copy the linklink copied!2. Assessing and unlocking the circular economy in Umeå, Sweden

The chapter details the main components of the existing circular economy strategies and initiatives promoted by the Swedish government, the region of Västerbotten and the city of Umeå, Sweden. The chapter also identifies actors, policies and co-operation tools across urban and rural areas that can foster the circular economy. Finally, it describes the main challenges that the city of Umeå is facing in its transition from a linear to a circular economy.

    

copy the linklink copied!An ongoing agenda on the circular economy at the national and subnational levels

In 2016, the Swedish government started to investigate on the circular economy, focusing on consumers and reuse, and on industrial symbiosis. The research on consumers and reuse aimed to enhance the reuse of products in order to prevent waste production, with the ultimate goal of leading towards a zero-waste society, which is an objective shared by waste management companies and municipalities, gathered in the industrial organisation for waste management called Avfall Sverige. The investigation concluded in 2017 with a report calling for further collaboration between the government and the business sector to promote sustainability and innovation. The Swedish government reformed the tax system in 2017 favouring repairs on used items and supported initiatives for recycling materials, including the textile sector. In 2018, a second investigation developed A Roadmap for Increased Uptake of Industrial Symbiosis in Sweden (Harris et al., 2018[1]). Interestingly, it makes a connection between the industrial and urban symbiosis. While the industrial symbiosis allows resource exchanges across companies, urban symbiosis looks at mutual and beneficial exchanges of resources within urban areas and across industries. The roadmap provides instruments for enhancing the co-operation across industry and urban areas, such as a systematic facilitation programme, regional centres supported by a national centre; task forces building knowledge in key areas (e.g. recovery technology) and local and national government procurement (Harris et al., 2018[1]).

A National Delegation for the Circular Economy was set up in 2018. The delegation is an advisory body to the government and part of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket). It is formed by representatives from the business, academia and public sectors. The purpose of the delegation is to support society’s transition to a resource-efficient, circular and bio-based economy. The national delegation focuses on three priorities: plastic, public procurement and circular design. It aims: to contribute to new business models through circular design; to increase the recycling of plastic and enhance the use of green procurement, increasing reuse and extending material life. It will investigate the regulatory and fiscal barriers, identify best practices and involve stakeholders for information sharing and knowledge building, both offline and online. The delegation will provide cost-effective measures and recommendations on the strategic implementation of the circular economy at the national and subnational levels (Tillväxt verket, 2019[2]).

National policies, funding programmes and international collaborations promotes the transition towards a circular economy. For example:

  • The Sweden’s Rural Policy (Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, 2015[3]) incorporates the circular economy in one of its four objectives. The policy states that rural areas should contribute to strengthening Sweden’s competitiveness in the development of a circular, bio-based and fossil-free economy, through the sustainable use of natural resources and in compliance with relevant environmental quality objectives (Riksdag, 2018[4]).

  • The Swedish Innovation Agency, Vinnova, provides funds for initiatives that investigate policy and behavioural issues to facilitate the transition to a bio-based and/or circular economy. The Swedish Innovation Agency is currently running two strategic innovation programmes on the circular and bio-based economy (Vinnova, 2019[5]; 2019[6]): i) the Bio-innovation Programme, which aims to promote collaboration across industry boundaries, mainly within the forestry, textile and chemistry sectors; and ii) the RE:Source Programme, the Sweden’s first co-ordinated initiative focusing on resource and waste management. It gathers waste management operators and research actors to apply jointly for funding innovation projects.

  • The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency supports the national government in its transition to a circular economy, by contributing to the implementation of the EU action plan on the circular economy (RISE, 2019[7]).

  • The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, under the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, aims at promoting competitiveness among Swedish companies and sustainable growth. The agency has worked on supporting entrepreneurship through the Start-up Sweden Programme and some of the start-ups supported by this initiative have developed solutions for the circular economy.

  • At the international level, amongst other research activities, the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and the Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (VTT) signed an agreement to strengthen their collaboration on biomaterials, biofuel manufacturing processes and the digitalisation of a bio-based and circular economy (RISE, 2019[7]).

