Award

Paper and furniture from aquatic plants


Icons use case study city info

City

Almere

Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government, Regional Government, Private Sector, Community / Citizen Group, Research Institutes / Universities

Icons use case study project area

Project area

Inner City

Icons use case study duration

Duration

Ongoing since 2015/01

The city of Almere, working with the business sectors and local stakeholders has developed an innovative circular economy partnership.

The city of Almere was established over 4 decades ago on land reclaimed from the sea. With Weerwater lake at its heart, the area became a hub for sailing, fishing and water sport activities and businesses. However, its crystal clear water, also created a problem. The sun penetrates deep down into the water, encouraging aquatic plants to grow in such abundance they were damaging boat engines, preventing yachts from leaving harbour and risking the area’s reputation and economy. The annual bill for mowing, transporting and burning the water plants was €60,000, but the real costs were at least three times this figure.

The city government has turned a local crisis into an economic opportunity by developing a novel way of reusing the city lake’s over-abundant aquatic plants. This solution uses this unwanted raw material to make paper and furniture, creating a closed-loop waste system that also improves recreational use of the lake and reduces management and maintenance costs.

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/innovation_Almere.pdf

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Award

EUROCITIES Awards

This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2017 in the following category: Innovation.

City
Almere, Netherlands

Size and population development
The population of Almere recorded in August 2017 was 202,764 (source www.almere.nl) It has the largest population of the municipalities in Flevoland and the 7th largest in the Netherlands. In October 2007, the city council of Almere made an agreement with the government to expand the city to 350,000 inhabitants by 2030.

Population composition
Almere is a young city, approximately 33% of the population is under the age of 25 with 9% 65 years or older. In comparison to the rest of the Netherlands where about 25% of the population is under the age of 25 and nearly 16% of the people are over the age of 65. Approximately one-third of the 78,000 households in Almere are families with children. The average number of children per family is 1.69, compared to 1.80 in the rest of the Netherlands. The average household size is 2.42, compared to 2.20 in the rest of the country. Almere has a growing number of single person households. The percentage is expected to increase from 31% now to 35% in 2020, while the percentage of families with live-in children is expected to decrease from 34% to 23% in 2020. This is due to a rise in divorce rates, single parent families and elderly women outliving men.

Main functions
Almere is a planned city and municipality in the province of Flevoland, Netherlands bordering Lelystad and Zeewolde and forms part of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA). The land on which the city sits, the Southern Flevoland polder was reclaimed from the Ijjselmerr from 1959-1968. The first house was completed in 1976 and Almere became a municipality in 1984. The city has been built implementing a multi-centered structure and incorporating the surrounding water and nature as much as possible. The intended growth of Almere is planned to take place in an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable fashion. The aim of the national government, the provincial government of Flevoland and the municipality of Almere is to position Almere as a national demonstration site for the large-scale implementation of sustainable systems

Main industries / business
There main industries operating in Almere are ICT, media and health care. The city council is investing in a circular economy using a cluster approach and smart data as basic principles.

Sources for city budget
National government and municipal taxes.

Political structure
The municipality in Almere is governed by the municipal council, the highest authority in Almere and the municipal executive, the city’s daily administration. The members of the council are elected every four years by the local electorate (residents of 18 years and older). The size of the city determines the number of councillors. With a population of approximately 200,000 residents, Almere has 39 councillors.

Administrative structure
The day-to-day administration of Almere is provided by the Municipal Executive, made up of the mayor and five alderpersons. The mayor is appointed by Royal Decree for a renewable term of six years. The alderpersons are appointed for four years by the coalition parties that form a majority in the city council. Whereas in most other cities councils have plenary meetings once a month, Almere has one almost every week (on Thursday evenings, three times a month). In 2004, Almere's city council introduced this new form of meeting (the Political Market) for political decision-making. The Political Market is open to the public. Residents can visit the meetings and approach councillors or members of the Municipal Executive to discuss local issues. Additionally, the council panel is a forum where the city council invites citizens (16 years and older) to take part in an internet panel. Questionnaires are sent out approximately once every two months, depending on the number and the nature of issues that are on the political agenda.

