Europe Hub

Closing material loops and accelerating the circular transition by decoupling economic growth from resource use

About the Europe Hub

The European hub has been building a strong European community of practice through the European Circular Cites Declaration. Explore circular economy priorities relevant for European Cities, leading cities of the ICLEI Europe Network and key initiatives and partners in this hub.

Priorities of the Europe Hub

  • Circularity in the European Union

    With 75% of the EU’s citizens living in urban areas, Europe’s cities are well positioned to reap the benefits of the circular transition. The shift to a resource-efficient, low-carbon and socially responsible society, in which resource consumption is decoupled from economic growth, has the potential to build economic, natural and social capital. Seeing this potential, the EU has made the Circular Economy Action Plan one of the cornerstones of the European Green Deal. This plan aims to promote circular economy processes, foster sustainable consumption and ensure that resources are kept within the EU economy for as long as possible.

  • Sectoral Priorities

    The European Green Deal has also identified which sectors have the highest potential for circularity. These include electronics and ICT, plastics, textiles, construction and buildings, water and nutrients, and food.

    Making these sectors circular demands ambitious action. With increasing urbanisation and demands for urban housing, cities have become a major hub for waste resulting from construction and demolition works. Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW) is the most significant waste fraction in Europe in volume terms, with construction and demolition activities being responsible for around 30% of all waste generated in the EU. Moreover, buildings and infrastructure in Europe are highly material intensive, consuming between 1.2 and 1.8 billion tonnes of materials per year. CDW consists of diverse materials such as concrete, bricks, wood, metals, plastic, solvents, and excavated soil. Many of these materials are fit for recycling or reuse, and have a high resource value. The technology for the separation and recovery of CDW is well established, accessible and relatively inexpensive. Yet despite this huge potential, recycling rates across the EU vary greatly; some member states recycle 90% of CDW, others 10%.

    The biowaste and the plastics sector face similar challenges. The European Union produces around 130 Mt of biowaste per year, a number that is expected to rise in the coming years. While some member states have achieved high material recovery rates, only 43% of the biowaste in the EU is being recycled and only 25% is recycled into high-quality compost and digestate. Regarding plastics, currently more than 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced per year in EU Member States, with only 29.7% being recycled.

  • Projects

    Projects such as CityLoops (coordinated by ICLEI ES), PlastiCircle, and Circ-Pack are some of the projects in which ICLEI ES is involved which aim to make the CDW, Biowaste and plastic waste streams more circular. Eric Velthuizen, coordinator for the city of Utrecht in PlastiCircle explains how this will benefit his city: “In Utrecht we want to move from a linear to a circular economy. We want to close the raw material gap by 2040-2050, and it will take a lot of hard work to get there. And we have a lot of questions. How can we motivate our citizens to separate their waste? What do we need from them? What do they need from us? PlastiCircle will help us formulate the questions, but also collect the answers – answers from not only our citizens, but also from companies. Companies that sort the plastic waste, companies that recycle the plastic, and companies that use the recycled material for new products.”

Europe’s Leading Circular Cities

Umeå

Sweden

Umeå is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe with a young, progressive and environmentally-friendly population. That has contribtued to it becoming a Smart City Lighthouse dedicated to growing in a sustainable manner, a pioneer in integrating gender equality in urban planning; and a recent signatory to the European Circular Cities Declaration showing its commitment to remaining a sustainability frontrunner and using all the levers at its disposal to accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy. By 2050, the city expects to reach a population of 200.000 inhabitants (130.000 today), which demands a successful integration of environmental, social and economic planning to maintain the high quality of life, the natural beauty and the thriving economy.

Porto

Portugal

The circular economy is one of the key strands of Porto’s medium and long-term municipal strategy for the environment. The Roadmap for a Circular Porto by 2030, drawn up in 2017 highlights the main practices and projects in place in Porto, offers a long-term vision, identifies opportunities and sets out a program of specific actions that will transform Porto into a circular city by 2030. Porto works on several (European) projects to put its ideas into practice. One example is CItyLoops. As part of this project Porto aims to develop several tools that will improve the circularity of its organic waste sector. Its main objective is to implement actions focusing on procurement, prevention and local treatment to decrease biowaste generation and introduce dedicated systems to increase separated biowaste collection.

Florence

Italy

The municipality of Florence is moving towards a circular city system, focusing on one of the main challenging sectors: waste management. The new plan “Firenze Circular City” aims at organizing, in an innovative way, the bestowal and collection of urban waste. The Municipality, through a project which started in October 2020 and will be completed within two years, is organising the introduction of a door-to-door garbage collection in low urbanized areas and in the rest of the city the placement of smart bins that can be opened only with an identification key. In addition, The “Firenze Plastic Free” plan, approved in 2019 as part of the “Firenze City Circular” general plan, aims to reduce single-use plastics through more information and awareness of more virtuous practices and lifestyles.

Ghent

Belgium

The city of Ghent commits, via the Cleantech Cluster Regio Gent, to support innovation and sustainable entrepreneurship. The city is implementing a strategy that aims to achieve its climate objectives in terms of mitigation and adaptation by reducing the use of materials, land, energy, water and food. To achieve its circular economy objectives, built on the ambitions of the Cleantech Cluster Regio Ghent, the city works with North Sea Port, Province of East Flanders, POM, Cleantech Flanders and the Ghent University. Together, they have set themselves the goal of enabling their region to excel in CleanTech innovation and its valorisation by 2030.

 

Turku

Finland

The city of Turku is committed to a resource wise future with zero emissions, zero waste and a low ecological footprint with the sustainable use of natural resources by the year 2040. Turku aims at being carbon neutral by 2029 and climate positive with negative net emissions thereafter. To support these goals, Turku collaborates with regional partners to develop the Circular Turku roadmap. Read the Circular Turku report to learn more about Turku´s existing circular economy best practices.

Mayor Minna Arve holds the Global Circular Development Portfolio at ICLEI and as such plays a championing role to support the localization of the circular economy within the network.

  • The European Circular Cities Declaration

    The European Circular Cities Declaration is designed to help accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy in Europe, and thereby create a resource-efficient, low-carbon and socially responsible society.

    The Declaration aims to offer benefits to those cities willing to take the lead in the circular transition. Signatories will have opportunities for collaboration with peers, and become part of a powerful unified group of cities that will help raise awareness of the long-term political, societal, environmental and financial benefits of the circular economy, and contribute to the development of a supportive political framework.

    The Declaration furthermore allows local and regional governments across Europe to clearly communicate to their citizens and their peers their commitment to supporting the circular transition. It also provides signatories with a common shared vision of what a circular city is. it as a city that “promotes the transition from a linear to a circular economy in an integrated way across all its function in collaboration with citizens, businesses and the research community. This means in practice fostering business models and behaviour which decouple resource use from economic activity by maintaining the value and utility of products, components, materials and nutrients for as long as possible, in order to close material loops and minimise harmful resource use and waste generation.” The Declaration finally notes that through these circular transition it seeks to improve human wellbeing, reduce emissions, protect and enhance biodiversity, and promote social justice, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

    A list of the current signatories can be found here.