Light into the Urban Black Box – A Comprehensive Urban Metabolism Approach for Strategic Policy Making

A Case Study of Household Waste Management in Amsterdam

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The limitation of natural resources forces humanity to rethink its current habits of material use. Plastic product packaging, fossil fuels for transportation and energy generation are just a few examples of highly resource intensive processes in modern society. Urgency of this matter increases due to the fast-growing world population and big economies as India, China and Brazil. Understanding the current material flows and the system they flow through might generate knew knowledge of material use dynamics. This knowledge can help policy makers to stimulate material use efficiency. To generate the necessary knowledge this research takes an Urban Metabolism (UM) approach. In contrast to established material flow focused and analytical aggregated UM approaches, this research proposes a more comprehensive approach. Defining the UM not only as material flows and processes, but giving more weight to the Social, Economic, and Institutional system aspects as well as the role of actors. On top of the different system perspective the metabolism analysis is conducted on different time and spatial levels. The addition of disaggregated analytical levels enables the use of statistical analysis to discover material use patterns over time and identification of actor group related material-use behaviour. The statistical methods used are Time Series, Correlation and Geospatial Analysis in addition to the common Material Flow Analysis and a Life Cycle Assessment. The proposed UM approach is applied to the case of household waste management in Amsterdam. This research showes the potential of a deeper and holistic metabolism analysis enabled by increasing amount of available data. Opening up and troughing light into the up to this point Urban Black-Box.