In the Wasted Tales podcast series we will be bringing you into the lives and minds of waste and other materials within the circular economy, such as a solar panel, a face mask and a plastic bottle. This podcast is inspired by the projects of the Centre of Expertise Mission Zero where we conduct integrated research to come up with regenerative solutions for a more sustainable future.

By making inanimate objects key protagonists in this podcast, we aim to provide an alternative perspective to the circular economy discourse. What do these materials and objects experience? How do they view us humans in processes of recycling, repair and repurpose? And what can we learn from them?

The spoken language is English.

Interviewer: Kim Poldner, Professor Circular Business
Voice of our guests:  In every podcast a special guest will give voice to the object being interviewed.
Text writer: Natalie Cru
Design: Mari Genova
Production: Jurjen Helmus, founder of De Dataloog
Organization: Natalie Cru, Kim Poldner and Merel Hillen


Episode 10: Eleanor the Eco-coffin

Eleanor is an eco-coffin, designed to facilitate the reunion of humans and earth at the end of life. She reflects on the estrangement of humans and nature, caused by our dichotomous thinking, and reminds us of our belonging to the eco-system.
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode notes

This final episode of Wasted Tales is symbolically focusing on life and death. As the upcoming (leaked) IPCC report states: 

"Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems. Humans cannot." 

This episode is based on the book chapter that Grace Anywar, Helen Kopnina and Kim Poldner wrote entitled ‘Cradle to Cradle versus Cradle to Grave: The case of eco-coffins’. The chapter is currently in press and will be published as part of the Integrated Science book series by Springer. 

  1. Helen Kopnina has published several articles on cradle to cradle. You can read an interview about her perspectives on ecocentrism, the SDG’s and cradle-to-cradle here. 
  2. Together, Helen Kopnina and Kim Poldner served as editors of a book on the circular economy that will be published in August 2021. Please read more about this book and to pre-order it
  3. In an intimate interview, Kim interviewed her mother Lisette Poldner about her choice to be buried on a natural burial site. 
  4. Sustainable (and digital) burial is increasingly popular with entrepreneurs such as Andja Bratic who is a pioneer with her company The art of goodbye. 
  5. Do you feel inspired? At Mediamatic you can design your own natural burial shroud

Episode 9: Chip the Reusable Cup

The young Chip shares his playful experiences as a reusable cup: from having to swallow coffee to being tickled in the dishwasher. Chip is accompanied by his grandfather, Charles, a disposable plastic cup. And while Chip describes his daily life, Charles discusses the generational differences between them, as well as the potential future of all cups. 
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode notes 

This episode is based on the research we do within Mission Zero around sustainable packaging. From 2018-2020 we conducted a project with KIDV, HAS and HvA around sustainable packaging. Wander Colenbrander and Helen Arce Salazar both conducted studies as part of this project. In 2021 we started ‘Goed Verpakt’ – a new project funded by SIA focused on the relationship between packaging and food waste.  

  1. Check out this conversation with Wander and Helen about their research.
  2. Read more about Sustainable Packaging.
  3. Read more about the project ‘Goed Verpakt’.
  4. Charles is voiced by Paul Pouw, senior lecturer in Facility Management. Read an interview with Paul about the role of facility management in managing waste streams within buildings.
  5. Chip is voiced by Sem Behrendt, Kim’s son. Kim wrote a LinkedIn post about Sem’s enthusiasm concerning reusable cups.

Episode 8: Will the Water bike

Will the water bike prides himself in his ability to spark joy in all age groups on hot summer days. During the pandemic, Will spent a lot less time carrying happy passengers around Dutch canals. Despite the lonely months, Will gets involved in an inspiring project with local students. Find out how this project gives him a whole new function in keeping Dutch canals clean and plastic free! Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode notes

This episode is based on a student project for the minor Design by Nature, offered by Laura Stevens in the programme Industrial Design Engineering. The project client for this case was Nico Persoon, practor Energy Transition at ROC Mondriaan, and programme coordinator at Mission Zero. Learning expert Bas van den Berg served as a coach to the students. The aim of this project was to design a solution to plastic pollution in Dutch canals based on biomimicry principles. 

