Ground zero for the WASTED project is Amsterdam-Noord. The premise of founding WASTED was that 95.5% of all plastic waste in Amsterdam-Noord was not being collected or recycled. It was being sent to waste incinerators, and the 4.5% of plastic that was collected, was shipped to China and India to be processed into new plastic products and shipped back. None of these solutions were efficient or ideal.

The solution, initiated by the CITIES Foundation is WASTED. WASTED aims to be a blueprint solution that can be localized anywhere, and help solve a global problem of plastic waste.

The WASTED team, through promotional efforts in collaboration with local businesses, also known as ‘WASTED Friends’ e.g. grocery stores and coffee shops, incentivize the community by giving community members one WASTED coin for each bag of plastic waste submitted. These WASTED coins can then be exchanged for discounts at local coffee shops and grocery stores. However, the WASTED team realized that people’s routines are difficult to change and a ‘WASTED coin’ and environmental education were not enough to make a large change in the community. To tackle this, the proposed solution was to reach out to the subset of people who are a lot more flexible to change - children! Educating children about plastic recycling and upcycling was incorporated into partner schools education curriculums and this resulted in more children and their parents collecting and submitting plastic to WASTED.

Finally, the collected plastic at WASTED is then transformed into a ‘WASTED block’. It is a multifunctional block that can be combined to create many products like plant containers, tables, chairs, and benches. The multifunctionality nature of the blocks make them adaptable to transform into many useful products, and ideally, never have to be thrown away, ending the use and throw cycle. Moreover, it has a positive reinforcement on people in the local community when they see that the plastic they submit to WASTED is transformed into new products used within their households and community.

Value for Dubai

In early 2011, Dubai Municipality set the Emirate for an ambitious goal of “Zero Waste by 2030.” The key to zero waste is segregation of waste and to tackle this issue, Dubai Municipality launched the ‘My City My Environment’ initiative in 2012. The initiative aims to segregate all kinds of waste in Dubai by providing free of cost recycle bins to households in Dubai.

Dulsco estimates that through this initiative, residents in Jumeira 1, 2, & 3 have recycled waste that is equivalent to saving over 14 million gallons of water, 36 thousand trees, & 12m kWh of electricity in a single year. Dubai Municipality also launched central recycling sites in districts that have divided plastic, paper, cardboard, and can fills.

The next steps in the effort to achieve the “Zero Waste by 2030” goal is exemplified by WASTED. For example, discounts at popular cafes like Starbucks would encourage avid coffee lovers to participate in this initiative. And the education aspect of WASTED would help raise awareness and engagement among children from a young age.

Finally, the ‘WASTED block’ will demonstrate to the community how their segregated plastic waste is transformed into a modular block that they can personally use. This positive reinforcement and encouragement are likely to increase engagement in the initiative and spur increased behavior change towards recycling, and it would help Dubai take one step closer to an ideal zero waste city by 2030.