Upcycling Urban Trash in Amsterdam

Often overlooked is the “soft infrastructure” of systems and habits that can be leveraged for additional benefit: social customs, community resources, trash day…

Yes, trash day: the weekly ritual of discarding items deemed as refuse. But what about items that are no longer wanted, but don’t necessarily qualify as trash? Should they be kept or thrown away? The Amsterdam design firm Waarmakers knows this dilemma well.

“We all hold on to many material things we no longer use,” says the firm. “What’s worse is that we sometimes throw these away while they’re still in perfect working condition. From a sustainability point of view, these unwanted goods should be re-used as much as possible. From a social point of view, these items offer an enormous potential for positive social behavior: sharing.”

To aid both sustainability and sharing in the city, Waarmakers created Goedzak, a specially designed bag that brings the adage, “one man’s trash in another man’s treasure”, to life. With the Goedzak, says the firm, “sharing and re-use is as easy as taking out the trash.”

“It’s a friendly way to do good and offer products a second chance. People can fill up the bag and place it outside on the pavement. The bright yellow color will attract attention, while the transparent side of the bag will reveal the content without the need for rummaging through the bag. Passers-by can then take from the bag anything to their liking.”

Waarmakers has collaborated with the cities of Amsterdam and Eindhoven on successful trials of the project. Enthusiastic public response led to a partnership with Albert Heijn, one of the Netherland’s largest retailers, for whom Waarmakers designed a special bag to encourage children to share toys they are finished with. “Share your old toys, make someone else happy” is the child-specific project motto.

“From a municipality’s point of view, Goedzak is a carrier of a sustainable message,” says Waarmakers. “But perhaps even more importantly, it offers a very visual stage for social deeds.”

This project and dozens of others are featured in the Reprogramming the City Book!

Goedzak is a specially designed bag that makes sharing and re-use is as easy as taking out the trash.
Goedzak is a specially designed bag that makes sharing and re-use is as easy as taking out the trash.