With more than half of humanity living in cities, what better place to experiment with and implement the circular economy on a large-scale? Urban areas like San Francisco, Vancouver and Stockholm are paving the way.
The 21st century will be urban: cities now house 54% of the world's population - the proportion is expected to reach 65% by 2050. In a few years’ time, a small area of the planet will be home to most of humanity – together with the majority of tomorrow’s ecological, economic and societal challenges. The circular economy is the solution a large number of cities have already adopted.
A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation indicates that cities currently consume 75% of natural resources and generate 50% of waste and 80% of global CO2 emissions. With the expected urban population explosion, cities face the daunting challenge of ensuring local actors have the resources they need while also reducing their negative externalities.
The linear make–use-throw model has demonstrated its limitations. Cities now need to begin transitioning to the circular economy. This involves reviewing every facet of their ecosystems - construction, mobility, energy, water management, waste treatment, etc. All over the world, large cities are choosing this model, involving the local authorities, businesses and their citizens.
Thress cities lead the way
San Francisco is now a model for waste management. In 2003, it set the ambitious goal of recycling 100% of its garbage by 2020. It is already at 80%. To achieve this, every building (homes, hotels, businesses, etc.) is equipped with three different bins. In 2007, it was also the first city in the United States to ban plastic bags.
Further north in Vancouver, Canada's largest metropolitan area, is also its greenest. Its goal is to become the most sustainable city in the world by 2020: construction of "carbon neutral" buildings, renewable energy, waste reuse...
In Europe, Stockholm has been a pioneer for many years with in particular its eco-district, Hammarby Sjöstad. This old dilapidated industrial dock area has been completely rebuilt with the aim of reducing its negative externalities by 50%. All the resources circulating in the neighborhood (water, energy, waste) are designed to be reusable.Milan, Amsterdam and now Paris, which in July 2017 unveiled its "Circular Economy Plan"… Cities are gradually taking up the challenge of the circular economy, paving the way for widespread awareness. Tomorrow’s great ecological and economic battles will be won in the heart of our cities.