Arbon Initiative

Discover our Ostschweiz initiative

Executive Summary

Humanity’s current rate of resource consumption eventually means we will run out. In Switzerland we consume 3 times what we should aim for a sustainable development. Meanwhile, we produce “waste” unlike any other species on the planet – it is a man-made problem. Future of Waste is an initiative that focuses on creating the right conditions for addressing this challenge and triggering change towards more resilient consumption and production patterns at a local level. We are by your side to co-create a stable future for the generation to come.

Our work can be broken down into three steps:

1. Identify and understand your ecosystem

Ensuring all the right people are around the table is key to the success of your transition. We put our skills at your disposal to fully reveal your system’s complexity on a stakeholder map and make sure you are surrounded by the people who can actually make a difference in your region from all corners of the system.

2. Communicate

Going on a journey of transitioning to a circular economy is a positive and hopeful message. It must be heard. We offer communication leverages so that you may tell the world what is happening in your ecosystem. This is done through videos, blog articles, events, and more.

3. Connect

You cannot achieve a circular economy without collaborations. Making sure the ecosystem connects in a meaningful way is at the very heart of our work. We plant seeds of collaboration within your ecosystem through organizing innovative dialogue sessions.

What do you get out of it?

A connected human tissue around you ready to take the dive towards an economy that preserves future generations’ ability to thrive on the planet. A facilitated transition. A tested social innovation process. An opportunity for resilience in business and to be amongst the pioneers of green innovation.

How do we get there?

To safeguard the neutrality of the process, the intention is to finance our work and its initiatives through the contributions of all stakeholders. Co-funding this process is key to its success for no one is more willing to participate and contribute in a meaningful way than people who have a vested interest.

We estimate that this 6-month-long pre-project will require CHF 220’000 to be a success.

More info

Our story

Taking one step at a time towards a regenerative economy through stronger collaborations.

Our founders Boryana and Julia met during a further education and incubation program the Catalyst Lab by collaboratio helvetica. They both come in with an intention to work in the waste and circular economy field and come out as partners on a project to accelerate the transition towards a regenerative economy.

We believe that the human species should behave and interact with the natural world in a similar way that all other species do: no production of waste, constant evolution and adaptation, and optimal use and reuse of resources and material. The natural environment is regenerative, we can be regenerative too.



Boryana Milova

Business innovator

Julia Bodin

Environmental engineer

The topic in numbers

8 million tonnes

The amount of plastic per year leaked into the oceans according to Jambeck et al, 2015, source. The only way to handle this is to cut the pollution at the source.

3rd place

Switzerland’s position in the European ranking of waste production per capita, source. Only half of that is recycled and hardly any of it is used in Swiss production.

3 times

Today, Switzerland uses up three times the amount of resources it should aim to consume to stay within sustainable development goals. source, page 26


Percentage of the environmental budget of Kanton Thurgau invested into waste management and soil, source. Waste reduction would ease this cost.

Why does it matter?

Why does it matter?

We leak 8 million tonnes of plastic per year into the oceans (Jambeck et Al. 2015). That is one garbage truck per minute. Focusing only on cleaning up is not sufficient: we need to be more ambitious to prevent this pollution from reaching the natural environment in the first place.

Switzerland’s approach to waste management is unfortunately still too much focused on burning and generating energy through that process. While energy generation is interesting, burning waste generates greenhouse gases, pollution and is a destructive approach that does not allow for recovery of materials. Furthermore, in most people’s minds, circular economy is mainly about recycling and recycling innovation.

This however should be the last step considered in a circular economy transition. As Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests, a successful transition to a circular economy starts with upstream innovation.

At the same time, in line with a high standard of living, both resource and energy consumption per person, and the respective CO2 emissions in Kanton Thurgau are very high in comparison to those in less developed countries (source).

The canton is characterized by a thriving agricultural sector, which offers a good potential for shorter supply chains in consumer goods and more local consumption. The strong SME sector present can also benefit from more sustainable and innovative business practices and collaboration across sectors when exploring circularity.

Arbon, with its 6500-year-old history and many reinventions, is now a future- and sustainability-orientated city. This makes Arbon a fertile soil for the pilot of Future of Waste within Eastern Switzerland. Through this process, the city can position itself as a national pioneer for innovation, cross-sectorial collaboration and sustainability.

Our initiative partners

Our aims and deliverables

This project aims to rethink our relationship to waste and its creation to limit the staggering leakage of plastics and other wastes into the ocean at the source and empower every stakeholder along the product’s life cycle to make a difference. We want to achieve this by shifting the mindset from seeing waste to seeing resources and connecting every stakeholder to the root cause of the issue but also to each other in a more meaningful and human way. In doing so, we nurture human connections and explore what circular economy collaborations could look like.



We structure our work in 3 steps:

Fully understanding the ecosystem in which you stand is the start of our work and arguably the most important step for success. This could be businesses, shops, consumer organizations, waste treatment or recycling facilities as well as local politicians and administration. We reach out and interview the people in your ecosystem to get a sense of what they are doing and their obstacles. Connecting on a human level as much as possible is what we aim for.

We communicate about what we have learned to civil society and other stakeholders by means of events, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and social media campaigns. Through awareness-building events, we foster the understanding of a regenerative economy and seek to redefine the notion of waste, while the recorded materials can be used for multiplication in the future. This allows for the whole community and ecosystem to be aware of the challenges that pivoting into a circular economy can bring and therefore prepare the mindsets to have a generative discussion about the future.

