SR article

Vision on Organic Waste 2050

Table of contents:
1 - Introduction on visions
2 - Current stakeholders and initiatives
- Households
- Tertiary sector
- Municipality
- Initiatives
3- Influence of the visions on the demarcation of the sociotechnical system
4 - Vision on organic waste 2050

Cirkelstad wants to achieve a circular economy in The Hague. Social and economic change that is necessary to reach this goal, however, is not automatically achieved. An effective method of catalysing social change is by means of visioning. Hence, in this assignment a vision on the social, economic, technological and ecological fo The Hague in 2050 is set out, and backcasting is performed to get a first pathway to this vision. This is all substantiated by literature and research. Research is mainly focused on identifying initiatives involved in circularity in the Hague and a small demarcation of the social technical system.


Chapter 1: Introduction on visions

‘We, together with Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, form what’s known as the G4. We like to present ourselves abroad as a combination of four cities: Amsterdam as the creative hotspot where foreigners and their businesses want to be located; The Hague as the city of peace, and Rotterdam with its amazing port.’  Says Mayor van der Laan. (IenM, 2011) He also stated: ‘We’ve also been doing the sums for our city. And if we started collecting all our vegetable and fruit waste separately, that would generate an additional €150 million per year, and 1200 new jobs.’ (McDonough et al, 2016) These quotes from the mayor of Amsterdam; Eberhard van der Laan are a great example of a clear and strong vision. In this chapter we will discuss the definition of a vision and the theory on visioning used in the assignment.

In order to understand the purpose of visioning, the meaning of visions needs to be defined. The purpose of visions is explained by a rather simple definition proposed by Nassauer & Corry (2004, p.344), stating “[visions] portray futures that should be”. However, since this definition doesn’t reflect on the current and possible future state of the sociotechnical system, it is a utopian way of visioning. Hence, to fully understand the construction of visions, a more elaborate definition should be used. According to Wiek & Iwaniec (2012, p.1), visions are “a subgroup of scenarios (possible future states) and demarcated from predictions (likely future states). Further, a vision is different from the pathway that leads up to the vision”. By using this definition, ten criteria have been set out (Wiek & Iwaniec, 2012) (see fig. 1). With these ten criteria as a guideline we have constructed our own vision on Organic Waste for The Hague in 2050.

Fig.1 The ten criteria for sustainable visioning (Wiek & Iwaniec, 2012, p.5)

It is important to note that a long term vision needs a transition of some sort, especially when transitioning to a more sustainable or circular economy. This means that the sociotechnical system must change to reach the envisioned future. To understand how this change works the sociotechnical system is divided in three levels; niches, regime & landscape. The theory that describes this subdivision is called the multi level perspective (Fig. 2). The figure shows that the three levels are connected by mechanisms and actions of different actors. A transition is usually started at niche level by developing new technologies, creating awareness and the rise of small initiatives. When these niches are growing and flourishing so that they do not need to be protected anymore they can start to change the regime and finally the complete landscape. When te landscape is changed the transition can be seen as succesful (Rotmans et al. 2001).

In this assignment a vision for the transition to a circular the Hague is drawn, this vision is focused on the final landscape change. Using backcasting, the change in the regimes and the needed niche processes can be described.

Figure 2. Multi Level Perspective. (Rotmans et al, 2001, p.7)

Backcasting can be seen as describing how a vision can be reached by using the vision as a starting point and think of ways how this can be used. Then the steps can be set out and certain milestones that need to be reached to get to the final vision can be described. It is important to keep in mind that backcasting and visioning are normative tools, this means that they describe an ideal future state. In practice there will always be unexpected situations occuring. Therefore, the pathway created by backcasting must always be updated along the way, to keep it as effective as possible. (Quist, 2013)

In this assignment the vision is created and a short path is described using backcasting, keeping the multilevel perspective in the back of the head. In the bubble week a incorporated vision and path will be developed for all of the wastestreams in the Hague.

Chapter 2: Current stakeholders and initiatives

In order to create a vision for The Hague, the visions of its stakeholders need to be explored. These are used as the foundation of our vision and can be used to make a demarcation of the system. Considering household organic waste, three main groups can be defined: the households, the tertiary sector (waste collectors & processores) and municipality (fig.3). Additionally, the potential of existing initiatives is analysed in order to support the vision by a feasible strategy. This comprises the sociotechnical system that is considered in this assignment.

Fig.3: Stakeholders in the household organic waste flow. This overview is discussed in more detail in Assigment 2: the description of the sociotechnical system.


2.1 Municipality of The Hague

Because of the law ‘Wet milieubeheer’, the municipality of The Hague is responsible for collecting household waste.

