Looking at the 8 projects selected in 2016 gives an overview of the issues that urban authorities are dealing with when implementing circular economy practices. Most of the projects have a holistic or a large-scale approach as they combine a large range of actions dealing with economic, social and environmental issue. Thus, the projects deal with the zero waste cities strategy challenges with a wide range of tools, activities and techniques including both offline and online tools. The combination of these different approaches and actions creates a new framework in which innovation can be found.
- Antwerp Circular South – engaging the community in an online and offline circular economy, Antwerp
- A2UFood –Avoidable and Unavoidable Food Wastes: A Holistic Managing Approach for Urban Environments, Heraklion
- Super Circular Estate – First Circular Social Housing Estate for 100% Material and Social Circularity, Kerkrade
- Urban infra revolution – Circular economy materials and novel method development to produce recyclable and functional urban construction products, Lappeenranta
- APPLAUSE – Alien Plant Species from harmful to useful citizens’ led activities, Ljubljana
- URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD – Establishment of Innovative Urban Soil Based Economy Circles to Increase Local Food Self-sufficiency and Minimize Environmental Footprint, Maribor
- Earth Cycle – On-site recycling process of extracted soil from the subway work in SEVRAN and its impact on the circular economy, Sevran
- BRICK-BEACH – Artificial regeneration of urban beaches with eroded recycled aggregates, Velez-Malaga
One project has been selected from the 5th call of proposals on Circular Economy:
- RE/SOURCED - Renewable Energy SOlutions for URban communities based on Circular Economy policies and Dc backbones, Leiedal Intermunicipal Association
The project’s description will be online in the upcoming months. In the meantime, you can get a first flavor of the projects here.
Two major trends can be underlined in UIA projects: Construction and Demolition Waste specific challenges and cooperation and participative approaches.
Construction and Demolition Waste specific challenges
Although circular economy is a quite extended field, 4 out of 8 projects chose to deal with the same and specific challenges of Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW). It is, indeed, an important issue as today, only 1% of building elements are reused in Europe, following their first application. The result is a high environmental impact and a net loss of economic value. Depending on the local challenges, the scale and level of building construction vary:
- Circular infrastructure projects
The BRICK-BEACH project of Velez-Malaga combines a zero waste and decontamination approach to deal with its coastal erosion and waste problem. The project is planning to build a new recycling treatment plant, which will produce a certified high quality recycled aggregate from construction, demolition waste and illegal dumping. This will be used in the regeneration project of the Mezquitilla beach and will mitigate its erosion.
The Super Circular Estate of Kekrade is one example of innovative circular buildings as it aims at providing social housing out of reusing and recycling materials acquired from deconstruction. The approach of the project is not only about building four pilot circular housing units but is also about providing a high-quality, desirable urban environment and affordable housing opportunities in a shrinking area.
The Urban Infra Revolution project of Lappeenranta proposes the development of new material for construction industry in extreme weather areas, using local waste (ash, tailings, cement…) as a raw material for street furniture. By closing the material loop in order to diminish the CO2 emissions of urban building, the city offers an innovative approach to address zero waste cities challenges. Sevran is also experiencing this innovative approach in order to deal with soil waste that is going to be extracted from two major metro stations. The Earth Cycle is indeed transforming these excavation materials from the construction of new metro stations into certified earth building materials (bricks, panel of clay, wall coating, earth with fibers) to regenerate the new urban area with earth building.
Cooperation, co-production and participative approaches
The overall projects focus on inclusive approaches as implementing circular economy actions require a strong framework of cooperation between a wide range and great number of the consumption loop actors as well as a thorough participation process. Hence, these two dimensions are usually brought together as enabling broad citizens’ participation and bringing stakeholders to work together are key in ensuring a real societal change towards circular economy. Therefore, UIA projects shape their combined actions according to their local context and target groups. The Antwerp Circular South is a relevant example to demonstrate how some projects directly address the educational and behavioral challenges. The project uses a participative approach, testing advanced technological solutions through online and outline activities, to achieve a behavioral change in waste management. Concretely, it tests community-driven activities about sharing repairing and reuse of materials that optimize the exchange of knowledge, skills and ideas and therefore develop the community’s circular dynamics to reduce its resource footprint.
In Heraklion, the project combines different activities in order both to target citizens’ consumption through a food waste monitoring app and the food stakeholders of the city with solutions such as a second opportunity restaurant and a bioplastic production system. This approach allows the A2UFood project to deal with the overall circular economy loop, managing food waste in all its aspects: reduction, reuse, recycling.
The co-production of knowledge is also at the core of UIA projects as searching for new resources implies to test the potential of underestimated materials. The APPLAUSE project of the city of Ljubljana is addressing this particular challenge by turning the Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) ecological problem to a resource, hence to frame a new business model. This objective is to be achieved through educational activities and multi-scale transformations that can be performed at home (e.g. food, dyes), in tutored workshops by citizens (e.g. to produce wood or paper articles) and in craftsman laboratories (e.g. to manufacture innovative products with market potential in social enterprises, employing vulnerable groups).
The city of Maribor also enhances the community-led practices in its URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD project. It aims at using city’s waste to produce urban soil for community gardens in order to target the soil depletion issue. The entire process is then included in a strong cooperation framework in order to collect bio-waste for agriculture, to evaluate the best possible soil mixes and enable the community’s land work.