an energy bill: homes, offices, shops and hospitals.
The creative incubator De Ceuvel in Amsterdam works on clean technologies that try to close cycles as far as possible. Former houseboats, for instance, - which are used as office space – have no connection to the sewer, but have an individual gray water system and compost toilets instead. Sensors measure the consumption and production of electricity, water consumption, temperature, waste production and other parameters. There are experiments on decentralised wastewater treat ment, recovery of raw materials and food produc tion. The contaminated soil in the area is cleaned with special plants, just like the waste water. In this way, the whole area is slowly getting cleaner.
It is still not uncommon for one company to r egard materials as waste that could well be used in a different function by another company
Sustainable residential areas
Eigen Haard, ERA Contour, KOW architects and Orange are companies that have joined forces to create the first climate-neutral district in Amsterdam: Stadstuin (city garden) Overtoom. In the Overtoomse Veld district (Amsterdam New-West) 350 houses are demolished, mainly porch floor flats in the social housing segment. They will be replaced with 470 new homes in the social housing, free-rent and sale sectors. The climate-neutral ambitions include recycling or reuse of 90 per cent of recyclable demolition materials. The energy and water needed for the demolition/building and residence are saved or produced on the site in a sustainable way, without the use of fossil fuels.
Neighbourhood renewal by flows in the district
In the Bilgaard district in Leeuwarden a special ‘district company’ is searching for new ways and funding models to improve the neighbourhood and make it more sustainable. The idea is to increase its self-sufficiency, in energy, work and vegetables, through an unorthodox financing method. The district company focuses on reno vating homes, improving the environment and enhancing social cohesion in the neighbourhood, with the aim to save energy, increase comfort, reduce costs and create jobs. By generating energy, energy costs are saved, which can then be invested to further improve sustainability. Similar small local money flows add to the cor poration’s initial budget, with greater achieve ments as a result.
Leasing as a sustainable revenue model
Leasing may extend the term of a revenue model. Companies are encouraged to maintain the value of their product or to make it fit for recycling. In addition, leasing strengthens the relationship between producer and consumer. Companies need more funding and become more dependent on the solvency of their customers. An example is the leasing of lighting from Philips. It gives the manufacturer the right to take the lights back for a second life. Together with architect Thomas Rau, Philips has devised a circular business model to provide lighting to business customers. The user pays only for the actual amount of light consumed.
Local food production with residues
RotterZwam is an edible mushroom from Rotterdam (zwam means mushroom). The mushrooms are grown locally on coffee grounds and coffee zests: residual products that are now discarded and burned in the inci nerator. The mushrooms are not the terminus, though. When the substrate ceases to provide enough nutrients, enzymes are extracted from the mushroom mycelium. These enzymes are a raw material for bio plastics, biofuels and bio digesters. The remainder is composted with the help of compost worms into first class com post. RotterZwam is more than a mushroom. It is a symbol for the opportunities of local food production and for exploring new avenues in the urban metabolism.
Open data for a smart city
New ways of dealing with data are also a part of the circular city. Various institutions collect a great number of different data. By bundling them in manageable applications or programs and combining the data, new insights can be gained. Providing people with simple inves tigative tools can increase their involvement in their immediate surroundings. Thus, new dynamic relationships emerge between citizens, scientists and policy makers. Urban issues can be proposed, argued and substantiated from different perspectives. There are a number of such pilots in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, for example, various apps are being developed that are able to display real-time data from the city. In addition, so-called sharing apps enable people to easily share stuff and services. This intensifies the use that is made of things and promotes recycling in the city.
