Month: January 2015

Phonebloks by Zina Burgers and Anouk Smidt


In which extent can the open source part of Phonebloks contribute to sustainability?


Explanation video:

‘’They advocate transparency, open source and open innovation and want to be the hub where the industry talk and listen to each other and to the public.’’

The main goal of Phonebloks is to reduce electronic waste by making every electronic devices modular. A device will have a longer lifespan, which decreases the total amount of electronic waste. Phonebloks does not want to build a new phone company because that will increase the waste at first. Phonebloks wants to improve and encourage existing companies to think about modular devices. They don’t want to compete with them.

This concept also had an impact on the pollution from transportation. Because there has less to be produced and to be transported.

But why do we need to reduce e-waste?

Because it’s a big problem. Every year 20 to 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated worldwide. And E-waste is currently growing at around 4% per year and it’s the fastest growing waste stream in the EU. It accounts for 8% of all municipal waste in Europe which means it’s between 1 kg and 20 kg per person per year.




E-waste is not only a big problem for the environment. Electronic devices are made in low-wage countries so even if this is not the main point of Phonebloks, it will have an indirect impact on this. There will be less electronic devices because people will use it a longer time. Less production means fewer jobs. On the other side, there will be a new field of possibilities for developers and recycling plants.

­But the most social part of this project is the open source part. It all started with a kind of crowd funding. Phonebloks has spread their idea. To the consumers to get used to this new way of thinking. And to the companies, to encourage them to think about and invest in this subject.


At this point there are a lot of people aware of this project and an online community has started. It’s an online platform where suggestions, feedback and ideas are shared. And this is accessible for everybody. Consumers and companies can use the information and the ideas on the website. It does not belong to anyone.

That is why they support Project ARA from Google.


Project ARA is an initiative by Google that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame (endoskeleton that holds smartphone modules of the owner’s choice), such as a display, camera or an extra battery. It allows the user to swap, change, upgrade, and replace the modules without having to change everything.

The open hardware platform brings developers together to make the phone the best it can be. Not like any other projects Google has done. Google wants Project Ara to lower the entry barrier for phone hardware manufacturers so there could be “hundreds of thousands of developers” instead of the current handful of big manufacturers. Just like Phonebloks wants. So they collaborate. Phonebloks runs the community. Phonebloks also joins Project ARA, on occasion, to get sneak peeks at the Ara development team and prototypes, and to make YouTube videos about their process.’’


In this category there are 2 groups. The consumers and the companies. Economically seen, this idea asks for a big chance in all the phone companies. They make more money if a phone breaks and a consumer buys a new one.


With Phonebloks a device will have a longer lifespan so a company will have to make more profit with the basic model at the beginning. Because the modules are from different brands, there will have to be invented a new business model. Fact is, there is not one big one yet. Designers are creative in design but not in designing business models. And for every sustainable open source concept needs to be designed a new business model.

Open cultures is about the disappearance of hierarchy. But it takes a while to get used to that for everybody. The whole mindset of the industry has to be ruined first.

For the consumer it will only become more clear. A solid price for your basic model without any bloks. And you pay only for the bloks you need or want. Google has told the press that a basic model will cost between $50 -$100. The prices of the modules are unknown.

About open structures

The Open Structures (OS) project initiates a construction system where everyone designs for everyone. It is an ongoing experiment that wants to find out what happens if people design objects according to a shared modular grid, a common open standard that stimulates the exchange of parts, components, experiences and ideas and aspires to build
things together.

os 1

The ultimate goal is to initiate a universal, collaborative puzzle that allows the broadest range of people – from craftsmen to multinationals – to design, build and exchange the broadest range of modular components, resulting in a more flexible and scalable built environment. So less waste because you can reuse every component of a product. But also with this project, there isn’t a economical profitable business model yet.



In which extent can the open source part of Phonebloks contribute to sustainability?


