Circle Economy Foundationnews
Published on: 
February 9, 2024

From waste to wellbeing: How to design a waste-free city 

The Netherlands has made notable progress in recycling and waste management over the past years. However, the nation’s sheer volume of waste production hinders its goal of having a fully circular economy by 2050. On average, Dutch households produce 524 kilogrammes of waste per capita, which is above the European average of 517 kilogrammes per capita. This constitutes a total of 9.1 million tonnes of household waste generated in the Netherlands annually and underscores the need for robust waste prevention strategies. 

Waste prevention is a far more impactful circular strategy than recycling and energy recovery. That is why the Netherlands is making efforts to cut waste at its source, encouraging its citizens to practice reduce, reuse and repair—the most effective circular R-strategies. 

As part of these efforts, Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), the executive agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands, asked Circle Economy Foundation to investigate how cities can be designed to promote waste reduction among residents and small businesses. 

The resultant report, titled 'Zero Waste Cities of the Future,' highlighted five circular urban policy instruments to realise a vision for a waste-free city. A city geared towards waste prevention would forgo certain features to make space for new, innovative facilities and logistic networks. These instruments can reshape the urban environment, making waste prevention appealing to both consumers and producers. 

  1. Urban and Spatial Planning. To promote sustainable choices, everything should be conveniently located. Urban planning that encourages mixed-use developments and creates ‘15-minute cities’ can decrease the need for long commutes and make it easier for residents to shop locally. This will also reduce packaging waste volumes and transportation-related waste.

  1. Legislation and Regulation. Strict waste-related regulations and laws can speed up waste prevention efforts, ensuring that businesses and individuals follow sustainable practices.

  1. Business Support and Incentives. For households to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, they need convenient options. Cities can make circular products and services readily available by providing financial and economic incentives to businesses.

  1. Circular Public Procurement. Local governments can lead by example. Adopting circular procurement practices allows cities to show their dedication to sustainability, promote the market for circular products and services and set standards for responsible consumption and production.

  1. Awareness and Education. Citizens should be educated on waste prevention strategies and how they can be implemented in daily life. Effective awareness campaigns and educational initiatives can empower residents with the knowledge and motivation to reduce waste.

By implementing these urban policy instruments, Dutch cities can lead the way in sustainable, circular practices, creating an inspiring model for the rest of the world to follow.

The report can be downloaded via this link in Dutch and English.

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