Providing people with simple investigative tools can increase their involvement in their immediate surroundings
Agenda for the circular city The way of dealing with urban develop ment that is now taken for granted, will have to reinvent itself in the circular city. It is a great challenge for parties and networks to entice and encourage one another to exchange linear thinking for a more circular approach. To help parties do so, the Innovation Circle has prepared an agenda for the circular city. 1 Connect the city with its surroundings The contrast between city and country side in policy and politics has led to unnatural borders and wasted opportu nities. Planners often focus on the city alone. Approaching city and countryside from a circular perspective creates space for new insights, connections and (financing) flows. It is important to look for solutions that transcend natural borders and administrative bounds. Moreover, how cities grew in the past is not a recipe for the future. In the case of problems, it used to be normal to look for solutions outside the city, for example by dumping waste there or by considering both agricultural lands and mines as an inexhaustible source. Today, the idea of infinite growth and inexhaustible resources is significantly adjusted. It’s time for a new relationship between city and region on the basis of complementarity. 2 Realise local and regional energy grids A Dutch household uses per year on average 466 gigajoules of energy. The resources used come from all over the world. This implies not only polluting fossil fuels, but also inefficient proces ses. There are opportunities to reduce the use of energy and to make smarter use of waste heat, waste and industrial by-products. In parts of the Netherlands heating grids could be realised, whether or not coupled with geothermal sources.
3 Approach buildings as plants for commodities and energy Presently, new buildings can be energy-neutral or even energy-plus. The existing Dutch building stock offers
great opportunities as well. A large part of the 7.5 million houses has the poten tial to produce power. The raw materials in the buildings can be used to construct new buildings or transform existing ones. To facilitate this development, a strategic investment and fiscal program is necessary that makes the building stock more sustainable, and that incites both governments, market parties, housing corporations and individuals to invest. Legislation such as the Building Act, may play a role in this process. 4 Adapt the tax system, laws and regulations The current tax system is not in line with the principles of the circular city. And the present legislation is inadequa te for the urban challenge of the future. A possible solution is to transform the tax system, shifting the tax burden from labour to taxes on raw materials, waste, residual heat, CO2 emissions and the use of space. This provides incentives for sustainable production and con sumption and comparative burdens. The advantages of cheaper labour are both economic and social, and offer more opportunities for local entrepreneurs. 5 Give space to local innovative districts We live in a time with plenty of room for innovation and experimentation. In cities start-ups are popular, as are bree ding grounds and fab labs. Places where everything revolves around the circula tion of knowledge, skills and creativity. New technologies are key drivers of innovation. Even larger companies are experimenting with prototypes. Legisla tion and policies offer increasing room for experimentation. If entrepreneurs or companies want to take initiatives on fallow grounds, in abandoned buildings, in new area developments, cities are wise to provide as much space as possi ble, for example by reducing regulations for a specific area. 6 Share knowledge and data The desired connection and circulation of knowledge and flows benefits from
the availability of information. Open data, real-time information from sen sors in the city and data that are crowd sourced through smartphone applica tions can all contribute to this situation. Open source data platforms are indis pensable for data sharing. To optimise the use of information, data need to be standardised. This means that data from different programs need to be available in the same format, that it has to be clear who the source and what the reliability are, etcetera. In addition, con certed effort to achieve a common local or regional data platform can counter fragmentation in the availability of data. It is necessary to experiment, to com municate continuously and to grasp opportunities for scaling-up or dupli cating successful examples. In addition, it is important to connect people who can play a role in these activities. In cities all over the world, new disciplines emerge, such as ‘new’ officials who are responsible for monitoring and boos ting innovation in the city. Government agencies have chief data officers and chief innovation officers, and citywide organizations are supported by partners whose mission it is to boost innovation. On a wider scale, governments, social organisations and businesses have similar opportunities. 7 Give space to local production In the circular city, products that are used there are increasingly produced, repaired or upgraded in that same city. This can be done on the basis of waste streams, recycled and bio-based materials and using advanced digital fabrication techniques like 3D printing and flexible robots. With these manu facturing techniques and 3D scanning technologies, highly customised products can be produced that are so tailored to the user that they are used for a long time. If a product does no longer work, it can be repaired in local repair cafés, and products that are (temporarily) no longer needed, can be exchanged in special stores.
