Last January 20th the Forum of Young Global Leaders announced the winners of their first version of The Circulars, an initiative to recognise individuals and enterprises that have made a 'notable' contribution to driving the circular economy principles in five different categories: Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Pioneers, Digital Disruptor and Cities/Regions.
This last category is our focus today, the cities or regions that are at the fore front of transitioning towards a circular economy. Although circularity mainly happens at a product or organisation level, a systems level is key to facilitate the transformation and there is where cities and regions are key players. Here we present a list of the most attractive cities to start a circular business based on their commitment to promote an enabling environment for circularity.
But first, let's try to define what a circular city or region might be: it would be a urban/rural system organised in such a way that encourages cyclical urban metabolism. What does this mean? Well, it can mean many things but basically a circular city or region would be a place where activities are organised in such a way that circularity can happen in an efficient way. Let's review some examples.
Since 2003 the Chinese government has been working on creating a circular economy for China as a response for the increasing environmental burden their economic growth has created. In 2008 they approved the Circular Economy Promotion Law with the purpose of "promoting the development of the circular economy, improving the resource utilization efficiency, protecting and improving the environment and realizing sustainable development."
2. the netherlands
The Netherlands have been working on circular economy from very early on. There are initiatives in Rotterdam and the Delta region to implement circularity principles with different sectors but also guidelines at the national level. Several private and public initiatives are being implemented to make the Netherlands a "circular hotspot".
Denmark was the 2015 winner of The Circulars in the City/Regions category for its commitment to zero-waste, recycling and renewable energy. They have banned the construction of incinerators, one of the main drivers of waste generation. The country has set its transitioning path in the document "Denmark without waste" released in 2013.
4. Scotland - uk
The Scottish government approved its Resource Efficient Program in April 2013 that provides advice and support to individuals and organisations to improve their resource use; sector-focused activities to increase efficiency in sectors such as construction, food and hospitality for example; finally a monitoring and evaluation program.
5. New south wales - australia
Australia has implemented a program, Sustainability Advantage, to support businesses in their transition to a circular economy as an incubator. As a result of this initiative, many examples of circularity in different business are now available from this region: from co-firing programs to use waste biomass to mattresses recycling.
Although all of these regions are in Europe and Australia, the potential for developing circular regions is all over the world especially where reuse, recycle and remanufacturing traditional practices are still alive and have not been displaced by the newness hype.
All these regions share high levels of awareness about the links between environmental sustainability and economy and its impact on well-being. It is also clear that political will is not an obstacle here since politicians are supportive of such initiatives. Lastly, innovation, curiosity and creativity are at the heart of these communities making the transition towards circularity a natural process for them.
Given the support not only from local governments, but the enthusiasm shown by organisations at the global level, circular regions seem to have a bright future.