We think that Phonebloks is a gentle step in the right direction of an open source culture with projects like open structures. Open source on itself is not per se sustainable but the outcome in the case of Phonebloks is. The open community gets consumers used to this modular phone by its approachable system. And on the other hand gets it companies forced to think about this sustainable concept because so many consumers are standing behind this idea. The modular idea behind Phonebloks is in an environmentally way sustainable because it reduces electronic waste. But not per se open source. It would be if you could 3D print the bloks yourself at home. Socially it’s sustainable because of the power of the people but also not sustainable because the amount of jobs can potentially decrease. Economically seen, Phonebloks is sustainable for the consumers since the prices are more clear and fair. But it’s still unknown for the companies how they can make a good profit from it, so we can not decide whether it’s sustainable for them or not.


We talked about this with Jeroen Bouweriks. (

And the spokesman of project ARA.

Biodegradable Plastics

By Maud Bekink and Boris Smeenk


The Dutch government is supporting a very large project based on the development and improvement of bioplastics. This is just one project that has recently started but the interest in bioplastics is increasing all over the world. The attention of the upcoming plastics generates responses from the people. People start to have an opinion about the topic without really knowing if it helps to a better world or not. In America, Wall Mart is asking their suppliers to measure and report their packaging’s contribution to the climate change on so called ‘scorecards’ . This scorecard is not implemented in The Netherlands but there is a change that companies like Albert Heijn will follow this concept. A company does not want to show that they produce environmental damaging packaging. So, does using bioplastics have more advantages or disadvantages for the well being of the earth?

RESEARCH QUESTION: “What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of bioplastics?”

What is sustainability?

The definition ‘sustainable development’ has been used by the Brundtland Commission in 1987. The definition states: ‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This involves addressing economic, social and environmental factors and their interdependence in an organization’s decision-making and activities.’ People value their own lifes and the life of their children. They do not always share the same opinion about what is good or bad with each other. This ensures a broad variety of interpretations of the definition sustainability. Also, the fact that the world is changing, more knowledge about important topics is gained which influence the focus on sustainability. As stated in the definition of sustainable development the three circles of sustainability are economic, social and environmental. These three circles are linked to each other. A lot of websites on the internet, like Wikipedia, offer an explanation of the circles.

Environmental protection – enviorment

Safeguard the earth’s capacity to support life in all its diversity, respect the limits of the planet’s natural resources and ensure a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. Prevent and reduce environmental pollution and promote sustainable consumption and production to break the link between economic growth and environmental degradation.

Social equity cohesion – people

Promote a democratic, socially inclusive, cohesive, healthy, safe and just society with respect for fundamental rights and cultural diversity that creates equal opportunities and combats discrimination in all its forms.

Economy prospective – economics

Promote a prosperous, innovative, knowledge-rich, competitive and eco-efficient economy which provides high living standards and full and high-quality employment throughout the European Union.

Bioplastics – Three circles of sustainability


Link to bigger image

What is a bioplastic?

A bioplastic is a biobased and biodegradable plastic. This means that the plastic is created from the nature and is able to go back in the nature. The plastic is biodegradable. According to the association European bioplastics and other associations which also use the same description, a bioplastic is a:

– biobased plastics produced on the basis of renewable resources

– biodegradable polymers which meet all criteria of scientifically recognized norms for biodegradability and compostable of plastics and plastic products.

Figure 1 shows the life cycle of a bioplastic when it meets both of the descriptions. It starts with the agricultural feedstock and also ends after the ‘product/user phase’ and ‘composting’ eventually into agricultural feedstock again. This life cycle is a ‘cradle to cradle’ life cycle because it starts at the origin and also ends at the origin.


