Amsterdam is going Circular smartly with 'learning by doing'

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City of Amsterdam - Eveline Jonkhoff

In Amsterdam, two value chains are very important: the building and construction sector and the organic and biomass industry. The city circle scan showed that the implementation of material reuse strategies had the potential to create a value of €85 million per year within the construction sector and €150 million per year with more efficient organic residual streams. The city involved the private sector and research institutes in this process and they fully agreed with the outcomes.

‘Learning by doing’ aims to prove that the circular economy is profitable in all aspects. This project is based on an integrated approach. For example, Amsterdam integrated the principles of circularity from the start in the urban planning strategy of the city’s largest transformation area ‘Harbor - City’ with 70 000 houses.

Amsterdam is also trying to adapt to a circular economy by forging new business models shifting from products to services and creating new legal and financial instruments. The city had to overcome administrative barriers and think about new forms of cooperation, such as cross-sector thinking and multidisciplinary working. It was crucial to involve citizens.

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Amsterdam has translated the research outcomes into a dedicated programme with projects in the building sector.

The ‘Learning by doing’ programme gives the city an opportunity to learn about circular economy and about the role the local governments should and could play. It has an impact on the city administration. Processes and ways of working have been modified, and the use of governmental instruments like tendering land for circular buildings has become more common.

Thanks to results generated in the research stage, the private sector is willing to commit to multi-stakeholder projects in the city. The implementation of circular economy initiatives has bolstered the international position of the city: Amsterdam is perceived as a front-runner and attracts companies and start-ups.