  1. The design diary of the students who designed the waterbike featured in this episode.
  2. In his two roles, Nico Persoon combines two types of vocational training (MBO & HBO), which often leads to acceleration of innovation. As he explains: ‘The design concepts of the higher vocational students (HBO) can quickly be translated to working prototypes by the more practical (MBO) students as they have the knowledge of materials and production. We also see this type of collaboration within companies, and it has proven to be very effective as such projects can deliver real impact’. Read more about Nico’s work.
  3. Learn about Bas’ PhD research on ‘regenerative learning ecologies’
  4. Read an interview with Laura Stevens about biomimicry.
  5. Robert Cartwright, the voice of Will, discusses the future of digital communication, and how Wasted Tales fits into this growing discipline.

Episode 7 - Huxley the Headphones

Huxley is not your regular pair of headphones. Being made of seven modules, he is infinitely repairable and therefore, completely circular! Find out what a day in Huxley’s life looks like, as the human’s essential companion in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode Notes

This episode is based on a business case from the SMITHZ project, developed by the research group ‘’Smart Sustainable Manufacturing’’ in collaboration with the group “Circular Business” at Mission Zero. The following resources were used in the development of this script:

  1. Find more information about the SMITZH project here.
  2. Find cases such as the Gerrard Street case here

Three interviews were conducted to accompany this episode:

  1. An interview with Roan O’Brien, the voice of Huxley, who is a User Experience Design student interning at Mission Zero.
  2. Tom Leenders, one of the founders of Gerrard Street, discusses the growing demand for sustainable and circular electronics.
  3. Sander Limonard, and Erik Wachter, who worked on Gerrard Street’s business case for the SMITHZ project, introduce themselves and their project.  

Episode 6 - Cleo the Concept Store 

Cleo the brick-and-mortar concept store lives and breathes slow fashion, creating an immersive retail experience for all customers that walk through her doors. After years of abandonment by retailers who did not see her strengths, find out how her current retailer, helped Cleo reach her full potential.
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode Notes 

This episode is based on the project Future Proof Retail (FPR) developed by Mission Zero’s research group “Innovation Networks” in co-creation with many partners. The following resources were used in the development of this script:  

  1. Associate lector and project leader of FPR Anja Overdiek published a journal article on opportunities for slow fashion retail in temporary stores which can be found here.
  2. She also published a chapter on co-creating fashion space in the 2020 book available here as well as on local heroes in retail (Dutch language) which can be found here. And a book on using local labs for retail innovation which is available here, shortly available in English via
  3. An interview with Anja Overdiek and Elise van der Laan about the future of fashion retail. 
  4. Manon Pieper, programme manager of the THUAS MBA programme, gave her voice to the character of Cleo. As she transitions to her new role as program director of International Business, we discuss with her and her successor Marysia Piësla the strategic collaboration between Mission Zero and the MBA programme.

Episode 5 - Walter the Wastebin

Walter the wastebin is nearing retirement. With a long career working in a prison under his belt, he has seen it all. But is his waste management system too outdated to meet the modern demands of waste disposal? Walter reflects on his role in the system, and where waste bins could be headed.
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode notes

This episode’s script is based on the project ‘Circular Operations Management’ led by Rachel Kuijlenburg in collaboration with the Custodial Institutions Agency and FM Haaglanden. Rachel is part of the research group circular business, and she is a lecturer and researcher in the area of integrated facility management and procurement management. Her research is focused on the relationship between business processes and sustainability, for example, the management of waste streams.

  1. We had the honour that THUAS’ vice-president Rajash Rawal agreed to give voice to Walter the Waste Bin in this episode. Rachel interviewed him about the vision of our board of directors on managing waste streams within the university. 
  2. General info about the project ‘Circular Operations Management’.
  3. Interview (in Dutch) with junior researcher Thomas Wissingh who works with students in collecting data for the project ‘Circular Operations Management’
  4. In IMPACT magazine Rachel is interviewed (in Dutch, p. 23) about why she sorts 660 kilos of waste with students in prison facilities
  5. A conference paper by Rachel Kuijlenburg, Kim Poldner and Mark Mobach discloses how automatic behaviours can be influenced to reduce waste at facility operations
  6. The focus of this academic article is on how external forces are able to hold municipalities accountable for sustainable procurement

Episode 4 - Tess the Tomato 

Tess the tomato shares her journey of traveling from greenhouse to kitchen and the harrowing love story that accompanied her. Through trial and tribulations Tess comes face to face with the stark reality of food waste in a tomato’s world.
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode Notes 

This episode is based on a study done by Luciana Santerre, a student assistant at Mission Zero. Her research focuses on the effects of food waste on a consumer level including social and environmental implications and is part of a large project that Mission Zero is currently developing.  