At the subnational level, the region of Västerbotten, Sweden, aims at a circular, self-sufficient and sharing economy. The Regional Development Strategy of Västerbotten Region (ongoing) includes the circular economy as one of its goals (Västerbotten Region, 2019[8]). Västerbotten County is geographically large, the population is scattered and the region is relatively far from larger markets. On the other hand, in many ways, Västerbotten is well placed to lead the development in sustainable societies with developed digital infrastructure, great access to renewable energy and biomass, as well as expertise in sustainable construction. The county also has good expertise and raw materials for building in wood. Tackling climate change and the loss of biodiversity implies changes in consumption, production patterns and transport. By the end of 2020, the County Administrative Board will launch a Climate and Energy Strategy aiming at lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and supporting the transition to a circular economy. The Regional Transport Plan (2018-22) foresees the phasing out of fossil fuels through sustainable transport modes (e.g. via charging terminals for electric vehicles, vehicles, bionic drainage facilities) (Västerbotten Region, 2019[8]).

copy the linklink copied!Circular economy initiatives in Umeå, Sweden

The Strategic Plan 2016-28 explicitly states that the city should become a role model for the circular economy (Municipality of Umeå, 2016[9]). The Strategic Plan was informed by a circular economy survey carried out in the Västerbotten County in 2015 and a feasibility study on the circular economy, carried out in 2016. The consultancy company firm Esam AB carried out both the survey and the feasibility study. The Survey on the circular economy was shared across 15 municipalities, as well as advisors, business developers and CEOs of 23 companies. A total of 83% of respondents expressed their interest to increase their knowledge on the circular economy and 90% of the respondents were interested or maybe interested in a pilot project on the circular economy (Esam AB, 2015[10]). On the basis of these results, the Business Department of the Umeå Municipality committed a feasibility study on the circular economy in 2016. The feasibility study investigated the possible content and sources of finance for a pilot project to be carried out in Umeå. One of the main results of the study was the commitment to build knowledge, capacities and new business models related to the circular economy in the upcoming years. Figure 2.1 visualises the activities carried out in relation to the circular economy at various scales from 2015 to 2020.

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Figure 2.1. Initiatives related to the circular economy at the national, county/ regional and municipal level
Figure 2.1. Initiatives related to the circular economy at the national, county/ regional and municipal level

There are several projects and initiatives promoted by the municipality that can be linked to current and future circular-related activities, such as:

  • Circular Economy Business Accelerator North Sweden (CEBANS): Created in 2017, by the municipality of Umeå, the consultancy firm Esam AB and North Sweden Cleantech, the accelerator is a collaboration platform for business advisors to build knowledge and business model innovation. During 2017-19, a series of educational meetings were conducted in the region, during which 60 business advisors from different organisations participated. In a long-term perspective, CEBANS aims to create a platform for business advisors to create opportunities for collaboration across circular businesses.

  • The Sharing City Umeå: This is a testbed for the sharing economy to test and evaluate sharing services in Umeå and support entrepreneurs. It is part of Sharing Cities Sweden, a national programme on the sharing economy in cities. The objective of the testbeds consists of developing sharing services and digital solutions as well as analysing and evaluating opportunities and risks derived from the sharing economy. Furthermore, it addresses the design of a platform for citizen engagement and co-creation of solutions and explores ways to enhance integration in Umeå. It counts with a total budget of SEK 24 million (2018-20).

  • Municipal projects for a green, smart and sustainable Umeå, Sweden: A number of projects are shaping the future infrastructure in Umeå. For example, the RUGGEDISED project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, will test nine innovative climate-smart solutions in the innovation district situated in the university district for the next five years; the Low Carbon Place project supports sustainable lifestyles in Umeå (e.g. mobility, housing, food systems and energy consumption), providing grants to not-for-profit organisations. The “green parking” pay-off consists of co-investments with property developers for sustainable transport modes. The Project for a Climate Neutral Umeå 2030 aims to reach carbon neutrality in the city by 2030: together with eight other Swedish cities, Umeå started participating in the programme in 2019 and will contribute to a joint action plan to be finalised by 2021. Finally, “Green Umeå” is a network created by the municipality gathering citizens, companies and organisations. It provides grants to support sustainable projects taking place in the city (Green Umeå, 2019[11]).

Annex A presents initiatives in place to transition to a circular economy in Umeå, Sweden, collected through the OECD Survey on Circular Economy in Cities and Regions (OECD, 2019[12]), and interviews with local stakeholders.

copy the linklink copied!The analytical framework

The analytical framework used in this report is based on three dimensions that help to identify tailored solutions for cities and regions willing to transition from a linear to a circular economy (Figure 2.2):

  • The level of advancement of cities and regions in the transition to a circular economy: Advanced, In progress, Newcomers.

