Baltimore and Rotterdam Are Working Towards “Sustainable Cities” Together

Operation Trash

In 1985, Baltimore, Maryland, and Rotterdam, Netherlands established a sister city relationship on some common ground: Baltimore lost a great deal of their infrastructure in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, and Rotterdam’s city center was destroyed during World War II. These disasters forced them to rebuild their communities from the ground up in the 20th century. Additionally, both cities are geographically and demographically similar, have a deeply rooted maritime history, and are home to a lot of innovators and cultural strongholds. Baltimore and Rotterdam also face many of the same municipal issues—especially when it comes to generating smart and sustainable cities.

Recently, a delegation from Rotterdam visited Baltimore to discuss Rotterdam’s innovative approaches to “circular economy” at the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) Congress: an annual conference, which addresses sustainable waste management. Rotterdam is one of the leading cities in the Netherlands when it comes to innovative waste management. They are pioneers in the concept of “circular economy” i.e. making a more durable product that last longer and transforming waste into raw material for creating new products.

Pex Langenberg, Rotterdam’s Vice Mayor for Sustainability, Mobility, and Culture, and Lenny van Klink from IMG Rebel spoke at the ISWA Congress in Baltimore about Rotterdam’s circular economy roadmap.

Along with Langenberg, Rotterdam’s Director of City Administration, Manager of International Relations, and Director of Recycling all took part in the Baltimore visit.  Upon arrival, the delegates attended a welcome party reception led by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Committee organized the reception. Other attendees included members of Baltimore City Department of Public Works, Baltimore Office of Sustainability, Maryland Department of Commerce, Netherlands Embassy, Netherlands America Chamber of Commerce Washington Metro, Sister Cities International, and Maryland and Dutch businesses and nonprofits interested in sustainable waste management.

While the ISWA conference was the primary reason for the visit, the visitors from Rotterdam were given the opportunity to see some of Baltimore’s sustainability initiatives in action. The Maryland Port Authority gave Langenberg a green-themed tour of Baltimore’s port to display the city’s initiatives to protect its ports against climate change and to improve air and water quality. He also received a tour of Masonville Cove, a habitat that was restored by usingdredged sediment.

Operation Trash

During the visit, the two cities also discussed the ongoing Baltimore-Rotterdam “Operation Trash” series of arts and educational workshops that inspire K-12 kids in both cities to minimize trash, increase recycling, and become environmental stewards for their neighborhoods.

These exchanges between Baltimore and Rotterdam are part of a larger global effort by cities to collaborate together to make their cities more sustainable and resilient.

Baltimore-Rotterdam is looking forward to more sustainability knowledge sharing at these upcoming conferences:

  • GreenPort Congress is an annual international conference about how to make ports greener. It comes to North America for the first time in May 2018. Baltimore is hosting GreenPort Congress America and is inviting Dutch speakers to share their expertise on making ports smarter and more resilient against the effects of climate change and their efforts underway to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Rotterdam will host the ISWA Congress in 2020 and will share new circular economy innovations that have surfaced by then.


Related links

Rotterdam’s circular economy roadmap

Rotterdam’s circular economy initiatives

Baltimore-Rotterdam sustainability-themed arts/educational exchanges

Greenport Congress America 2018

Pex Langenberg’s talk at ISWA Congress 2017

For more information regarding the Baltimore-Rotterdam Sisiter City Committee visit