The municipality of The Hague has a ‘future waste plan’ to have a plan on what to do with waste in the future. Their current waste plan is for the period of 2016 to 2020. In this plan there are 5 measures which are; “introduce new collecting methods, extend existing collecting services, communication and collaboration with the city, testing and applying innovation and improving of services for large household waste.” (Den Haag, 2015)

The Hague is very willing to become more and more circular and reduce waste. Therefore they think it is really important to separate different waste. However, in high urban area, it is very difficult for the municipality to provide good services and facilities for this. A big part of the waste in The Hague is organic waste. See figure 3.

Figure 4: Proportion organic waste (GFT) in comparison with other materials (source: Sorteeranalyse CREM,)

However, for the municipality in The Hague it is not profitable to focus on organic waste. The reduction of CO2 due by organic waste is a lot smaller than when focusing on other material, as can be seen in figure 2. 

The vision from The Hague is mostly on collecting the waste and on how to recycle other materials, this vision is not focused on Organic waste.

Figuur 5: Reduction CO2 (Source: AgentschapNL)


2.2 Households

What about people’s attitudes? As stated by Danique Levering, member of Instock restaurant initiative, one of their ideas was to introduce a cookbook helping the households deal with their leftovers to reduce food waste. "Around 42 per cent of food is being wasted at home, out of sight. You don't know what the leftovers of people are so we thought of the way one can preserve food. Almost everything can be preserved." But even in that way a small amount of food will still be wasted and one should put some thought where this should be disposed? Thinking of the Tokyo’s example, which has a population of no fewer than 37 million people, waste bins are eliminated from public areas. This came about as a result of the chemical attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The city government took away all the public waste receptacles and told the city’s inhabitants that they shouldn’t pass their rubbish on to the community, but take care of it themselves. And that message was accepted too. People’s behavior can indeed be radically altered. (IenM, 2011)

However, in order to change people’s attitudes, they should be aware of how the problem starts. Before food waste, food production comes. Mr Aboutaleb points to the innovative strength of Dutch businesses in the food industry: ‘We manage to produce such enormous amounts of food per square kilometer – and with limited water use.’ But what about food surpluses? What is needed is to expose the impressive quantities of food being wasted due to cosmetic standards and legal policies, including the real numbers that are needed to feed a country’s population.

For this to happen however, people need to be also motivated to minimize food waste. The reduction of waste should be promoted- advertised, making it a trend. If considering the example of the building sector, new buildings consider sustainability principles and existing buildings are upgraded, or demolished re-using the materials. The reasons why this is happening are both social and economic. The crucial thing is that real estate investors are willing to pay a higher price for sustainable buildings. In a similar way if the reduction of waste is promoted people will be willing to contribute towards that direction following the trend.

Last but not least circular can be made the easy, fun and smart choice for consumers. One should accept that the general public does not change its behaviour based on only the incentive of doing the ‘right thing’. It is important for circular innovations to become tangible, practical and personal. Don’t focus only on morals, but make the new, circular choices easy and affordable. (McDonough et al, 2016)

In the new system of standards for waste management for the households the waste hierarchy needs to be reconsidered, where re-use and waste prevention have top priority. They come before recycling, and definitely take precedence over incineration and waste dumping.This could be achieved if the amount of food surplus that results into waste is acknowledged and consumers are motivated towards that direction by a good and approachable collecting system, enabling the separation of several waste streams. This  can be seen as the vision for the household group.


2.3 Tertiary sector

If organic waste is separated, it can be used for different purposes like making compost or bioenergy. The Netherlands banned the landfilling of organic waste in 1994. From then on, over 90% households are involved in separating organic waste. (Plat, 2012)

In 2012 The Netherlands recycled 90% of household organics through separation of putrescible material and home composting, which composts around 1.4 million tons per annum. (Wainwright, 2012) Once a year, the fertilizer from the collected organic waste from households is given away to the residents of The Hague. At all city farms and gardens, people can come to collect one bag of compost. Besides, a household with a rooftop garden or a backyard can contribute in reusing its own organic waste.

If organic waste is not separated, the waste would be burnt. However burning organic waste is three times more costly compared to composting according to a report from The Haags Milieucentrum in 2008. (HMC, 2008) Apparently composting organic waste is better for the environment than burning.

Actually, there is a very low percentage of organic waste separated in The Hague because of the limited proceeds and limited environmental benefits. There is a lower proportion of organic waste in The Hague compared to the rest of The Netherlands. Moreover, Organic waste has a relatively low contribution to reducing CO2 emissions according. So the municipality gives it a low priority as discussed in the municipality’s vision.

 Thus the vision is focused on more smaller-scale options for individually composting at home, or composting on a community level. Meanwhile, the municipality devotes more on inspiring residents to properly separate the organic waste. Or some innovative ways to utilize the organic waste will promote the municipality put the organic waste collecting in a higher priority and try to improve the current situation of organic waste management.


