Cities and the Circular Economy

Cities are responsible for roughly 80% of greenhouse gas production and 50% global waste. Around half of greenhouse gas produced by cities is caused by the extraction and processing of resources, much of which are from unrenewable sources. In addition to this, much of the products and infrastructure around these products have a limited lifespan by design and in turn contribute to the waste at the end of their life cycle. This is the linear take-make-waste model which is unsustainable and detrimental. 

The circular economy, on the other hand, ensures that products prioritise renewable resources, preserving the value of materials and following the reduce-reuse-recycle-recover model. In implementing this circular model, cities can benefit from increased economic productivity through waste reduction and jobs production. Such an approach will in turn increase resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adopting the circular economy can foster resilience by reducing dependency on raw materials and through upcycling, and design for reuse and including modularity and multiple uses for products and spaces.

Local governance of course plays a central role in the transition to a circular economy and at a local level a number of tools exist in order to aid in transition. 

Urban Metabolism Analysis (UMA)

Cities can measure flows from consumption to waste. This tool helps cast an eye on a cities dependency on resources and can aid in developing policy to help with resource managemant

Public-private collaboration for innovation

In order to fully implement circularity the engagement of the private sector is crucial. Businesses must be willing to transition their production strategies and government must support them with innovative solutions. Early market engagement activity and incentives towards low emission products and infrastructures.

Community engagement

The benefits of a circular economy to communities and vulnerable groups is in reconnecting people to resources and new forms of employment.

Public procurement

Embedding circular principles within procurement tendering processes can create a market push for real circular transition. Encouraging local sourcing and low energy footprints and conducting life cycle assessments of goods are initiatives helpful to approach circular procurement of gods

Lifecycle planning

Considering the life cycle of projects and public investments will help identify the possibility of synergies and reduce waste and resource depletion. Designing buildings to be multi use or capable of disassembly for example.

A green circular economy is expected to create up to 3 million new jobs in europe by 2030 while reducing unemployment by 520,000 (WRAP 2015 http://www.wastecosmart.eu/en/news/wrap-study-circular-economy-could-create-3-million-jobs-in-eu). By 2030 6 million new jobs will be created globally through waste management, repair, renewable energy and construction (IISD 2018). To support this transition in monitoring circular jobs creation the ICLEI have formed Global Initatives for Resource Efficent Cities with cities like Brussels and Amsterdam already engaging in self analysis of resource flows.


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