Figure 1: ideal closed loop life cycle of an ideal bioplastic

Different biological terms can be used to indicate that a plastic is ´biological´, but not all of these terms mean that a plastic is a bioplastic. Some terms refer to the origin of the material while others refer to the end of its life. These biological terms give the consumer the feeling that a product is natural and therefore good for the environment, but there are a lot of misinterpretations about these terms. A research performed by WRAP (2007) about ´consumers attitude to biopolymers´ shows that most of the consumers do not really know what the difference between the terms, degradable, biodegradable and compostable is.  They associate them with the term ‘bio’ and therefore as ´good´. It is still important to make a distinction between the terms ‘biobased’ , ‘degradable’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ because they are often (incorrectly) used and it is easy to mix them up because some terms overlap other terms. For example, a compostable product is also biodegradable while a biodegradable product does not need to be compostable.

Ad- and disadvantages of bioplastics

Advantages are that they give a better image to plastics in general, no more use of petroleum, solutions for the problems of waste (because the plastics degrade in the nature), contribution to environmental protection and a new source of income for the agriculture. Life cycle analysis show that bioplastics based on renewable resources result in savings in energy consumption and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to the production of conventional plastics. On the other hand, they score lower on other environmental impacts such as ozone layer depletion and eutrophication.

‘Normal (oil based) plastic’ vs. Bio plastics


Link to bigger image


Maud Bekink

If bioplastic were to be used more by businesses and cooperations world wide, this would have an beneficial impact on the world’s forests and oceans. Even though bioplastic is currently still more expensive to be made than the plastic we are still used to, it still seems like a good stand for companies to start producing bioplastic as it increases positive brand awareness. For multinational firms this process will have less impact on producing costs as we are talking large scale production. For smaller local businesses, it is beneficial to gain a better reputation compared to other businesses in that area. If e.g. supermarket chains in The Netherlands would start to switch to the creation of bioplastic, it seems only logical that this will bring a direct change to the welfare and state of our country’s nature. Also , a lot of our products used daily by the majority of the public comes in plastic packaging which was proven to be relatively unhealthy for our bodies.

Boris Smeenk

Of course I’m all for biodegradable plastics. The (creating a) lack of oil, the dioxide emissions and the waste are a problem of the plastics we are using every day. A lot of companies (like Coca-Cola for instance) are calling their bottles a ‘PlantBottle’ while it’s not even biodegradable. Biodegradable plastics can become a thing if their is a lot of support of the big companies. The projects just need the funding!

The bioplastics on the market right now aren’t just good enough for mass production in my opinion. Those bioplastics are not biodegradable, which doesn’t solve the big waste problem of plastic.

Algae plastics, the ideal bio plastic?


Marco Oosterbaan – Simon Lévelt

What do you know about bioplastics?

Not a lot actually, but since recently the company I work for (Simon Lévelt) is changing the normal plastic packaging of coffee to bioplastic so now I know some things about it.

Why did Simon Lévelt choose bioplastics for their products?

Well, we are a coffee company that tries to be as good as possible for our planet and inhabitants. If we have a possibility to reduce some of our waste, we would love to take that opportunity. Also, it’s good for the sales of course.

Does Simon Lévelt know that bioplastics are not the biodegradable?

I actually know that there is no such thing as a bioplastic that is completely biodegradable, but I don’t know for sure if my boss knows that. I guess so…ha ha.

Would you rather buy a product with a plastic or bioplastic packaging?

Of course I would rather buy a product with a bioplastic packaging, but you know, sometimes, you don’t pay that much attention in the supermarkets. And when you do, the product is somewhat expensive in relation to the non-bioplastic product. I would rather have all the company’s use bioplastics so that I don’t have to stay aware in the supermarket etc.

Patricia – Unemployed

What do you know about bioplastics?

That it is a scam.

Why do company’s (for example Coca-Cola) choose bioplastics for their products?

Because then people feel a lot less guilty after buying a  bottle of soda. People feel like they are doing something good for the enviorment.

Do these company’s know that bioplastics are not the biodegradable?

Yes, they use it to lead people in the wrong direction.

Would you rather buy a product with a plastic or bioplastic packaging?

I’m actually against the whole idea of plastic. Create a ‘plastic’ that is biodegradable and count me in.

Do you use plastic?

In this society I am forced to.