Frequently asked questions
CityLoops is an EU-funded project, focusing on circular economy solutions for bio-waste and construction and demolition waste (CDW). 28 partners have joined forces in the project, coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. In CityLoops seven European cities are piloting a series of circular economy actions tackling construction and demolition waste, including soil, and bio-waste with the aim of achieving material circularity. The cities are implementing ten demonstration actions and testing over 30 new tools and processes as part of the project. The pilots consist of three phases: An inception and preparation phase, including a series of preparatory analyses and stakeholder mapping and participatory planning; a demonstration phase, when the solutions are implemented and tested, and a replication phase, when the CityLoops measures will be upscaled at regional and replicated at European level. CityLoops started in October 2019 and will run until September 2023.
The Circular Economy Action Plan is one of the cornerstones of the European Green Deal, Europe’s new agenda for sustainable growth. It aims to promote circular economy processes, foster sustainable consumption and ensure that resources are kept within the EU economy for as long as possible. Furthermore, the Action Plan has identified what sectors have the highest potential for circularity and has introduced legislative and non-legislative measures targeting those areas where action at the EU level brings the most added value. The key sectors identified include, electronics and ICT, plastics, textiles, construction and buildings, water and nutrients, and food. CityLoops will contribute to the circular transition of two of these sectors (bio-waste and construction and demolition waste) by implementing circular actions.
According to the European Commission, the European Union produces around 130 Mt of biowaste per year, a number that is expected to rise in the coming years. While some member states have achieved high material recovery rates, only 43% of the bio-waste in the EU is being recycled and only 25% is recycled into high-quality compost and digestate (reference here). The remainder is disposed either through incineration (26%) or landfilling (31%). These numbers highlight the need for circular alternatives.
Biowaste decomposing in landfills produces methane and leads to an increase of greenhouse gas emissions. Further consequences of landfilling include the pollution of soil and groundwater and the irrevocable loss of valuable resources.
Moreover, Europe annually digests or composts around 30 million tons of separately collected bio-waste in 3,500 treatment plants around the continent. Research carried out by the European Compost Network (ECN), suggests that Europe has the capacity to increase this number to 90 million tonnes, which could lead to the creation of 50,000 jobs, especially in areas of high unemployment. As such, sustainable bio-waste management could also help strengthen rural areas.
CDW is the most significant waste fraction in Europe in terms of volume. According to Eurostat, in 2012 construction and demolition activities were responsible for 32% of all waste generated in the European Economic Area (EEA), with a further 27% from mining and quarrying. Resource consumption for buildings and infrastructure in Europe is highly material intensive, consuming between 1.2 and 1.8 billion tonnes of materials per annum in Europe. Many of these materials are fit for recycling or reuse and have a high resource value. In addition, the technology for the separation and recovery of CDW is well established, accessible and relatively inexpensive. Despite this great potential, CDW recycling rates across the EU vary greatly. Some member states recycle 90%, others only 10%.
The Landfill Directive, adopted in 1999, has had a crucial role in the EU’s efforts to make bio-waste more circular. The Directive obliged member states to reduce the amount of landfilled biodegradable municipal waste to 35% of 1995 level by 2016 – some countries were given until 2020 to achieve this. In 2018 the EU made amendments to the 1999 directive, arguing that the targets laid out in 1999 “should be strengthened to make them better reflect the EU’s ambition to move to a circular economy.” Among other changes, Member states are now obliged to ensure that by 2035 the amount of municipal waste (bio-waste makes up a large proportion of municipal waste) landfilled “is reduced to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated.” Furthermore, by 2030 member states should “ensure that all waste suitable for recycling or other recovery will not be accepted in a landfill.”
In 2008, the EU adopted the Waste Framework Directive, aiming to provide a framework for transition towards a “European recycling society with a high level of resource efficiency.” The Directive stated that Member states should take measures to ensure that by 2020, 70% of CDW is recycled. While this has improved the recycling rate across the EU, currently still only 50% of CDW is recycled in the EU. This is partly due to a lack of confidence in the quality of materials recycled from CDW. Furthermore, some fear that using these materials poses health risks for workers using them. These fears reduce the demand for materials recycled from CDW and make the development of a recycling infrastructure much harder.
Seville, Mikkeli, Porto and Apeldoorn are the CityLoops cities that are developing a wide variety of tools and procedures aimed at making biowaste more circular. This includes an awareness-raising campaign to reduce food waste; an OMSW flow optimisation tool; circular procurement guidelines; the development of business cases for reuse, recycling and valorisation of biowaste; a circularity decision-making support tool, and a valorisation decision tool aimed at assessing the quality of collected waste. More detailed information about these tools, actions and procedures can be found on the city pages on the CityLoops website.
With the exception of Porto – whose focus is on bio-waste –, all CityLoops cities are working on developing a wide variety of tools and procedures aimed at making CDW more circular. This includes a CDW flow optimisation tool; a communication campaign focusing on the prevention of CDW and its correct management; a 3D GIS-based visualisation tool; a methodology for the life cycle assessment of construction and demolition sites; a framework for developing a circular soil strategy; a 3D-modeling tool aimed at tracking on-site material flows; a screening procedures’ tool for the assessment of hazardous materials used in buildings planned for demolition, and a construction material passport. More detailed information about these tools, actions and procedures can be found on the city pages on the CityLoops website.
After these tools and procedures have been developed, they will be implemented during the pilot demonstration actions aimed at making the respective cities more circular. Based on the insights and results generated from this work, these tools, procedures and actions may be replicated in other cities across Europe and beyond.
Cities are invited to join CityLoops as a replicator city and follow its progress, join workshops on practical circular economy measure implementation, go on site visits in the demonstrator cities to see how circular actions and procedures are applied in practice. Cities and organisations located in one of the CityLoops regions can also join the local stakeholder groups called collaborative learning networks.
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. This means, in practice, fostering business models and economic behaviour which decouple resource use from economic activity by maintaining the value and utility of products, components, materials and nutrients 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 well-being, reduce emissions, protect and enhance biodiversity, and promote social justice, in line with the sustainable development goals.
Circular procurement experts Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) and ICLEI will help the CityLoops cities identify how and which procurement activities could be used to strategically support the demonstration actions. Furthermore, over the course of CityLoops, a series of activities will be undertaken to promote and support circular procurement implementation at the city level. Cities will define how circular procurement can support their ambitions in becoming circular - this includes guidelines on including circular procurement in the CDW and bio-waste sectors.
Public spending for goods and services amounts to nearly 19% of the EU’s annual GDP. Consequently, procurement has great potential to shift the market towards more circular products and business models. Cities can help accelerate this shift by using their procurement and investment budgets to drive demand for circular services and products and by integrating standards for circular products and services in existing public procurement frameworks. Such actions can make procurement a powerful tool for cities aiming to transition towards a circular economy. This approach is a different way of acquiring goods and services and procuring authorities will need to look beyond the purchasing price to also consider the lifecycle impact of products throughout the supply chain. Implementing circular procurement means to shift the focus towards the use of a product, rather than on its ownership.
Defining operable circular city definitions and indicators helps governments to understand which parameters need to be measured and where citizens and cities can have most impact. To that end, CityLoops works with a clear definition of a circular city. In addition, the project is developing a comprehensive indicator set for circular cities, including guidance on how to measure them. At the end of the project, this will result into an evaluation framework based on a series of circularity and sustainability indicators. This should help measure the progress towards the circular economy in a city and the success of circular economy pilots.