Armed with yellow gloves, a dust mask and a ‘harvesting tool’ – a designed biodegradable card- 450 first-year students of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute AMFI went on an expedition in Amsterdam in search of soot and settled particulate matter.


This action kicked-off their introduction of their the first year. The Amsterdam Smogware Collective that was formed for this event * selected more than 15 filthy hotspots where a good harvest could be obtained, such as the fence of the Dutch Bank (located on a high traffic location). At each of these locations the students met a resident who could inform them and help collecting the soot, the material they are concerned about. Student Zoï Huizing: “Some people asked” What are you all doing?” because of course it is unusual to see fashionable students with a dust mask cleaning the streets. This soot harvest action made me realise to broaden my horizon and that inspiration can come from anything, even from street dirt.”

This was what her teacher was hoping for. Jan Piscaer, one of the participants of a small meeting in Rotterdam earlier that year and teacher in sustainability at AMFI, saw an excellent opportunity for his first-year students to take a practical lesson by the Smogware project. That’s how a small activity in one city can have a follow-up somewhere else at a much bigger scale.

Nightly expedition

The prelude to this large-scale harvesting action took place at the night before. Students, teachers, employees of the AMFI and engaged citizens were given the opportunity to harvest soot in the two main tunnels of the city (Piet Hein Tunnel and the IJ-Tunnel). Places where you’re never allowed walking (if all is well), because they are intended for motorised traffic only – and therefor interesting dust extraction sites. More than 40 people participated, different worlds met in a unique place, with a generous harvest of over 500 grams. Trouw and the Algemeen Dagblad reported about it (in Dutch).

Bernadette shared her experience in a tweet: “A memorable experience (soot scraping Piet Hein tunnel). Night world. Large vehicles, rolling slowly through the tunnel. Deep hums. Men in safety suits. Echoing sound system, test message: “Attention! This is an emergency!”

“Attention! This is an emergency!”

Soot breakfast

And an emergency it is, according to Manu Hartsuyker, who is fighting for a clean air already for years. She sees a lot of ambition with the municipality of Amsterdam  -that aims to be emission free in 2030-, however she doesn’t see enough action to make this possible.  At this moment the air quality exceeds in many places the norm set by the WHO regarding dust and nitrogen.

A first bit of the more then 2000 grams of urban particulates that were gathered thanks to all participants have been used to make a special edition of Smogware; the Amsterdam edition. At the initiative of Manu Hartsuyker, this set was used serving a “Public Soot Breakfast” in the hall of the town hall. This took place early in the morning prior to a meeting of the committee dealing with air quality. Sandra Rottenberg, concerned citizen,  moderated the conversation, around the set breakfast table. “Who dares to eat their croissant from the tableware coloured with air pollution?’ (Hardly anyone…)

A Smogware meeting set -coffee cups and a plate for biscuits- was offered to the the responsible councillor as a visual encouragement to make their ambition happen. The press was there, Volkskrant and reported on the event with this article. (in Dutch)


* This ‘Smogware Collective’ is a collaboration of AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute at The University of applied science Amsterdam), a group of committed citizens Amstel IJpark, and the initiators of the Smogware project. This collective teamed up with Knowledge Mile Amsterdam, sponsor of the Soot breakfast, and collaborated with Milieudefensie and the Municipality of Amsterdam.