Measuring City Circularity

Measuring the Circular City

Cities need to understand how their activities impact the state of the circular economy in their region. To support cities achieve their goals, these need to be defined and progress needs to be measured. Therefore, in CityLoops, we have developed an operable circular city definition accompanied by indicators that help understanding which parameters need to be measured and where CityLoops cities can have most impact.

Circular City Indicators

Indicators help to measure the progress towards the circular economy in a city and the success of circular economy pilots. The CityLoops project has developed a comprehensive indicator set for circular cities, including guidance on how to measure them. This work led to the development of an evaluation framework based on a series of circularity and sustainability indicators.

"A circular city is one that promotes the transition from a linear to a circular economy in an integrated way across all its functions, in collaboration with citizens, businesses and the research community. It fosters business models and economic behaviour which decouple resource use from economic activity by maintaining value and utility of for as long as possible, in order to close material loops and minimise harmful resource use and waste generation. Through this transition, cities seek to improve human wellbeing, reduce emissions, protect and enhance biodiversity, and promote social inclusion, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals."

There are many circular economy definitions available. To make them useful for cities, The CityLoops project is proposing this one.

Assessing Urban Circularity 

A key step for circular planning and decision making is understanding the material and energy flows, entering, being consumed, transformed or stocked in and leaving cities, or in other words, the urban metabolism. This includes measuring material, waste, water, and energy flows and stocks in cities and getting an idea about the (utility) infrastructures, actors and companies that facilitate those. Gathering and visualising this data helps to identify where and how to intervene and which loops to close. In CityLoops, we have developed and piloted a methodology for cities to conduct urban circularity assessments in specific sectors and city wide.

Sector Circularity Assessment

To get a better understanding of the sector(s) they are working on, the CityLoops cities carried out Sector-wide Circularity Assessments (SCA’s) of the biomass sector and the construction sector. They were supported in the development of these assessments by Metabolism of Cities, through two courses focusing on data collection and data visualisation. This exercise helped provide the cities with a framework to develop a solid data and knowledge foundation to kickstart their circular journey.

The SCA reports provide contextual information on the CityLoops cities and their sectors under study, and illustrate through circularity indicators and Sankey diagrams (more information on how to create Sankey Diagrams can be found here) how circular these sectors are. Furthermore, these reports analyse and interpret the results, present the limitations of the data used and offer recommendations on how to make the sectors more circular

SCA in practice

The SCA reports contribute to making data visible, breaking silo’s, contextualizing both the CityLoops demonstration actions and the materials available in these sectors, establishing the status quo with a baseline for analysis, giving cites a better understanding of the big picture in the sectors, informing policy making, upscaling the CityLoops demonstration actions, and unlocking circular hotspot analysis.

Within CityLoops, the SCA reports don’t stand on their own. They will be connected to the Urban Circularity Assessment (UCA) and the Circularity Hotspot Analysis (CHA), both to be developed at a later stage of the project. These complementary analyses will help to further advance cities towards their circular economy journey, until they can develop their own circularity roadmap. These analyses will developed in a way that allows their work and insights to be integrated with each other, to make the overall approach coherent and easier for the cities. 

Urban Circularity Assessment

The Urban Circularity Assessment (UCA) is an urban, economy-wide material flow and stock accounting method, which paired with indicators, will enable the assessment of material circularity of a municipality or city. It helps to maximise circularity insights while reducing data needs and staying scientifically sound, easily transferable, and comparable to national and EU statistics.

The overarching aim of the UCA is to monitor progress toward a Circular Economy (CE) from an economy-wide perspective at the city-level, rather than just at the level of individual products or sectors. Only at this scale can system-wide effects like displacement and rebound be captured, as well as the determination made whether absolute reductions in resource use and waste flows have been accomplished or are feasible. 


11.2 %

Circular Material Use Rate

Only 11.2% of material in the EU are used in a circular way



47.5% of of municpal waste is reused or recycled in the EU

70m tonnes

food waste

70 million tonnes of food waste occur every year in the EU