The city profiles present many exemplary and replicable solutions
The newly published Circular Cities Declaration (CCD) report celebrates and highlights the great steps cities, many of them ICLEI members, across Europe are taking to support the transition to a circular economy. From Maribor’s circular economy strategy and Budapest’s community composting initiative to Ghent’s repair cafés and Haarlem’s world-leading target for 100% of local procurement to be circular by 2030, the report and the city profiles present many exemplary and replicable solutions.
Throughout 2022, CCD signatories have been submitting individual reports sharing their key activities and interventions in the field of circular economy, and the challenges they have experienced. In total 40 reports were submitted, covering activities from 2021 and 2022. ICLEI Europe, with support from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, led a comprehensive analysis of these submissions, with the CCD report as a result. The two organisations note that this is the widest ever assessment of circular economy practices across European cities. It has identified eight key trends for how circularity is implemented in Europe’s urban areas, as well as the four main barriers hindering a circular economy.
Half of the 40 cities discussed in the report have circular economy strategies in place or in development. Cities that need support with the development of one can benefit from the increasing amount of circular initiatives set up at European level to support them. Moreover, the report makes evident that there is a lot of potential to accelerate the circular transition. Beyond just city authorities, residents, national governments and the private sector all have levers they can pull to help achieve circularity.
The report highlights that the circular transition is happening across all of Europe in big and small cities, and across different sectors. For example, Leuven (Belgium) is setting up digital platforms to support repair services; Torres Vedras (Portugal) is using public procurement to invest in sustainable school meals; Copenhagen (Denmark) is using innovation to find radical new solutions for waste management; Ljubljana (Slovenia) encourages citizens to create their own circular solutions; La Spezia (Italy) requires the reuse of existing structures in construction; and Helsinki (Finland) enables food redistribution to make local food systems more regenerative.
Despite all this good news, the report does not turn a blind eye towards the challenges. Progress towards making cities circular is not as fast as it could be due to a lack of skills and knowledge. Furthermore, a lack of finance options is holding back the pace of transition to a circular economy. The private sector and national governments must help unlock new opportunities. As purchasers of goods and services, cities can contribute to this by using their buying power to lead by example and drive change among their suppliers. Finally, citizens must be aware of their own crucial role. They shape cultural norms and political expectations – these need to adapt alongside the changes brought in by urban authorities if cities are to become truly circular.
The report’s great emphasis on the role of cities in achieving the circular transition fits the broader aims of the Circular Cities Declaration. It was set up to not only support cities in achieving circularity but also to highlight the crucial role they have in this process. Cities are hubs of humanity and centres of economic activity. As Sarah O’ Carroll, Cities Lead at Ellen Macarthur Foundation, notes: “Our cities are uniquely positioned to drive the transition to a circular economy. Though they’re resource and energy intensive, they’re also innovative, interconnected, and home to concentrations of capital, data, and talent. Embedding circular economy principles in cities can result in meaningful change locally, and drive transformation across a nation. This report highlights the growing will, of cities of all sizes, to transition to a circular economy. While progress is not as fast as it could be, due to a lack of skills, knowledge, and finance, it’s inspiring to see many systemic circular solutions already underway at city level.”
Filipe Araujo, the vice-Mayor of the City of Porto, echoes the key role of cities in the circular transition: “Shifting from a linear to a circular economy is essential if we want to achieve decarbonization and stay within planetary boundaries. It represents nothing less than a paradigm shift, as closing and shortening material loops means adopting completely new ways of producing and consuming. As cities, we have a number of policy levers at our disposal which can have a strong influence. We strongly believe that we can show the way forw