Circular City Labs

Testing reusable packaging systems in cities

About Circular City Labs

The project Circular City Labs (CCL) – Testing reusable packaging systems in cities aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through waste prevention by promoting reusable packaging systems and strengthening women participation in local circular economies. The selected partner cities for this challenge are Tirana (Albania), Tbilisi (Georgia), and Medellín (Colombia).

The project is carried out by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in collaboration with ICLEI on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is funded through the BMZ Initiative for Climate and Environmental Protection (IKU).

Learn more about the project in this brief video.

More about the project

  • What is reusable packaging?

    For the purpose of this project, we use the following definition of reuse: “Reusable packaging is packaging designed to be used multiple times for the same purpose for which it was conceived. While single-use packaging is designed to be thrown away after one use, reuse systems employ a circular system where packaging can be used, cleaned, refilled, and reused, over and over again. Reusable packaging is not transformed for a different purpose, and it is supported by a functional system that enables the package to repeatedly serve the same purpose.“ Source: WWF (2022). WWF Position. The role of reuse in a circular economy for plastics.

    Specifically, in this project we:
    – Do not focus on “second-hand” goods, such as second-hand textiles, or remanufacturing of electronics or similar
    – Focus on return models including a deposit scheme instead of refill systems. Collecting a deposit ensures that users return the used containers to receive their deposit back – necessary to sustain the system.
    Examples could include reusable cups and containers for take-aways drinks and food; reusable cups for public events; reusable crates for transporting goods; reusable bags and boxes for e-commerce, etc.

  • What is the focus of this project?

    Through the Circular City Labs project, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through waste prevention by promoting economically viable reuse systems and strengthening the participation of women in local circular economies.

  • What is the role of different actors in this project?

    Role of municipalities:

    Cities have density and scale of citizens, businesses, material and resource flows. Depending on the level of interest, available capacity, and competencies, municipalities can get involved in the CCL project in different forms:

    a) Connect stakeholders and promote collaborative cooperation
    b) Lead by example and offer/procure reuse solutions/services (e.g. reusable cups for public events)
    c) Regulate and incentivize reuse schemes
    d) Define and communicate a circular vision and strategy
    e) Embed circular principles in their infrastructure and services.

    Role of national ministries:

    National ministries play a crucial role to develop enabling framework conditions for reuse systems. Within the CCL project, the main focus will be to develop and test practical solutions with businesses and municipalities on the ground.

    Role of women:

    The shift to a circular economy offers a potential to tackle structural challenges and inequalities. Therefore, understanding this shift as an opportunity for women’s participation in local circular economies is essential to encourage gender equality in this momentum. Women not only play a crucial role in environmentally sustainable consumption, influencing a substantial portion of household purchases but should also be recognised as knowledge bearers and decision-makers involving them in addressing global challenges. By raising awareness about sustainable consumption and production and by encouraging women to take on leadership and managerial positions, a foundation for a more inclusive and gender equal circular economy is created.
    Companies that embrace gender diversity are more likely to engage in sustainable business parties and to adopt sustainable practices by prioritizing social and environmental impacts in their business strategies. However, women face several barriers such as low pay, low security and limited social mobility when entering and advancing in economic and entrepreneurial activities. This highlights the importance of policies engaging in gender equality in the context of the circular economy.

    Role of businesses:

    Different businesses could get involved in the Circular City Labs project:

    a) Businesses with strong intentions and concrete plans to introduce/test reusable packaging
    b) Reusable packaging producers
    c) Reuse system providers (e.g. businesses with digital tools supporting reuse schemes, businesses focusing on reuse logistics such as washing of containers)

    Role of other actors:

    Other actors, such as civil society groups, academia or circular economy hubs, will be invited to participate in the labs by attending (online) events, providing technical inputs, sharing their perspectives at panel discussions, contribute to awareness raising and behavioral change, etc.

Webinar: Initiating reuse – Perspectives for businesses and cities

This webinar introduces the Circular City Labs project and delves into reuse business models for waste prevention with industry experts. Input on gender equality and its potential within the circular economy and the reuse sector is provided, along with the role of municipalities and local governments in promoting reuse models, accompanied by case studies of cities engaging in reuse practices.

Watch the recording