Make Amsterdam green again

Jasmine Wallis and Brianna Novak

On the 22nd of September, the city of Zwolle unveiled a bike path made up of 70% recycled plastic. Containing plastic bottles, packaging, and furniture, the 30 -metre wide road is the world’s first “smart” bicycle path. Contributing to the circular economy, once the recycled path has reached the end of its life expectancy, it can be recycled further. The eco-friendly path also allows for the insertion of a water drainage system. There are plans to launch a second “smart” bike path in the province of Overijssel later in the year. The launch of the recycled bike paths proves that the Netherlands is a leader in combating environmental issues but what about Amsterdam? Here are some ways that the Dutch capital is working on their waste.

The Plastic Road: (Source: KWS)

Plastic Free Supermarket: It looks like plastic, but it isn’t!
On February 28th the world’s first plastic free aisle opened at an Amsterdam organic supermarket chain called Ekoplaza. The idea of a plastic-free aisle was launched by the international environmental campaign “A Plastic Planet”. With more than 700 plastic-free products, the aisle sends a clear signal against increasing plastic contamination. New compostable biomaterials and traditional materials such as glass, metal and cardboard are used for packaging.

The supermarket can be found on Jan Pieter Heijestraat in the Dutch capital’s Oud-West. According to Sian Sutherland – the co-founder of A Plastic Planet – Ekoplaza plans to introduce a plastic free aisle to all 74 branches across the Netherlands by the end of this year. Sutherland stresses: “The introduction of the world’s first Plastic Free Aisle represents a landmark moment for the global fight against plastic pollution”. He also says that Europe’s largest supermarkets should follow the example of Ekoplaza “to turn off the plastic tap”. 

Plastic Whale: Combining Tourism & Environmentalism
Marius Smit was traveling the world when he realized just how much of an impact plastic was having on the environment. It was not until he returned to his native Holland that he realized the plastic crisis was right on his doorstep (or, on his canal). The Plastic Whale, founded in 2011, is an initiative that combines institutions, companies and citizens and is also a popular tourist attraction.

6,000 people per year (they’re set to surpass 10,000 this year), board Plastic Whale’s boats made from recycled plastic to go “fishing” for plastic waste in the Amsterdam canals. Pauline de Boer, head of communications and public relations at Plastic Whale, said, “I think it’s a really good way to educate tourists so they take more responsibility for the traces that they leave in the city.” Results from Plastic Whale’s data shows that as of May 2018, Plastic Whale has “fished” 146,000 bottles and 9 boats worth of plastic waste from the canals of Amsterdam.

The City Council: Working Towards the Future
In 2013, only 19% of household waste was sorted and collected separately. The City of Amsterdam has set the goal of 65% by 2020. The combined effort of citizens, council, and tourists will hopefully make this goal a reality in the next two years. The City of Amsterdam is helping the war on waste by installing more waste containers, making it easier to separate paper, glass, and plastic. Over the next three years, they are adding 3,000 underground waste containers as well as testing new ways to get rid of organic waste from the kitchen and garden such as ‘worm hotels’ for composting. Although there are still measures to take, in 2015 Amsterdam was ranked fifth on the Green City Index of Europe (thanks, of course to its strong cycling culture). The city has never been afraid to embrace brave and new ideas for the future and perhaps, may be next in line for a recycled bike path as well.