Methodological framework for the implementation of circular economy in urban systems

Urban areas are hubs for innovation, economic activity and growth that hugely influence the development of our society, making those areas important drivers in the global transition towards circular economy. Although global policies are necessary to set the general ambition, local interventions are crucial to realize it. This paper presents a methodological framework aimed at facilitating the understanding and application of circular economy strategies in urban systems, that being a single city, or urban regions. The framework is conceived as a flexible structure that contains a network of potential decisions, describing different convergence and divergence points, and that is meant as a supporting tool for future urban circular economy implementation initiatives.

After a literature review and an analysis of specific case studies on urban circular economy implementation, a four-phased methodology is proposed where the territory is explored in order to identify and select initiatives in the areas with greatest potential for circular economy. Actions needed to implement the selected initiatives are finally summarized in a roadmap. Each phase contains recommendations of different tasks to complete and available tools for achieving the expected results. Different approaches to adopt in the application of this methodology are discussed as well, such as production-based vs. consumption-based, and top-down vs. bottom-up. Special emphasis is put on the importance of involving local agents, in order to obtain specific and validated proposals that are adapted to the reality of the territory and the concerns of the stakeholders.

Through these comprehensive guidelines, the ultimate goal of this methodology is to help urban systems to foster circular economy principles, and therefore reaffirm their role in addressing and managing global sustainability issues.