Amsterdam Buiksloterham living lab for circular city

Published on
May 11, 2015

The Buiksloterham district of Amsterdam is being transformed from an unsightly industrial area into a model showcase for circular area development. Wageningen UR is one of the signatories of a manifesto drawn up to emphasise the biobased ambitions of the project. Over the coming years, Buiksloterham will be transformed into a neighbourhood in which products and raw materials are reused as much as possible.

The 20 signatories of the manifesto have developed an action plan with several priorities. Wageningen UR focuses on the areas of waste and water. “This is a hotbed of ideas right now,” says scientist Wim de Haas of Alterra Wageningen UR. “There are ideas from people who wish to build their sustainable home in Buiksloterham, for example. But there are also businesses that see great potential in the circular biobased economy. As a research institute, Wageningen UR is happy to be among the promoters as there are many exciting opportunities in this project. And we are joined in this by scientists from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Delft University of Technology, Deltares and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN).”

Extracting value from water

In the water panel, Wageningen UR joins promoters who wish to get more value out of water-related activities. “For instance, we are examining the possibilities for reclaiming residual materials from sewage,” De Haas explains. “The technology we aim to use to recover phosphates from wastewater, can be very valuable in applications on a larger scale. The looming shortage of phosphate may be a threat to world food security; without phosphate, there will be no food.”

From waste to raw material

The waste panel is the place for planners looking to recover useful raw materials from waste. For example, a group of homebuilders hope to apply circular building principles in the construction of their homes. The application of smart waste collection technology gives used renewable materials a new lease on life. Organic waste streams can be turned into new biobased materials in a small biorefinery in Buiksloterham, then used as building blocks for biobased chemicals or biobased plastics.

Questions from initiators

De Haas noted that the initiators in the district faced questions very early on. At how big a scale were they hoping to develop the idea? What regulations apply? Which technologies can be used? And, last but not least, is the idea economically viable? De Haas: “We help idea makers with knowledge, carry out cost-benefit calculations and propose new solutions that might not have spontaneously occurred to them. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel as there is already a great deal of technology available for initiators to use, shared by means of a knowledge platform. A web tool with relevant information will allow initiators to come into contact with partners who can help them. There will also be workshops on specific topics, such as a new sanitation system in the district.”

Model for other cities

The developments in Buiksloterham will result in more than just an impressive circular district. The neighbourhood is a model for what could happen in other cities – in the Netherlands and beyond – or other parts of Amsterdam. This largely abandoned and polluted industrial area provides plenty of space for gaining experience in circular area development. “Buiksloterham is not just a neighbourhood in Amsterdam Noord,” De Haas points out. “It has the ambition to teach the world a great deal about the transition to the circular biobased economy.”

Adaptive Circular Cities

The project in Buiksloterham is called Adaptive Circular Cities. It is designed by the Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) to encourage the development of expertise on circular area development. Wageningen UR, together with the Delft University of Technology and MIT in Boston, is a founder of the AMS Institute.

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