The Circular Economy’s Path To The Sustainable City

How can sustainable cities make the transition to a successful circular economy, creating an urban system that is regenerative and restorative by design?

On November 24, the aware_ x THE conference enters a virtual second round: The experts of the curated network of aware_ THE PLATFORM and THE provide a cross-sector insight into the future topics of Sustainable Cities & Circular Economy. Global brands and innovative start-ups from the fields of tech/AI, infrastructure and architecture will introduce themselves and explain their concepts based on unique lighthouse projects.

Circularity is the topic in the field of sustainability. It plays a key role in decoupling sustainability and economic growth. However, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome to achieve actual circular economy. From ideas for sustainable cities to design, mobility and AI, there are multiple approaches to how different industries, application areas and design methods can approach the circular economy.

But what does circular economy actually mean? A circular economy is a regenerative system that drives responsible use and reuse of resources and raw materials, protection of the environment, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and innovation in waste management (bee smart city). It aims to use products and materials permanently without consuming additional resources. This can be achieved through durable design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, or recycling (circular Berlin).

In this regard, a circular economy is based on four principles: understanding finite resources, preventing waste and pollution and other negative externalities, preserving materials by designing them for reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling, and lastly, preserving natural capital by circulating nutrients and creating regeneration (Smart City Hub).

circular economy

Already today, more than 50 percent of people worldwide live and work in cities; in Germany, the figure is already 75 percent (bpb). In the coming decades, more and more people will move to urban areas. Worldwide, the United Nations predicts that up to 70 percent of the population will live in cities by 2050 (statista). Cities and metropolitan areas also account for about 60% of Gross Domestic Product, are responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions and more than 60% of resource use. Worldwide, 1.7 times the number of resources the earth can produce is consumed. Of this, in turn, only an estimated 40% is recycled or reused (bee smart city). This urbanization process increases environmental, social and economic pressure and highlights the importance of finding environmentally sustainable solutions to reduce resource consumption. It is about providing the right resources at the right time – be it for housing, education, health, energy, mobility or consumer goods. The circular economy is one of the concepts gaining popularity at the city level and aims to reduce the pressure on the ecosphere described earlier. In this context, cities represent a great potential for the transition to an ecologically sustainable world, because the development of future urban systems can only go hand in hand with a circular economy focused on the well-being of the entire ecosystem (Frontiers Media).

circular economy

But how can cities make the transition to a successful circular economy? The European Commission has announced a number of measures to achieve this in a Circular Economy Action Plan. These include strategies such as local production, repair and reuse initiatives, urban agriculture, natural resource conservation, renewable energy use, energy conservation, sustainable consumption, sustainable water and waste management, or infrastructure solutions for e-mobility and low-energy neighborhoods (bee smart city; Frontiers Media). Cities have the opportunity to advance the circular economy while promoting these strategies. In addition, the principles of the circular economy promote sustainable urban systems to ensure economic growth while reducing resource depletion and waste production and reducing CO2 emissions. A circular city incorporates these principles in all of its functions, creating an urban system that is regenerative and restorative by design (Frontiers Media; ISB Global).

Learn more about circular economy and sustainable cities firsthand at our aware_ x THE conference on November 24: Outstanding thought leaders of the field share their knowledge and exclusive insights, describing special projects and the ongoing evolution of circularity, sustainable cities, and its protagonists. Further information at

by Marie Klimczak

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