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Amsterdam adopts first ‘city doughnut’ model for circular economy

Economist Kate Raworth has adapted her doughnut model for Amsterdam. The approach could help the municipality with its post-pandemic recovery.


The City of Amsterdam has launched its Circular 2020-2025 strategy, which outlines the actions to halve the use of new raw materials by 2030.


The city aims to have a completely circular economy by 2050, based on reusing raw materials to avoid waste and reduce Co2 emissions.


Amsterdam is also developing a monitoring tool to track and trace raw materials and assess which initiatives make the biggest contribution to circular economy goals.


The strategy is based on what Amsterdam says is “the world’s first City Doughnut” economic model.


Doughnut economics


The doughnut model was developed by Kate Raworth, a senior research associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. She describes herself as a “renegade economist”.


Raworth adapted the model to create the Amsterdam City Doughnut.


The inside ring of the doughnut outlines the minimum requirements – the “social foundation” – for a good life, including income, work, health, social networks and political participation. The outside ring signifies the ecological limits of the planet, such as climate change, ozone layer depletion and a decline in biodiversity. In between these layers represents “a thriving city” where everyone’s needs, and the planet’s, are being met.


A statement from the City of Amsterdam said: “We are looking at our economy in a completely different way: how we produce, process and consume. For consumers in Amsterdam, this means we’ll have to be using products longer, and sharing and repairing them more and more.”


Coronavirus recovery


Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Marieke van Doorninck, told The Guardian the approach could help the city overcome the impacts of the coronavirus crisis.


“It might look strange that we are talking about the period after that but as a government we have to,” she said. “It is to help us to not fall back on easy mechanisms.”


“When suddenly we have to care about climate, health, and jobs and housing and care and communities, is there a framework around that can help us with all of that?” Raworth added in the joint interview. “Yes there is, and it is ready to go.”


The Amsterdam City Doughnut
The Amsterdam City Doughnut

In action


Through the strategy, Amsterdam is aiming to cut food waste by 50 per cent by 2030, from the 41 kilos of annual food waste per person today, with the surplus being routed to residents who need it most.


Amsterdam will implement stricter sustainability requirements in construction tenders. For instance, buildings will get a ‘materials passport’ so that demolition companies can determine whether materials are still valuable and where reusable materials can be found. The first circular city quarter to pilot this approach is being developed in the Buiksloterham area.


The municipality also wants to reduce its own use of new raw materials by 20 per cent and by 2030, only make circular purchases. This will apply not only to the procurement of products such as office supplies and computer equipment but also to infrastructure projects such as road-building.


Amsterdam is already working with businesses and research organisations on over 200 circular economy projects. This includes a pilot with the paint industry and thrift shops through which discarded latex paint is collected and newly processed for resale.




The Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 strategy document notes that the road towards creating a circular economy is “fraught with uncertainty” and requires experimentation, acceptance of risk and breaking old habits.


"The benefits of these changes will not always be noticeable immediately – some may only be so after a few decades – or they will take place on the other side of the world, where many of our raw materials are currently extracted."


“This may cause friction in some areas,” it says. “We are asking the people and businesses of Amsterdam to take a different approach to food, to change their thinking about possessions and to make different choices in their lives and in their work. The benefits of these changes will not always be noticeable immediately – some may only be so after a few decades – or they will take place on the other side of the world, where many of our raw materials are currently extracted.”


However, it adds: “We firmly believe that Amsterdam is up to the challenge. Amsterdam is a progressive and liberal city that is not afraid to experiment or to invest in the future.”


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