Inspiring circular economy projects from 16 cities

circular economy

Circular economy is becoming an increasingly used strategy for organisations who want to transition their business model into one that is both environmentally and financially sustainable. However, it’s not only organisations who are in a transition – municipalities around the world are starting to integrate circular economy into their cities as well. So what does this mean? What are municipalities really doing to integrate the concept into their operations?

Based on a five month intensive research project, a report has been released that outlines sixteen inspiring circular economy projects from around the world. These projects are either initiated or supported by municipalities, and provide best practice examples in integrating circular economy in a city, covering a variety of topics. The report also provides recommendations for municipalities to bring circular economy into their cities. It is intended for municipal departments who wish to move toward a circular economy, or those simply interested in an overview of the concepts’ current trends in the urban context.

The research was conducted by Patrick Lindner, Cynthia Mooij, and Heather Rogers as a follow up to their final Master thesis for the MSc. Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability program at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden.

The Roots of Circular Economy

Circular economy originates from a combination of concepts including environmental economics, general systems theory, and industrial ecology. The concept focuses on the redesign of products and processes “to maximize the value of resources through the economy with the ambition to decouple economic growth and resource use”. Although circular economy has traditionally been used in the industrial sector and product design, with cities consuming 75% of the world’s natural resources, municipalities are beginning to turn to the concept as an opportunity for resource efficiency – combining both their sustainability and economic ambitions. This trend of circular economy within municipalities is further motivated by increased political pressure.

Circular Economy Today

Circular economy, and the ways it can be implemented in cities is in a period of significant evolution. Research has shown that currently, circular economy in cities is positively contributing to a sustainable society, and there are many passionate practitioners who are devoting themselves to its advancement. The published report synthesizes a circular economy definition from the field, illustrating where the understanding of circular economy currently lies for municipalities. It includes a general description and nine principles that guide the understanding of circular economy.

Recommendations that are provided to municipalities when integrating circular economy in their city are summarized into four key areas:

  • Recognizing and Leveraging Influence
  • Adapting to Culture
  • Integrating System-Level Solutions
  • Providing Internal Education

These four areas help to clarify the municipality’s role in the process of circular economy integration and support the formation of city-specific solutions. Additionally, developing a clear and shared understanding of circular economy within the municipality is recommended.

You can download the full report here: Report_CollectionCaseStudies2017_FinalV2-1.compressed

*) Featured image: Bradley Gordon (cc)

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