WASTED: A plastic upcycling initiative in Amsterdam Noord

WASTED: A plastic upcycling initiative in Amsterdam Noord

An interesting neighbourhood initiative named WASTED, which turns plastic waste into objects for, and by, the community, opened its laboratory in Amsterdam Noord this month.

The laboratory will reprocess and upcycle locally collected plastic into modular plastic blocks that can be used for community-enhancing projects such as planters, stages and park benches.

If you’re a plastic giver, you will be rewarded with plastic currency (WASTED Coins), which you can use at local businesses for goods or services. Rewards include free beers and discounts at supermarkets and bike repair shops.

A sustainable solution for plastic waste

WASTED is a project of CITIES Foundation - an Amsterdam-based foundation that researches, communicates and initiates local solutions for global urban problems.

The project was launched at the beginning of 2015 as a community space that would bring residents together and provide a solution for plastic waste in the area. The WASTED lab aims to intervene in the normal lifecycle of plastic by introducing the concept of upcycling.

Traditionally, people would take, use and dispose of their plastic goods - either at a designated plastic recycling bin or site. WASTED lab asks users to take, use and reuse their rubbish.

From waste to upcycled blocks

Upcycling is when waste material is kept intact and used for a better, higher purpose such as using fabric scraps to produce a new garment instead of shredding and recycling it into a new but weaker material. By using this process, the consumption of energy and resources necessary for recycling can be avoided.

At the WASTED lab, there are many stages involved in creating the plastic blocks. Firstly, the plastic is collected at the lab. It is then separated into what can be used for upcycling into building blocks and what needs to be recycled.

A unique process and machinery is used to create a building block. The plastic is upcycled by washing, shredding, melting and moulding into blocks.

Blocks are made during participatory workshops at the lab, aligned with WASTED’s goal of developing objects for the community, with the community.

Designing the process and machinery

Material designers and engineers helped to design the process and machinery needed to create the plastic blocks. 

where we are

Design workshops were held in January 2015 and the result is a modular block which is easy to create, use, assemble and disassemble - making it a reusable object. WASTED plastic upcycling upcycling plastic

Participants included Alexander Wiefel, a knowledgeable and experienced plastic enthusiast; Roos Meerman of Physica Manufactura, which looks into mechanical influences on natural phenomena; and Bastiaan Tolhuijs, founder of NEWASTE who is an expert on transforming waste into new objects.

Educating people on plastic waste

In addition to turning waste into resources, the project aims to help people learn just how much plastic waste they generate every day (and hopefully help them reduce it).

Since its launch, the WASTED lab has collected 2.233 kilograms of plastic and 1.861 plastic bags to create 1.024 building blocks. The lab has 23 collaborating businesses or "Friends" in Noord and 250 "Neighbours" or regular participants.

Get involved, get WASTED

If this type of initiative speaks to you, and you’d like to build your own WASTED lab locally, the website has open source resources to help start the process. You can become a WASTED Neighbour or WASTED Friend.

Neighbours are particpants who collect their plastic waste and give it to the lab for recycling and upcycling. To become a Neighbour you can sign up and receive a start-up kit, which includes WASTED trash bags. When the bags are full, you can take them to the laboratory or the Van der Pek Market on Saturdays. Alternatively, the team collects the bags at your address.

WASTED Friends are the local businesses and cultural organisations that partner with the lab to offer deals and discounts.

Parvinder Marwaha


Parvinder Marwaha

British-born editor Parvinder studied architecture in the UK. Amsterdam’s architecture and design scene led her to the city, as well the obvious perks of canal-side living. She writes for various...

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