Why synergising and crafting with local (food) waste can foster more circular practices in neighbourhoods

Fab Lab Barcelona is synergising with the Poblenou community to innovative unique materials from local food waste. The following quotes are a few of the inspiring feelings that have been expressed at the beginning of our co-creation journey.

We need to embrace the complexity of local contexts – the Circular Economy is now a neighbourhood reality. Let’s address the “BIG” models. New circular practices should be at the core of makerspaces. We can enhance local productive skills and promote creativity towards ecological interactions. We’re changing fragile consumption patterns…

Aside from being collectively driven and inspired to develop waste responsibility alongside creativity; what were the key facts and reasons that we, as Fab Lab Barcelona, part of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, have chosen to tackle the challenge of food waste at a neighbourhood scale? Why do we believe that crafting and synergising with local (food) waste will foster new forms of circular transitions?

Firstly, why collect, reuse and transform food waste?

The organic part of municipal waste consists mostly of food residues (vegetables, fruits, shells, rinds, meat, fish, flours) and small non-woody plant debris (grass, leaf litter, flowers) – all of which can be biologically degraded. Residuos organics – organic waste equates to 33% of all municipal waste in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. This is a huge proportion of waste that ultimately, if citizens were provided with the tools, could stay in the area of Barcelona and be transformed into something new.

This is 464.695 tons of waste (1).

Moreover, every day in Catalonia, 720,000kg of food is thrown away. Half of this comes from households and the rest from restaurants, bars, catering and shops. This waste amounts to a colossal 260,000 tonnes per year.

This amount of wasted food could feed 500,000 people a year (2).

There are local and global movements working on changing this shocking statistic. These movements are devising systems, disseminating strategies, policies and actions which all aim to reduce, collect, transform, compost and revalue food waste. Ultimately, these movements address and challenge problems of over and thoughtless consumption.

Why it is key to address food waste at a neighbourhood scale

Barcelona is renowned for the original character of each of its 73 neighbourhoods – Los Barrios. The barrios operate as an intermediary between the private house and the city in general – in-between public and private. This means we believe that barrios could be the perfect size and scale to generate societal transformations. The size and scale of the barrios have the opportunity to expand individual behaviour changes to a more community and neighbourhood level – reconnecting individual intentions and local, public institutions (3).

Barcelona has been working towards recognising inequalities in terms of property development and ownership. From 2016 there has been a development plan in place aiming to create self-sufficient neighbourhoods which empower self-sufficient citizens to be able to face challenges in the future. This plan has multiple objectives: supporting local trade to stabilise local economies and develop industrial capacities; emphasising the need for a social economy; intervening when urban deficits arise; and meeting needs for rights to health, education, equity and so on (4).

Poblenou’s culture of craft, makers and co-operatives

Poblenou is situated in the North-East area of Barcelona, in the Sant Marti district. In the last century, Sant Marti was dubbed the ‘Catalan Manchester’ due to the vast range of textile factories and workers co-operatives. In 2000, the City Council approved a new urban planning ordinance aimed at transforming the industrial areas of Poblenou into a hub for innovative industries and activities. After 17 years of renovations and transformations, Poblenou is now a diversified maker and innovative neighbourhood. Poblenou consists of high-technology and ecologically-efficient buildings situated alongside old factories preserved for heritage and social dynamism (5).

Fab Lab Barcelona has been situated in Poblenou for 10 years is continuously prototyping Fab City Barcelona. This is through building learning experiences which educate citizens around the appropriation of technologies and innovation through using craft techniques and digital fabrication. This supports the relocation of production to a more local level and explores new ways of co-operation which facilitate circular material and energy flows (6)(7).

“El Barri Circular – Food, Waste and Crafts #Poblenou” is a journey with the ambition to address the issue of food waste through connecting to the local, creative maker ecosystem and social networks in Poblenou. Our pilot gives emphasis on creating synergies between local needs and resources, through learning-by-doing activities and finding a new form of craft, based on the transformation of food waste.

 

Photo credit : Anastasia Pistofidou

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