Local Heroes #32 – Plastic Upcycling Innovator Barbara Koole

From environment to economy and social to built urban systems, WASTED’s multi-faceted community approach gives insights into rather heroic local actions. Below, Barbara offers insights into the project’s past, present and future. When will you make your first WASTED Block?

Published by Guest on 30/06/2015

Only 22 years young, WASTED Project Manager Barbara Koole is harnessing a community in Amsterdam Noord to tackle a global urban and environmental challenge: plastic waste. From re/upcycling and reprocessing to educating and rewarding residents, WASTED shows just how valuable local plastic can be.

When talking to Barbara, you don’t see the woes of plastic waste and the world’s growing oceanic plastic soup. Instead, you see plastic as a local resource. What does she do? Well, Barbara and her team collect plastic from local residents and re-process it into Blocks during hands-on workshops at the WASTED Laboratory. The modular blocks are used to build things by and for the local community. To create an incentive for the local residence WASTED even generated a waste-based local currency.

1. Where did you get the idea for WASTED, and how did you turn it from idea to reality?

We observed the need for a positive approach of plastic. Plastics are not problematic, the way we manage the plastic is problematic. I graduated with an analysis of the introduction of plastic recycling in Amsterdam. Together with my colleague Francesca from CITIES foundation we combined some conclusions of my thesis and her background and experience in urban development. We developed WASTED by both investing one day a week in the project – until we collected the funds to get started.

2. OK, so you love plastic. Why did you choose Amsterdam Noord for this project?

It’s my own neighbourhood, and actually it’s one of the places in Amsterdam, or even the Netherlands with the lowest recycling rates. Let’s say that there’s enough room for improvement and increased awareness.

3. What has the project achieved so far?

We are reaching the peek of the project now, where everything is coming together. On the 10th of July we open up our lab during the WASTED Plastic Night. We want to show everyone how easy it is to give new value to plastic waste. We’ll have workshops, music, food, drinks and after the sun goes down we’ll screen a movie in the open air.

4. What are your future plans for WASTED?

WASTED is an experiment in localized circular urban development. The pilot phase is teaching us what it takes to make a project like WASTED self-sustain in today’s, or tomorrow’s urban landscape and economy. We’re using this insight to turn WASTED into a more permanent operation, and hope to see more WASTED cities in the future.

5. Can people come and go check it out?

Now! Check out our Edu Package and Workshops. If you live in Noord, sign-up! For more, check out WASTED online.

Thank you Barbara for the nice interview and you've set up a great project, which should set an example for others to follow.


More info about Wasted and their upcoming events here: www.wastedlab.nl

- Mehdi Comeau -

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