The Nudge Explores Circular Cities Tour 2015 is on a trip through Europe collecting great Circle Economy examples. Our 5 ambassadors report their findings. This is one of the companies they visited.
Written by Nudge Ambassador Matthias Veltkamp
11 May 2015
In the catacombs of a former tropical swimming pool our Nudge Explores team is the guest of Siemen Cox, initiator of “RotterZwam the movement”. Welcome to the world of oyster mushrooms, fertilizers, hair growth-improving shampoo’s, bio-plastics, and fermentation-catalysers, all based on the coffee grounds that was otherwise thrown away. In a city as Rotterdam, The Netherlands, millions of kilo’s pure and fertile coffee grounds are wasted. The potential for RotterZwam is to collect 6 million kilo of this stuff every year and turn it into value:
- Squeeze oil out of it and turn that into a very fine shampoo.
- Grow for every 5 kilo of black gold 1 kilo of very tasteful oyster mushrooms.
- Wash valuable enzymes out of the used ground, and derive a €1 per litre resource for making bio-plastics, ethanol, or catalysing fermentation processes.
- What remains is a perfect fertilizer for the earth, compost of the highest quality.
- Build a business.
Building a business is what Siemen does everyday. His dream is to open a central hub, floating in the city centre, with multiple units for all different stakeholders: Luxor, Hotel Europa, just to name a few. Coffee grounds are collected and they are provided delicious Oyster mushrooms, as fresh as they can be.
In 2008 Siemen realized he wanted to be part of the radical change needed to reinvent the current unsustainable economic paradigm based on debt and non-renewable resources. After leaving the financial services world it took him quite some time to learn the skills for growing great mushrooms. Influenced by Günther Pauli’s vision of the blue economy he kept on pioneering sustainable business models and now he is able to help others develop their businesses.
In line with the open source philosophy, Siemen shares his knowledge and experience. And he learned that miraculously his openness pays back. “Europe is our research-lab,” he says. When others come and learn from Siemen’s version 1.0, they often return with a 2.0 version of the product. But there is still a mentality switch to make here for a lot of entrepreneurs. Some come and visit RotterZwam but never allow a visit in return.
Is the future of RotterZwam indeed about scaling up and processing those 6 million kg coffee grounds per year? Who knows, sounds good. The ambitions anyhow stay true to his 2008-commitment of stopping the economic take-make-waste stupidity, the deeper thought behind the project. And by providing a create-give-growth alternative, others can be part of that change. Siemen is more than willing to help you discover value in waste. And besides, you can start swapping eating meat with eating mushrooms. Yummy!