This section provides a snapshot of the process of utilizing the toolkit towards urban collaborative governance. Here we present some of the key activities of Amsterdam, codified as interventions in one of the three infrastructuring dimensions – strategic, operational and relational – that continuously interact with each other and help unlock collaborative capacities between different stakeholders, forming the actual shape of the social, cultural and economic fabric of the cities.

Key infrastructuring actions

The forthcoming ‘EU strategy for sustainable textiles’ to guide the sector’s competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience – based on the ‘Circular Economy Action Plan’ of the European Green deal sets the scene and scope for action. At a regional level, the Amsterdam Economic Board, in collaboration with the Municipality of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) Bureau, in line with their sustainability goals for 2020, 2030 and 2050, have developed the ‘Green Deals Circular Textiles’ agreement. Specific initiatives include (i) a repair shared service center, (ii) a circular fashion innovation lab, (iii) integrating circular principles in textile research and education, (iv) circular procurement of work clothing, including protective clothing for healthcare, and (v) awareness campaign for end users. Within the project’s lifetime this has led to a Strategic Framework ‘Roadmap on Circular Textiles’ to serve as a governance guideline and as such to have a lasting effect on the long-term strategic course on circular textiles within the MRA.

Initial steps for baseline assessment included a material flow analysis of textile streams and wide stakeholder analysis, resulting in a ‘Circular Textile Wheel’ that provides a full vision on circular textiles in the city. A thorough mapping of the system and flows was instrumental for the development of a series of solutions that aim at closing the loops, and providing attractive opportunities for textile reuse. These included: the ‘Swapshop’ aiming at sorting and reselling used clothes, the development of ‘Reusable circular isolation gowns’ in the healthcare sector, and the ‘United Repair Centre’ that connects brands needing repair services with ‘Makers Unite’ tailors. These solutions were partly facilitated by the development of track-and-trace technologies using ReflowOS. Tracking of textiles made it also easier to forge links with organisations such as ‘Dress for Success’, or to support the ‘Denim Deal’ (see below). In addition, and in line with the MRA’s Circular Textiles sub-deal ‘Circular Procurement of work clothing’, ‘Circular linen’ tackles circular procurement in the hotel industry, while the municipally funded ‘On demand Collection (Ragman)’ aims at collecting unused textiles directly from the source.

Citizen awareness has been a top priority in the project’s first phase, as reflected also by the MRA’s Circular Textiles sub-deal ‘Awareness Campaign for End Users’. Initially, an explanatory booklet was produced based on the Circular Textile Wheel that provides a full vision on circular textiles in the city. The organization of ‘Maandag Wasdag’ roundtable discussions targeted industry stakeholders and these were followed by a wide scale awareness campaign. Further actions included the ‘Textilerace’, a race among primary schools to collect discarded textiles, the development of educational information material for workers and guests of the hotel industry for increasing the lifespan of textiles, and the ‘Stadpas Card’ to encourage textile recycling by subsidizing the cost of repairing. Regarding isolation gowns, efforts were made to facilitate exchange between entrepreneurs & sorting companies. As regards capacity building, the setting up of the ‘Markthal Innovation Lab’ stands out as a long-term project focusing on the support of future start-ups. Perhaps the most important achievement of collective action and multi-stakeholder collaboration regarding policy was the establishment of the ‘Green Deal on Circular Denim’, or simply ‘Denim Deal’, an alliance with leading actors in order to close the material loops and significantly increase reused denim in the value chain, that aims at becoming a blueprint for sustainable textile industry in the future, where the use of recycled fibres in denim becomes the new industry standard.

Amsterdam Circular Portfolio Canvas "snapshot"

The canvas shows some of the key actions that helped “unlock” collaboration dynamics. Activities are conceived and visualized as small-scale “portfolio” experiments that leverage circular possibilities in one or more sectors, and can be further scaled up at subsequent iterations of the process.

The Amsterdam pilot has formed a strong alliance between actors from the public sector, industry as well as civil society. Activities are coordinated by the Municipality of Amsterdam, in cooperation with the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area Bureau, the platform for social innovation & creation ‘Pakhuis de Zwijger’, the Future Lab ‘Waag’ and BMA Techne. Moreover, there are multiple and ongoing cooperation partnerships with a series of organisations like Dress for Success, social enterprises such as I-did, companies (e.g. Clean Lease) as well as the makers community (non-profit Makers Unite). A long list of stakeholders from industry are also included and appear as signatories of the ‘Green Deals Circular Textile’ agreement.

In its effort to establish itself as a thriving, regenerative, and inclusive city for all citizens, while at the same time respecting planetary boundaries, the region of Amsterdam seeks to develop into a circular textile hub in line with its national and EU textile agreements and frameworks. This ambition has placed textiles as a priority area in the City of Amsterdam’s circular strategy. The process that led to the development of ‘Roadmap for Circular Textiles’ is a good example of concerted policy action that builds upon past achievements.

The commitment of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) Bureau towards circular textile flows, as documented in its sustainability goals for 2020, 2030 and 2050, gave rise to the ‘Green Deals Circular Textile’ agreement. The Amsterdam Reflow pilot utilized this momentum and with baseline assessment work on material flows and stakeholder analysis, highlighted the importance of improved collection, citizen awareness, as well as the need for a cooperative aligned textile-ecosystem and managed to bring this one step further with the development of a strategic framework. The ‘Roadmap on Circular Textiles’ is intended to serve as a key governance guideline that includes concrete future goals. It is used to both facilitate and connect several of the activities performed, such as the Swapshop, Circular Isolation Gowns, and the United Repair Centre; these activities in turn directly tackle the MRA’s Circular Textiles Green sub-deals.

The Amsterdam Reflow pilot focuses on a dual strategy that targeted citizens in the short term and industry in the longer term. A core focal point has been behavioural change, a fact that was evident in the development of most solutions, especially during the first stages of the project. The project aims at supporting the currently shifting consumer awareness towards sustainable clothing, apparent in the increase in swap shops, and online markets for used clothing. The intention has been to re-evaluate used textiles by an increasing number of consumers, and therefore assist in the viability of used textile businesses.

Next proposed steps include a city-wide study to assess behaviours regarding second-hand clothes and therefore identify the best suited locations for the implementation of more pick-up points and swap shops. A further elaboration of a viable business model for swap shops in Amsterdam, together with a logistical capacity building program and awareness campaigns on swapping clothes can lead to the emergence of more points of exchange, that may result in a more formalized network of swap shops and local retail actors. Novel ways to reward participation can lead to a fairer redistribution of this new value created. Regarding isolation gowns, future LCA assessments on disposable gowns focusing on micro-particle shredding (thus highlighting the environmental co-benefits of reusable gowns), together with the development of procurement guidelines across public healthcare and other incentives will further ensure multi-use and adoption of a new industry standard.