Rotterdam steps into the blue economy with 'BlueCity010'

The lab that turns waste into business

Published in City, Economy, Main stories, Recycling, Speakers, Sustainability & WDCD by

The big news out of Rotterdam last week was that former indoor-pool-paradise Tropicana had been bought at auction by the initiative BlueCity010. The old pool will be turned into a ‘lab for circular entrepreneurship’ and a showcase for the future of the city and the economy.

In very basic terms, BlueCity010’s philosophy is an expansion of the famous 3 R’s you might have learned as a child – Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. Except they’re not just talking about separating your plastics from your kitchen scraps. Based on the concept of the “blue economy”, BlueCity010 envisions a business ecosystem that is wholly circular, in which waste is minimised and treated as an illogical, manmade concept. Siemen Cox, initiator, explains that “in nature there is no waste. The output of one system is the input for another system. Our business is built on these principles.”

Along with Cox, who is also the man behind the highly successful RotterZwam project – growing oyster mushrooms on waste coffee grounds –, BlueCity010 is driven by several partner companies. One of these is run by WDCD15 speaker Césare Peeren: Superuse Studios. During his talk on our stage Peeren highlighted some of his studio’s beautiful and sustainable projects, like the iconic RE:wind, which uses reclaimed rotor-blades from discarded windmills in the area. On the opportunities waste can give he says, “You can think globally, but most problems can be solved locally.” 

The vision
When it opens in 2016, BlueCity010 will house up to 50 businesses that all practice what Cox and Peeren preach. Companies include urban agriculture, local producers, shops and bars and restaurants. Workshops, tours and small seminars will also be on the program. If you want to get your finger in the sustainable pie, there is still space and you can send your inquiries to

At WDCD São Paulo
Business cases like these are inspiring models for cities around the world that all encounter somewhat the same issues. That is exactly why this December’s What Design Can Do São Paulo program will also touch on the theme of Urban Issues. Like Rotterdam, São Paulo is a city in transition. But with 20 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area the problems the city has to deal with are of an immense scale.

“Since we have so many problems we really need design to help us out,” Secretary of Urban Development of the city of São Paulo, Fernando de Mello Franco, said last May on stage at WDCD 2015 in Amsterdam. “In order to integrate these six million people in the formal city we have to change from inclusion through consumption towards inclusion through production.”

Find out more about this theme and the speakers on the program here.

Top image: rendering of the former Tropicana & future lab, courtesy of BlueCity010

RE:wind by Superuse Studios

RE:wind by Superuse Studios

Inside the Tropicana, photo courtesy of RotterZwam

Inside the Tropicana, photo courtesy of RotterZwam

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