The circular economy is about preventing wasted resources, improving the durability of goods and products, and transforming waste into new inputs. The transition from a linear to a circular economy will be all the more relevant in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis when cities and regions will be urged to reconsider the link between environment and health, and reflect on the dematerialisation of the economy and society and on circular resources loops in response to the hyper-globalisation of the recent years.

In cities and regions, the circular economy should ensure that:

  • Services (e.g. from water to waste and energy) are provided while preventing waste generation, making efficient use of natural resources as primary materials, optimising their reuse and allowing synergies across sectors.

  • Economic activities are planned and executed in a way to close, slow and narrow loops across value chains.

  • Infrastructure is designed and built to avoid linear lock-in, which uses resources intensively and inefficiently.

In the post-COVID-19 era, the circular economy can become the new normal and play a significant role to support local and national governments in their recovery packages to build back better. This unprecedented crisis highlighted the unsustainable nature of certain economic, environmental and social trends and the need to rethink from the ground up our production and consumption patterns towards a green recovery. The circular economy can help address such unsustainable trends leading to an inefficient water, energy and material use, as well as to air and soil pollution and find adequate solutions, particularly at the local level. Cities have a role to play in closing the loops, reducing waste, reusing resources and restoring ecosystems alongside long-term recovery measures for more resilient, sustainable and thriving societies.

This synthesis report provides an analytical framework, policy recommendations and a checklist for action for the transition towards the circular economy in cities, regions and countries. It builds on a 2-year policy dialogue with 300 stakeholders, a dedicated survey across 51 cities and regions from OECD countries, as well as in-depth case studies and knowledge sharing activities with Glasgow (United Kingdom), Granada (Spain), Groningen (Netherlands), Umeå (Sweden), Valladolid (Spain) and Ireland.

The report was produced as part of the OECD Programme on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, which aims to support national and subnational governments in their transition towards the circular economy through evidence-based analysis, multi-stakeholder dialogues, tailored recommendations and customised action plans. Going forward, the programme will strive to build further opportunities, evidence and recommendations to make the circular economy part of the solution towards healthier, less resource-wasteful and environmentally aware societies.

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