Antwerp Circular South
Antwerp Circular South – The community project using technology to create a circular economy.
What does a ‘Circular Economy’ mean (in terms of waste)?
Waste is one of the most serious environmental issues facing our society. As a species, we produce 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste every year. By 2050, that figure is expected to rise to 3.4 billion.
The consequences of our unsustainable lifestyle are already becoming apparent: 8 million separate pieces of plastic find their way to our oceans daily; landfills release methane and other greenhouse gases; and resources like fossil fuels are depleting rapidly.
Our use of energy is also problematic; in 2011, the world wasted more energy than it used. This is largely due to inefficient industrial energy use, but wasteful personal habits are also significant.
Factors like population growth and increased urban living mean that these trends are accelerating. The problem of waste – and what to do with it – is becoming more and more urgent.
Part of the problem is our ‘linear economy’ – AKA the ‘take-make-waste’ system – whereby resources follow a ‘linear’ pattern: goods are produced, used and disposed of. In a circular economy, on the other hand, resources are kept in the economy for as long as possible and the maximum value is extracted from them before they are thrown away.
This usually means repairing and reusing old products to increase their use, but can also be applied to our energy habits and making the most of the energy we consume.
Antwerp Circular South is a project that combines blockchain technology with behavioural nudging to help promote sustainable habits and create a more circular economy.
How does it work?
Based in the New South district of Antwerp, Belgium, Circular South uses both online and offline elements to promote circularity, and transform the way that locals consume goods and energy.
Offline, the South Circular Community Centre (CIRCUIT) hosts events and workshops, allowing locals to share ideas about how to promote sustainability. CIRCUIT teaches residents how to make the most out of their waste by repairing old products, reusing materials and turning food waste into compost that can be used in communal gardens. With circularity at the centre of the project’s ethos, the Centre aims to equip residents with the practical tools necessary to make the most of what they consume.
Online, the project is developing an app that features a dashboard, allowing users to keep track of how much energy they’re consuming. This allows them to become aware of where the most of their power is being wasted, and suggests helpful solutions.
The app will also utilise behavioural nudging techniques to help users to make the most of their energy use. This will take the form of SMS messages sent to their phones. For example: ´The sun is shining, your solar panels are producing, let’s turn on the washing machine!´
Perhaps Circular South’s most innovative feature – and what links it to the ideas of Bristol Pay – is how it rewards positive behaviour. When users start to develop more sustainable behaviour, they earn ‘circular coins’, blockchain-based digital tokens that can be spent in local shops, or used collectively to invest in new facilities for the district.
This means that the value of the energy saved through the project is reinvested in the area, and can stimulate local economic growth while also reducing energy bills for residents.
Bristol Pay and Antwerp Circular South have a lot in common. Both focus on community-driven responses to global problems, with shared values such as circularity and sustainability. Both make use of innovative technologies such as blockchain to promote positive economic and social behaviour. They both demonstrate how local currencies can help to create a healthier, more sustainable economy.