Circular Cities

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Circular Cities Hub:

"The consumption of resources (materials, energy, water, buildings and land) can be tackled by creating circularity in resource flows in urban systems both throughout a city’s life-cycle (or the life-cycle of its inhabitants) and within the city-region. Systems integration, flexibility, intelligence, cooperative behaviour, localisation, recycling and renewable resources are the key concepts under-pinning the Circular City.

In a circular city:

  • resources can be cycled between urban activities;
  • resources can be cycled within city regions;
  • resources can be re-used / recycled over time.

Examples of circular activities are emerging across cities globally: Swedish eco-cycle model; life-time buildings, smart cycling apps; localised resource systems; urban symbiosis; flexible infrastructure; recyclable buildings; smart city-wide resource monitoring systems, etc.. " (


The context

"Cities consume 75% of natural resources globally (materials, energy, water). They produce 50% of global waste and 60-80% of greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2012). Land and buildings are also under-utilised in cities. For example, in the UK alone there are 700,000 empty homes (22,000 in London).

The principal goal of adopting a circular approach within city-regions is to reduce resource consumption and waste production. It is also to ensure the long-term sustainability of the city-regions natural ecosystem and urban infrastructure. The resources affected by this approach include land, energy and water as well as materials (goods, infrastructure and materials). In a circular city resource flows are cyclical and localised through closed-loop, integrated systems, often resulting in reduced resource consumption, waste and CO2 production (looping, localisation and optimisation). The built fabric is adaptable, flexible and recyclable (adaptation). Resources are re-used, recycled, recovered (looping) and shared (sharing). Renewable energy makes a significant contribution to the energy mix and there is a shift towards non-resource based economies (substitution). The urban living environment adapts to people’s needs throughout the life-cycle, also evolving with cultural and demographic changes (adaptation). Natural capital is restored and regenerated. Ecosystem services actively support, regulate environmental processes and produce new resources within the city-region (regenerate).

Adopting this approach is likely to have real social and economic advantages too. It is likely to help broaden the local economy, generate jobs, encourage the development of new skills amongst the workforce. It will also lead to a renewed sense of community cohesion and engagement in local activities. It should help to ensure optimal utilisation of scarce local services and infrastructure (such as housing). Greener, cleaner and safer urban environments should also create healthier cities. Thus adopting a circular approach addresses a whole raft of contemporary problems facing cities today." (

More information

* Article: Circular Cities: Mapping Six Cities in Transition. SharonPrendeville, Emma Cherim and Nancy Bocken. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, April 2017