Photo by Pim Geerts
It is a great challenge for parties and networks to entice and encourage one another to exchange linear thinking for a more circular approach
8 Make recycling easier Make it easier to separate waste and to reuse flows. Valuable initiatives arise from cooperation between innovative waste processors and other managers of waste streams (such as water com panies), large producers of waste and energy consumers, and by enabling local solutions such as separate sewer systems and the use of chutes and crushing systems for kitchen and gar den waste.
anagers can take responsibility and m look at the potential to put circular thinking into practice within their own organisation, but especially in chains and coalitions. This can be done by being open to cooperation, by mutuallearning and by sharing data and information. Thus, new connections are created and room is given to new initiatives.
9 Create local or regional coalitions of ‘the willing’ A local coalition of parties committed to the idea of the circular city can play a leading role in city and region. To realise one’s own ambition, a coalition with other parties is always required to get ‘circular’ projects off the ground. By realising joint projects that contribute to a circular city, by communicating that information, by sharing knowledge and experiences and by inviting other parties to join in, a local movement with an increasing number of parties is put in motion, developing new sustainable business models and contributing to the circular city by means of smart connec tions. 10 From circular thinking to circular action Circular thinking and acting requires all parties in the city and the govern ment to adapt. The transition to a more sustainable economy is a task of both consumers and market, and calls for a change in politics and policy. Politicians, policy makers, entrepreneurs and
Innovation circle ‘De Circulaire Stad’
Across the Netherlands, from Amsterdam to Groningen and from Texel to Bronckhorst, different parties and different projects, programs, studies and experiments from all sorts of disci plines are experimenting with and reflecting on the new sustainable urban economy and planning. A lot of experience is being acquired in various places in the Netherlands. At the same time, there is a widespread need for knowledge, insights and perspectives, coordination of (research) programs and connections with (new) parties and coalitions that may be of value for the city. Innovation circle De Circulaire Stad of Agenda Stad (a cooperative of the Dutch government, cities and stakeholders aimed at enhancing growth, innovation and quality of life in Dutch cities) wants to play a role in this process by providing wider attention to the conceptual framework of the circular city in different ways; by promoting knowledge sharing and networking for existing initiatives, projects and programs; by putting the spotlight on promising innovations, developments and perspectives; and by giving them a place in the public debate in various ways and on various moments. Where possible the innovation circle wants to generate new perspectives on possible connections and coalitions to help achieve these.
The following parties are part of this innovation circle and have contributed to this publication: Aldert de Vries (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations), Eva Gladek (Metabolic), Jan Heijns (Pakhuis de Zwijger), Jan Jongert (Superuse Studios / Rotterdamse Metabolis ten), Jan Schouw (BRES Breda), Jasper van Rooijen (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations), Jeroen Maas (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations), Jeroen van der Kuur (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), Jooske Baris (Platform31), Douwe Jan Joustra (IMSA), Marleen Stikker (Waag Society), Maarten Claassen (Waternet), Meine van der Graaf (MVO Nederland), Michel Schuurman (MVO Nederland),
Onno van Sandick (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment), Pieter Buisman (Geldstromen in de wijk), Jan Heijns (Pakhuis de Zwijger), Stephan van Dijk (Amsterdam Institute for Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) / TU Delft), Tjeerd Haccou (Space&Matter / De Ceuvel), Jeroen van der Kuur (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), Rutger Buch (Cirkelstad), Sjors de Vries (RUIMTEVOLK), Judith Lekkerkerker (RUIMTE VOLK), Daphne Koenders (RUIMTEVOLK).
Colophon Cover photo Pim Geerts Photos alias0591 (p.2), Image Library, Evan Leeson, WikiCommons, RUIMTEVOLK (p. 4), Better Future Company, Website Noorderhoek, Orga World Amsterdam (p. 5), Superuse Studios, Doepelstrijkers, Peter Bihr, Frank Alsema, Harry Cock, Era Contour (p. 6) RAU Architecten Amsterdam, Amsterdam Smart City, Rotterzwam (p. 7), Pim Geerts (p. 9), Dennis Jarvis (p.11) Editors Daphne Koenders en Sjors de Vries (RUIMTEVOLK) Translation Eva Nijland (IMSA) Graphic design Karina Dimitriu
Published on May 28, 2015
Published on May 28, 2015
To let the Dutch cities retain their livability and (international) competitive position, a new strategy is needed that focuses on the needs...