Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Sladjana Mitjatovic

"To move towards circular economy, we must talk about circular citizens"


"In the natural world, waste does not exist, but humans generate toxic waste that makes this world unsustainable", reminds usSladjana Mijatovic with the video she used to begin with her lecture "Circular Economy: A Shift in the Productive Model". The expert in circular innovation participated on April 4th in the cycle of conferences "Facing climate change" of the Re-City platform organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation with the collaboration of BBVA and the support of the Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the Department of "Territori i Sostenibilitat" of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

What is the circular economy? This is the question answered in two minutes by this video produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one of the most active institutions worldwide in the transition to circular economy, and that Sladjana Mijatovic showed to the audience in the conference moderated by Humberto Llavador, professor of Economics at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and the Pompeu Fabra University.

In a clear, concise, and with many examples, Sladjana Mijatovic explained to the full auditorium in Antoni Tapies Foundation, the advantages of an economic model that promotes recycling, reduction and reuse of products in a linear economy based on the logic of produce-use-throw that does not take into account the deterioration of our planet.

Sladjana Mijatovic spoke about her experience in Amsterdam, where she was the head of the Office of Innovation Technology Circular of the City Council and developed many circular economy projects. Mijatovic holds a degree in architecture from the University of Amsterdam, a master's degree in Urban Design and Urban Spaces Planning from the Technological University of Delft, and is currently responsible for sustainability and circular economy at the Dutch company BPD, where she continues to promote sustainable and circular construction processes in the Netherlands.

Life as a refugee, her first "circular" experience.

But her relationship with the circular economy began much earlier, when this concept was not known yet. When she was only five years he had the first experiences in refugee centers in the Netherlands where he lived for a while with her parents, when they had to flee the war in the former Yugoslavia. Sladjana Mijatovic explained that with the conflict they lost everything, they had no material goods and the refugees were not allowed to work. This is how within the centers, refugees began to develop skills, learn crafts, build objects and subsist through the exchange of services, recycling and reuse, that is, thanks to what we know today as a circular economy. Life as a refugee was her first school and where she lived her first collaborative economy experience.

Sladjana Mijatovic warned that, according to forecasts, "in 2050 70% of the population will live in cities, and therefore, the concentration of waste in cities will also be very large." The only way to face it will be to think in a new way of consuming and producing, and the circular economy can be a solution to the problem. " And therefore, it is also necessary a change of mentality, governments, companies and citizens: "If we want to change cities, we have to start talking about circular citizens" said Mijatovic, convinced that together we can "rethink and redesign our future "to move towards the circular economy. A new production system that starts with the design of the products so that they never lose their value and may continue to have different uses in the future. In this way, today's goods can become the products of tomorrow, and this can also become a business.

The circular economy can also become a business.

In Holland, for example, they have seen business opportunities for a long time and the government has set itself the goal of 2050 for 100% of the economy to be circular. According to a government study, the most dynamic and most likely sectors in the Netherlands are the construction that provides 85 million euros a year of added value with the circular economy and the food sector that reaches 150 million euros year.

For this reason, recycling and reuse experiences are already being carried out in these sectors, as it is the case for the music festivals that every year spend 700 million euros in the Netherlands. In a few days, thousands of people consume a lot of food and generate large amounts of waste that can be reduced, recycled and reused with the circular economy and local commerce.

Thus, organic waste makes fertilizer (it has been discovered that coffee remains are very good for the production of mushrooms), old traditions have been recovered, such as taking advantage of rainwater to make beer (hence the name of the brand Rainbeer) or a restaurant has been created that only cooks with the surplus stock of the supermarkets and for that reason the menu is decided the day before based on the products that arrive to them.

But there are more examples, such as a company 50% owned by the City Council that separates dirty water from 8,000 homes to extract nutrients or make biogas to heat houses. Or, the De Ceuvel project, an area of Amsterdam that was extremely polluted, and that a group of companies transformed into an urban space using creativity and building a series of boathouses, connected to each other with wooden walkways where grown plants and vegetation, and that nowadays house offices, studios and workshops for creative and social companies, a restaurant, cafeteria and a bed & breakfast. In addition, it is a totally self-sufficient space, which is supplied with hot water and electricity thanks to solar energy, with rain collection systems, and with the use of the latest sustainable technologies to improve the biodiversity of the area.

To promote the circular culture, the City Council also promoted a very unique initiative that was very successful. In a new housing development, a 25,000-euro stub was offered to new tenants to furnish and decorate their homes but with the condition that they could only use second-hand or recycled materials and objects. After the initial surprise, everyone accepted the deal and followed a process of learning and advice with professional architects with very satisfactory results, as each house had its own identity with a completely circular decoration.

These are some of the 73 projects that the City of Amsterdam has exposed on this website. All of them show that the circular economy is a good solution that, in addition to being sustainable, also generates business and creates new jobs.