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The circular economy is about preventing wasted resources through reusing materials, improving design to increase the durability of goods and products, and transforming waste.

Population growth, climate change and urbanisation are likely to increase the pressure on natural resources, as well as the demand for new infrastructure, services and housing. By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion people, 70% of which will be living in cities. Cities represent almost two-thirds of global energy demand, produce up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and 50% of global waste.

Cities and regions play a fundamental role in shifting from a linear to a circular economy, as they are responsible for key decisions in local public services such as transport, solid waste, water and energy that affect citizens’ well-being, economic growth and environmental quality. 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, and

  • infrastructure is designed and built to avoid linear locks-in, which use resources intensively and inefficiently.

The OECD Programme on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions was designed 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. The Programme relies on a consortium of cities and countries engaged in peer-to-peer dialogues and knowledge sharing activities, including Glasgow (United Kingdom), Granada (Spain), Groningen (Netherlands), Umeå (Sweden), Valladolid (Spain) and Ireland.

This report summarises the findings from an 18-month policy dialogue with the city of Groningen, Netherlands to develop a vision for the circular economy transition and learn from existing best practices. In 2018, the municipal council of Groningen took the unanimous decision of making the circular economy a priority for the city, identifying three strategic areas: public procurement, waste and knowledge. Moreover, the circular economy is expected to contribute to two long-term objectives set by the municipality: to become CO2 neutral by 2035 and to separate and reuse all waste by 2030. Last but not least, the city aims to foster the necessary conditions to create 5,000 new jobs by connecting the health, ICTs, energy, digital and creative industries to the circular economy.

Achieving these objectives entails providing space for experimentation, sharing knowledge, leading the co-ordination among stakeholders and defining a circular economy framework. This report also argues that a circular economy strategy in Groningen could build on the collaboration with the business, academic and non-for-profit sectors, and lead to the creation of a circular economy “ecosystem”, through which fostering experimentation and innovation.

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© OECD 2020

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