The circular economy, international option

Posted on 10 December 2019.

Canadian and European universities have joined forces to set up an international program dedicated to the circular economy. The modules were taught in Paris, Brussels and Montreal in June 2019.

"It's a great opportunity to learn from experiences in the field by comparing international initiatives."

Fifteen days’ immersion in the heart of the circular economy on two continents. The very attractive promise of the new "City, territory, circular economy" summer school. The first edition took place in three leading cities in the field: Montreal, Paris and Brussels, from June 16 to 30, 2019.

The program was launched by the Université de Montréal and Canada’ EDDEC (Institut de l’Environnement, du Développement Durable and de l’Economie Circulaire), in partnership with several European universities (in Switzerland, Belgium and France).

Although not the first to offer a student program on the subject, the international scale gives it an extra dimension that explores very different ways of approaching the subject. The core of the project is comparing points of view and showing all the facets of tomorrow’s economy.

"When studying the circular economy, you’re confronted by a large number of different theories. It's a great opportunity to learn from experiences in the field by comparing international initiatives," says Sonia Veyssière, a PhD student and program participant in 2019. Training "future circular economy champions", as the Université de Montréal proudly proclaims!

Who is accepted on the program? Fifty entrepreneurs, professionals and students from all over the world selected on the basis of their application forms. Each of the three cities had a complete program for them: meetings with local stakeholders (business, local authorities, associations), learning about places and cities’ circular economy initiatives, along with role plays to put themselves in the shoes of circular economy players.

Codesign and waste flow management

For example, in order to understand the codesign method (which makes users central to the design of a product or service), students reflected on the implementation of a system for circular food on the scale of a simple street. The goal? Design responsible urban agriculture that involves all the residents, long term.

Students were also able to learn about how cities build strong links with peri-urban and urban areas. For example, how each reorganizes waste streams management in consultation with the surrounding local authorities. They even learned to model the flow of materials themselves.

In Paris, students were able to speak with the winners of the "Inventons Greater Paris Metropolis" project. In particular, they discussed the role of the future eco-neighborhoods in Paris and how the capital is completely overhauling its urban planning model for construction sites in Greater Paris and for the 2024 Olympic Games.

For example the students analyzed the grandpariscirculaire.org platform. It was launched at the end of 2018 with the aim of involving the construction industry, public actors and associations around innovative initiatives.

The projects produced some very positive feedback from students. "I’d heard about lots of initiatives, but seeing the achievements concretely, interacting with stakeholders from all over the world allowed me to put my vision of the circular economy into perspective. It has greatly enriched my research," says Sonia Veyssière.

The program will be repeated in 2020.