Waste is a huge problem that nobody wants to talk about. Most people aren't even aware of how much waste they generate. In Amsterdam alone, the average person generates 100kg of organic waste per year. This gets incinerated, generating 120kg of CO2 per person per year, wasting energy and nutrients that could be used to restore urban soil fertility. We want to help educate people on their waste, and show how easy, desirable and beneficial it is to compost in a participatory and sensory way. Compost is not a dead thing - it is teeming with life and serves a beautiful reminder that we are part of nature's cycles.
We want people to see how complex compost is under a microscope, and how fungi and bacteria work together to create the living soil that gives our world life.
By 2024, the EU requires all organic waste to be separated at the source (link). We want to be part of the solution, and to help get people ready for this transition, and hope to gather some data or insights to help cities treat waste more sustainably.
Turning Organic Waste into Art and Rich Soil
Nothing Wasted is a 6-part project that demonstrates on-site organic waste fermentation, while turning it into art and rich soil.
Part 1: Bokashi Installation
Install four 120L bokashi bins outside Mediamatic and build a three-bay compost system. We collect the organic waste from the Mediamatic restaurant for this. People passing by can watch the organic waste be collected, cured, dried and turned into nutrient-dense soil, which is then used again around Mediamatic. One bin will be designated for the public to contribute their organic waste as a social experiment, to see how many contaminants it receives.
Part 2: Workshops
Run bokashi composting workshops at Mediamatic to teach the ins and outs of bokashi composting, particularly adapted for smaller spaces. The workshops will cover how to make your own bin, the commercial options available, the best conditions for your bokashi, and how the micro-organisms and fungi help break your organic waste down quicker and without smells. You end up with nutrient rich compost, and the incredible bokashi "tea" that can be used as a natural plant fertilizer or drain cleaner!
Part 3: Art
Collect soil samples from around Amsterdam and showcase what that soil looks like using a microscope. We will also take samples of the soil produced from the Bokashi Installation to showcase how different the healthy soil looks. Photos of the soil under the microscope will show the incredible beauty and complexity of organic soil.
Part 4: Community Participation
Launch a 14 or 30 day challenge for participants to collect their own organic waste for bokashi composting, and share images of their compost "diary". At the end of the challenge, participants can send in samples for us to photograph under a microscope. This challenge would also help people become more aware of just how much waste they are generating, and potentially involve the many community gardens in Amsterdam.
Part 5: Research Potential
As we have ties with Wageningen University & Research, we would seek to collaborate with them for in-depth soil analysis, and get detailed images of the compost with a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Part 6: Herb & Flower Garden
At the end of this installation, the composting area is turned into a herb and flower garden in spring of the following year for the public to enjoy.
I'm a bokashi geek who ferments organic waste and delights in its transformation into soil. I'm on a mission to get city dwellers hooked on the joys of composting and turning their organics into rich, healthy soil that can support biodiversity. I want to raise awareness on what's happening to our waste (it gets incinerated), and show people that composting is possible - and fun! - even in a small Amsterdam apartment! In my day job, I work in circular financing at Gemeente Amsterdam, and am passionate about making cities sustainable. As a new father, sustainability is more important than ever to ensure a better future for the next generation.
Time & Money
Nothing Wasted is proposed to run during spring 2023, and will cost €4000-6000.
€6000 will cover:
- 4 x 120L bokashi bins and compost starters: €1500
- 3 x 1000L compost bays: €1000*
- Herbs, fork, rake, tools, etc: €500
- Microscope: €500*
- High quality Prints: €500
- Artists' fee: €2000**
*If we can borrow Mediamatic's compost piles at CleanLab, then this cost will not be necessary
**This is to purchase a microscope. We would prefer to partner with WUR for access to their SEM, or with other labs/universities.
***This is an arbitrary number as it depends on how long the installation will run.
Nothing Wasted is an artistic research project that we hope will engage local community gardens around Amsterdam, with future composting and greening projects that can increase biodiversity in cities. We want to develop concrete solutions to recycle organic waste, and to explore using sensors in organic waste bins to detect and minimise contamination. In our wild dreams, we see composting going mainstream and contributing to regenerative gardening efforts in cities worldwide.
This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2022.