Tess the tomato is inspired by the pioneering work of Kromkommer and we built the storyline based on the following sources:

  1. An interview with Luci Santerre about her research project.
  2. THUAS students recently won the National Hackathon Circular Economy with their project Garden of Eternity – an innovative solution to feeding and greening the megacities of the future.
  3. This research report discusses the cosmetic aspects in the marketing standards for fruit and vegetables in the EU, and the implications of removing these standards for the market and the impact on food waste.
  4. This article discusses consumer behaviour in daily food provisioning, and its effect on food waste at the household level in the Netherlands
  5. This article discusses the impact that Covid-19 has had on Dutch consumers’ food waste behaviour.
  6. Information was also gathered from this synthesis report on food waste in Dutch households 2019.
  7. Kim Poldner has published an academic article on the sociomateriality of food in alternative food growing communities. 

Episode 3 – Penelope the Polyester Jacket

Penelope the polyester jacket discusses her transition from her past form as Polly the plastic bottle, to a fashionable and circular rPET jacket. How did she get here? And what does she think about her new life?
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode Notes

This episode is based on the research of Professor Kim Poldner, who has been studying sustainable fashion for over fifteen years.

  1. To learn more about her work, you can watch this video (in Dutch).
  2. She recently published an article about the rebound effect within the Dutch Circular Textile Valley
  3. Kim was the founder of the Circular Fashion Lab at Wageningen University & Research where her colleagues did a study on textile recycling. This study can be downloaded here.
  4. To be able to develop the script for this episode we also consulted the website of Waste2wear and specifically this video 

    which explains the process of how textiles are made from recycled plastic bottles.

  5. Penelope is voiced by Marieke Eyskoot, who is a sustainable fashion and lifestyle activist. In our interview with Marieke you can read about her most recent initiative to stop shaming for consumption.

Episode 2: Stefano the Solar Panel

Stefano the solar panel finds himself in a Dutch village named America, as part of an experiment. As the star in this small town, can Stefano live up to the pressure of being the key to community acceptance of noise walls in the region? 
Play this episode on Spotify.

Episode notes

This episode is based on the project Newrail, a collaboration between Mission Zero, Prorail, TNO, the municipality of Horst aan de Maas and energy cooperative Reindonk Energie.

  1. More information on this project can be found here: Project NEWRAIL
  2. Arash Aazami, who has not only breathed life into Stefano the Solar Panel, but is a visionary when it comes to the future of energy shares his vision in a Q&A with Sander Mertens, professor and co-director of Mission Zero.  
  3. More in-depth information about the technical side of the NewRail project is provided by Gerben Hoogendorp, who is working on transient energy calculations. Read more about his work on the project here.
  4. Professor Kim Poldner published a study about community energy in The Netherlands, Germany and Spain: Nano Regeneration.

Episode 1: Fiona the Facemask

Fiona, one of millions of disposable facemasks born from the covid-19 pandemic, ends up in an unexpected place. She meets fantastic creatures whose wisdom leads her to dream of ideal future generations of disposable face masks. Can they be made in such a way that they have minimum negative impact on fragile eco-systems? 
Play this episode on Spotify

Episode notes

This episode is based on the graduation project of design student Mari Genova.

  1. Read an interview with Mari about her project.
  2. Mari was trained as a biomimicry designer during the minor Design with Nature developed and taught by Laura Stevens who is doing a PhD on biomimicry education. Laura has given voice to Fiona - here you can read more about her pioneering work:
    Biomimicry Education, A Conversation with Laura Stevens
    Minor Design with Nature
    Research group Urban metabolism
  3. Some extra sources were consulted to make the writing of this episode’s script possible:  Reusable Face Masks as Alternative for Disposable Medical Masks
    This journal article discusses factors that affect the wear-comfort of reusable face masks and compares different reusable face masks to disposable medical masks. This source was used to understand the mechanics behind disposable surgical face masks for the script. Advice is given at the end of this article on how to balance comfort and effectiveness of filtration.
  4. Salps Catch the Ocean’s Tiniest Organisms
    This source was used to find out more about the filtration mechanics of salps