As a city ambitious to generate zero waste by 2022, Almere started to view the water plants as a raw material that might be used to make other products. The city administration was also keen to comply with another principle of the circular economy and reassign only the original budget to the project, rather than find new money. This involved taking the calculated risk that the €20,000 spent on a report into potential uses of water plants would be recouped by reduced disposal costs the following year. One of the first actions of the Weerwater project team was to bring together the regional authorities, water boards, local university, water sport companies and housing and residents’ associations to draw up a plan agreeing the most effective and sustainable way to mow the plants. The coordination, consensus and communication involved with this task laid foundations that proved helpful for the rest of the project.

Local firm Millvision, who already made paper from tomato skins, was the first to suggest paper could be the simplest thing to make from the aquatic biomass. Antalis, a major paper producer, came on board and together with other stakeholders put together a business case for this idea. The result was a high quality paper, attractive to designers and architects, which Antalis added to its catalogue and sells at a premium price. The cost to produce five tons of the paper matched the cost of transportation and incineration of the aquatic plants.

The project team went on to create a water plant based biocomposite which has been used to make benches. The benches have been installed in Almere’s park and harbour with information panels telling their story. The city government also approached a company that provides 200,000 meals a day for the airline and healthcare sectors and is currently developing food boxes and plates for them. Apart from their ecological benefits over plastic packaging, as organic waste they also save airlines €0.70 per rubbish bag when clearing up at the end of each flight. The cost of mowing the water plants has now been reduced to almost nothing as the entire stock is being used as the raw material for other products. The two main commercial collaborators are now producing the water plant paper themselves, without any involvement from the city.

The lead agency for the project is the City of Almere in partnership with Milivision and Antalis who contributed to the research and development costs.

This first Weerwater lake project has encouraged the city to continue thinking in a circular way, not only in relation to products but also to whole systems. It has identified, for example, that the water in the lake is particularly warm and could be used to heat local houses. Taking heat out of the lake for this purpose could make it possible for the lake side hospital to dispose of its unwanted heat into the water, as it has been requesting, rather than having to use machines to cool the buildings. Ideas like these are being considered as the city of Almere prepares to host the world horticultural expo, Floriade 2022. The city is developing a new 60 acre expo site near the lake which will be founded on the principles of the circular economy with the aim of achieving its energy-neutral and zero-waste objectives. To capitalise on the city’s growing confidence and expertise in this field, a circular collective open platform has now been established with 35 partners to help boost the circular economy in the area.

The benefits of the project extend deep into the municipality too, encouraging ‘outside-the-box’ thinking and cooperation along entire value chains, which is vital if the circular economy is to work.

The successful implementation of the project has required persistence and persuasiveness from the municipal team as there were a number of challenges to overcome. These include changing the mindset of co-workers who used to be responsible for disposing of the water plants and convincing departments, whose budgets were reassigned to the project, to have faith in the concept. There was also a need to persuade leaders to look at how structures and rules can be made more flexible to support the circular economy.

Due to the success of the aquatic plants project, seven other projects that make abundance out of nuisance have commenced in the city.

- Almere aquatic plants to paper & bench, innovative waste project turns water plants into paper - Eurocities, November 2017

On the Map

Map placeholder

Want to know more about this project?

EUROCITIES Awards
Brussels Capital Region, Belgium

EUROCITIES Awards

Institution | Urban Award

Photo gallery

Related case studies

South African / Swedish partnership on air quality
Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, South Africa

South African / Swedish partnership on air quality

The City of Gothenburg and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality share experience and knowledge to improve their air quality.

Urban Solid Waste Management in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte
Award
Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Urban Solid Waste Management in the Metropolita...

An inter-federation model make feasible for the municipalities to manage their waste in an integrated way.

The Madrid Río Project
Award
Madrid, Spain

The Madrid Río Project

The Madrid Río project aims at converting the zone alongside the Manzanares River into green areas to make the city eco friendlier.