© Tom Feenstra
The EUROCITIES Environment Forum met in Amsterdam on the 4-6 April 2018, to discuss making the circular economy a reality at local level. More than 170 representatives from 62 cities came to Amsterdam to exchange knowledge and discuss how the transition towards circular economy can be transformed into a reality. Nine deputy mayors, as well as city practitioners, representatives of financial institutions and businesses attended. One of the highlights included guided visits around five examples of how the circular economy is implemented in the city of Amsterdam, from the Almere paper factory to the regeneration of an old industrial area into a new circular neighbourhood.
The main messages from the three days were:
- Across Europe, cities are investing in circular economy pilot projects and making the circular transition a reality in their territory. The range of activities is very varied from food waste reduction, to circular buildings and circular procurement. However, cities are facing a challenge when it comes to knowing how best to measure their ‘circularity’. This is partly due to a lack of standards and indicators, which would help monitor progress and unlock cities’ full potential to implement the circular economy. The identification of circular indicators at EU level, based on circular rather than linear data, would help cities to unlock their purchasing power potential through their public procurement procedures.
- Decoupling resource consumption from growth is key to ensuring the transition towards circular, sustainable cities. As highlighted by Harald Friedl, CEO of Circle Economy, actions towards a circular economy deliver huge benefits, through reduction of GHG emissions, creating a pathway to achieve the Paris climate goals, and eliminating cities’ dependence on extraction of virgin material. It is important to develop long term value creation, sustained by a strong market in secondary raw materials, which could be unlocked via a shift in national taxation from labour to resources.
- Cities are already investing and developing financial instruments that facilitate the implementation of sustainable and circular economy projects. The example of Gothenburg Green Bonds clearly showed such a commitment. Likewise, the EU budget, including the European Structural and Investment Funds, is a key instrument for cities for a successful transition to a low carbon and circular society in the future. Moreover, there is still a lot of research needed in this field. Creating new knowledge and sharing good experiences is essential for scaling up the transition to its next phase, as highlighted by the circular economy urban agenda partnership.
Imagine the Urban Future Session
Members of the environment forum had the opportunity to engage in the on-going process of the ‘Future of EUROCITIES’, by reflecting on the structure, activities and services of the network and considering a more integrated approach to EUROCITIES’ work. Abdeluheb Choho, deputy mayor of Amsterdam and EEF chair, identified growth, inclusion and societal transformations as the three main clusters to focus on, while Carlos Lemmens, from ARUP consultancy, called for a rethinking of the urban environment and public engagement as the two key methods to prepare cities to face the future.
Other examples that grasped the attention of participants included:
- London’s circular economy metrics
As part of its circular economy route map, London is developing a set of metrics and indicators that demonstrate city progress towards a more circular economy. By developing these metrics with a narrative based on resource efficiency, recycling/waste generation and business/employment opportunities, as well as developing a framework to measure city wide enablers on the circular economy (e.g. policy development, provision of finance, staff understanding, communications), the city aims to influence policy makers and to attract investors and external funding.
- Paris’ waste heat recovery from its sewer system
Paris has been trialing the capture of waste heat from its sewers to heat three buildings: a school, a public pool, and their own city hall. The project uses heat exchangers placed in sewer pipes near the buildings, supported by a heat pump in each building. The waste heat recovery addresses between 40% to 30% of the buildings heat consumption (depending on the building typology). The system is also reversible and can be used for cooling. While Paris has a sewer network of just over 2,000 km, the potential for heat recovery only along 60-90km due to the need for the right heating profile in the buildings and proximity to the sewer pipes. Each installed system costs €400,000 and is expected to payback within 20 years.
- Porto’s new circular economy action plan
Turning Porto into a ‘circular city’ by 2030 is the focus of its new circular economy municipal strategy. The elaboration and further implementation of the strategy is a transversal process involving different societal stakeholders, multi sector companies, universities, technology and research centres as well as NGOs and citizens. The roadmap comes up with concrete actions and sets out the main responsibility of the city to create the conditions to unleash stakeholders’ potential to enact change. Porto commits itself to: pursuing circularity principles in the acquisition of goods and services; supporting companies in transforming environmental and social challenges into business opportunities, and engaging with citizens to make more informed choices.