We invite the stakeholders identified at the first step to participate in a series of (ideally) physical dialogue sessions. In those, through mindful facilitation, we get to develop a common vision for Arbon, identify leverage points and explore together collaboration and solution potentials to shift to a regenerative economy at the local level. Guided by novel social innovation methods, we seek a first step towards systemic shift in Arbon. And maybe even looking out to a broader vision.


The work we will be doing will give some clear outputs:

Reports, publications and documents such as a stakeholder map of the local ecosystem, process report, graphic recording of the dialogue sessions, and an insights report. Academic publications will come out of this process and can potentially give a global visibility of the novel social innovation methods implemented for a regenerative economy on a local level.

Multimedia content for our knowledge platform. We will be creating articles, videos, podcasts, and other content that will aim to raise awareness and increase knowledge in the general population about the issue of waste. It should make it easier for individuals to understand the importance of co-creating a generative economy and, therefore, make it easier to understand some implications that may arise from the process.

Physical encounters of important stakeholders along the value chain. Through our research, we will be reaching out to many people working directly or indirectly on the waste issue. Maybe you are one of them.  We intend to invite you to meet as some of you may not know each other or might never have met on neutral grounds. The aspect of neutrality is important to us so that a common understanding and vision can emerge going beyond the current status and obstacles.

Events to gather the general public and invite them to the action. We will be hosting with partners a series of different events to give visibility to what is already being done and what is coming. You may be one of these partners and may want to contribute to some of these events. They will give you visibility and show you as part of the stakeholders that are already in action.


The project we are working on is expected to have some outcomes in the long run:

  • A deeper understanding of the local ecosystem. We hope that at the end of our cycle, all stakeholders have a better understanding of who is working in the same direction and what needs to happen before a common vision becomes a reality.
  • A common vision of the future of waste. We are rooting for a common vision of what the system wants to see happen in the near future. We hope that by discussing the future of waste, we can explore how to see waste as a resource for business and in so doing eliminate the notion of waste altogether
  • A mindset shift on circular economy. We expect that through our communication, knowledge platform, events, and dialogues, both civil society and stakeholders will have a broader understanding of what circular economy actually is and how far it can reach. Our work is done when the system is moving naturally and on its own to overcome all obstacles and transition into circularity and regeneration.


Rethinking the way we do business and shifting into a regenerative and circular economy means we, as a society, have a massive impact on many levels:

  • For Arbon City and Kanton Thurgau: future-oriented role model and positioning for the implementation of an innovative transformation process for a transition to a regenerative economy in Switzerland.
  • For citizens of Arbon: Increased awareness about circular economy, know-how about waste (as a resource) and understanding of the potentials of a regenerative economy.
  • For local businesses and farmers: encouragement for sustainable management and promotion of good local examples; leverage for more local consumption.
  • For academia and education: action-based research on the experience in Arbon and the implemented novel social innovation process for regenerative economy can open the door for a new academic stream and potential education programs.
  • For future generations and local environment: increased awareness of how a regenerative economy can sustain future generations and lead to more nature oriented behaviors.

The Arbon team

Darya Gerasimenko

Strategy and facilitation
Unity Field

Jörg Gröbli

Local anchor, host of the process and senior facilitator
Das Werk1

Myriam Gröbli

Local anchor, host of the process and senior facilitator
Das Werk1

Severin von Hünerbein

Facilitation, strategy and local collaboration
collaboratio helvetica

Budget and funding

Base: our soil

This initiative has base running costs such as administrative costs, rental costs for a space to work and general communication. For this we project a budget of about CHF 50’000.

Phase 1: seeds

Arguably the most important phase of the project, phase 1 focuses on mapping the ecosystem and meeting the people in it. It is mainly wo·man hours that are budgeted here for about CHF 40’000.

Phase 2: plants

This is the most visible phase of the project as it focuses on communicating the positive actions already there and the intention of the project to civil society. It includes wo·man hours, podcast and video creation as well as support from communication experts for about CHF 70’000.

Phase 3: harvest

The last phase is the climax of the Arbon Initiative: it is the moment where stakeholders meet and imagine the future of Arbon in a regenerative economy. It includes wo·man hours, facilitators, logistical costs and graphic recording for a total of about CHF 60’000.

The total budget is CHF 220’000.

From local to glocal

From local to glocal

The transition towards circular economy does not happen in boxes, it is a systemic approach.

The circular economy does not happen in boxes, it is a systemic approach. While we chose to operate at a local level to make the system identification manageable and allow for connection on a human level to happen, we strongly believe that in line our approach needs to grow into a national movement. This is why Future of Waste: Arbon is not a one-shot initiative, it is one of many initiatives to come, a part of something bigger. Currently, we are exploring the possibility of running an initiative in Nyon,Geneva and St. Gallen. We intend to multiply the cycles in many more cities and to eventually build up enough knowledge to be able to connect them and grow to the cantonal and then national level. We bet on glocal.

For cities & municipalities

For cities & municipalities

Would you like to explore local synergies, collaborations through an innovative process? Become a co-hosting partner of the local initiative.

Get Involved
For funders

For funders

Do you want to support such work and accelerated the transition towards a circular economy happen?

Get Involved
For Business

For Business

Are you interested in making your company more sustainable and wonder where to start from? You can find our corporate offerings on Let’s Talk Waste.

Get Involved