 2.4 Initiatives

The potential of current initiatives concerned with organic waste in The Hague have been analysed by means of a SWOT-analysis. A SWOT-analysis identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of these initiatives. Aside from the SWOT-analyses, the visions are set out. The full analysis is found in the OpenResearch website (Kastel, 2016a).

We have noticed that it is difficult to scale up initiatives like Restaurant Restwaarde, Eco-Revolte and De Compostbakkers (initiatives that re-use leftovers for cooking or composting; see full analysis (Kastel, 2016a)), substantiated by an interview with the latter (Herik, 2016). These initiatives will only work on a very small scale. However, based on the analysis, as well as our interview (Kastel, 2016b), we conclude that the initiative ‘Glorious Bastards’ show potential of large scale, lucrative businesses that thrive on waste reduction and on inclusivity.

According to our interview with Seline Oosterling, a citizen of The Hague (Kastel, 2016c), a lack of knowledge on how to treat waste is a large issue for households. The 100-100-100 initiative, in which 100 households are challenged to live 100 days with zero waste is a great tool to share knowledge on waste reduction. Since this is a social-driven initiative, a platform of face-to-face interaction is established. According to Pesch (2015, p.385), an ever widening pattern of face-to-face-interaction is a way to scale up niches. Thus, the 100-100-100 initiative is a useful tool in spreading awareness and knowledge.

The composting of waste on an urban scale, similar to the initiatives ‘Biovergisting Houtrust’ and of Indaver shows potential to regain energy from down-cycling household organic waste. However, transport pollution might be an issue, and the quality of waste processing is low. Local composting like ‘Buurtcompost’ does show potential, since it has social benefits as well as ecological benefits.


3 - Effects of visions on the demarcation of the sociotechnical system

The vision from the municipality of The Hague has a big influence on the socio technical system as their vision is not focused on organic waste. It is more important for the municipality to focus on collecting and separate other the waste streams which have a larger impact on the CO2 reduction. This means that the sociotechnical system of organic waste is not steered towards a transition by the municiplaity, to achieve the goals of Cirkelstad this is a problem that needs to be adressed. When the vision of the municpality is focused more on circularity the sociotechnical system will likely be changed much faster.

Therefore it would be more effective to extend the local initiatives and the vision from households to make the organic waste stream more circular, this is backed up by the found visions. This is more effective on changing the demarcation of the sociotechnical system because these initiatives work on niche level. When the initiatives grow they will slowly change regime and landscape level. Which will have a large influence on the demarcation of the system and will lead to the drawn vision.


4 - Vision on organic waste 2050

The shared future vision for organic waste in The Hague in 2050 is based on the interviews done with the separate actors who are involved and the literature research done. We interviewed several households, small initiatives and the municipality of The Hague. We also looked at the vision of the waste collectors.

  • The vision of the municipality is to become a circular city. But as organic waste is not profitable, their vision is not focused on organic waste.
  • The vision of households can be summarized as creating awareness at the household level which will lead to waste reduction, better waste separation and organic waste usage in for example home composting.
  • The vision of the tertiary sector (mainly waste processors) is not clearly defined, where some companies invest in sustainable organic waste composting, where others keep burning their waste. This means that our vision is focused on more smaller-scale options for individually composting at home, or composting on a community level
  • The visions of the initiatives all have a very sustainable incentive as has been seen in the analysis and interviews done. These will therefore be the catalysts for the change that needs to be achieved.

 Using these visions and the ten criteria from Wiek & Iwaniec (2012) our The Hague  vision for organic waste in 2050 has been drawn. This vision is presented below:

In 2050 there will be a social system in The Hague which thinks it is normal to reduce and recycle organic waste. This will be such a good social system that there is no need for the government to use regulations or subsidies. In this social system, citizens of The Hague will be used to separate their waste. They will recycle waste, at home or locally, similar to initiatives such as ‘de Compostbakkers’ or ‘Glorious Bastards’.

Organic waste is also defined in different ways: vegetables which do not have the aesthetic standards as of today's standards will not be seen as waste anymore and organic waste will not be called 'waste' anymore but will be seen as ‘future fertilizers’. Companies also will be motivated to share their organic waste with each other to see what can be reused, think of initiatives such as 'EcoRevolte' or 'Glorious Bastards'.

Using backcasting a draft of a pathway towards this vision is constructed. To reach this vision, strong regulation from the Hague is initially needed in order to catalyze the change of the the current system. Additionally, initiatives need to be supported as much as possible and awareness has to be created by the education system. This is especially important in the first phase of the transition. Later on, the support from the municipality the Hague should be stepwise lowered to create a autonomous and circular wastestream.  Overall, a complete cultural change has to be achieved. This will be further elaborated in the 3rd assignment: Governance of Change.



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