  • Tools and instruments for the transition according to the 3Ps Framework: People, Policies and Places.

  • Roles of cities and regions to promote, facilitate and enable the circular economy.

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Figure 2.2. OECD analytical framework: Level of advancement, tools and roles
Figure 2.2. OECD analytical framework: Level of advancement, tools and roles

Source: OECD (forthcoming[13]), The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing, Paris.

According to the level of advancement towards the transition to a circular economy, it is possible to identify three clusters of cities and regions:

  • Advanced: Cities and regions that have developed and put in place circular economy strategies. These cities show strong innovative initiatives, as well as a firm political will in favour of a circular economy. An important future priority for these cities would be to build metrics for measuring progress and evaluating their policies in place. Brussels and the Flanders region (Belgium), Paris (France), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and London (United Kingdom) belong to this cluster.

  • In progress: Cities “in progress” are those that are taking actions towards the circular economy, following ad hoc initiatives. Cities or regions in this cluster have recently set specific programmes on the circular economy and/or are starting their implementation. They are less advanced compared to the pioneers, but they have already taken key steps towards a circular economy. This is the case of Rotterdam (Netherlands), the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (Spain) and Glasgow (United Kingdom), amongst others.

  • Newcomers: Cities in this cluster recognise the relevance and potential of the circular economy and they are exploring options for implementation. These cities have already achieved good results in waste recycling levels (Oslo, Norway); water reuse (Granada, Spain); have signed political commitments to advance towards a circular economy (Milan and Prato, Italy); are starting to develop a circular economy strategy (Groningen, Netherlands; Valladolid, Spain); or have included the circular economy in broader policy plans (Helsinki and Oulu, Finland). These cities see in the circular economy a means for reducing environmental impacts in cities while increasing attractiveness and competitiveness. The city of Umeå, Sweden is included in this cluster.

Each city and region, regardless of their level of advancement, can identify the conditions needed to transition to a circular economy, making sure that people are engaged, policies are co-ordinated and that linkages across places are set to close the loops (3 Ps Framework) (OECD, 2016[14]):

  • People: The circular economy is a shared responsibility across levels of government and stakeholders. As such, it is key to identify the actors that can play a role in the transition and allow the needed cultural shift towards different production and consumption pathways, new business and governance models. For example, the business sector can determine the shift towards new business models (e.g. renting, reusing, sharing, etc.). Citizens, on the other hand, make constant consumption choices and can influence production.

  • Policies: The circular economy requires a holistic and systemic approach that cuts across sectoral policies. As somebody’s waste can be a resource for somebody else, the circular economy provides the opportunity to foster complementarities across policies. The variety of actors, sectors and goals makes the circular economy systemic by nature. It implies a wide policy focus through integration across often siloed policies, from environmental, regional development, agricultural and industrial ones. Identifying these key sectors and possible synergies is the first step to avoid the implementation of fragmented projects over the short-medium run, due to the lack of a systemic approach.

  • Places: Cities and regions are not isolated ecosystems, but spaces for inflows and outflows of materials, resources and products, in connection with surrounding areas and beyond. Therefore, adopting a functional approach going beyond the administrative boundaries of cities is important for resource management and economic development. Linkages across urban and rural areas (e.g. related to bio-economy, agriculture and forest) are key to promote local production and recycling of organic residuals to be used in proximity of where they are produced, to avoid negative externalities due to transport. At the regional level, loops related to a series of economic activities (e.g. to the bio-economy) can be closed and slowed.

As a result and in accordance with predefined short-, medium- and long-term objectives, cities and regions can play a role as promoters, facilitators and enablers in the transition from a linear to a circular economy. In practice:

  • Cities can promote the circular economy as illustrated by the roadmaps and strategies set out in cities like Brussels (Belgium), Paris (France), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and London (United Kingdom). These strategies identified priorities, promoted a number of concrete projects and engaged stakeholders.

  • Cities can facilitate connections across stakeholders operating along the value chain that are not necessarily used to collaborate with one another, citizens and levels of government. They help direct and facilitate contacts, inform about existing projects, provide soft and hard infrastructure for new circular businesses. The city of Phoenix (United States), for example, created together with Arizona State University a Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) Incubator for accompanying businesses in the shift towards a circular economy. In 2017, the city of Paris, France, launched a circular economy incubator, hosting 19 start-ups.

  • Cities can enable the circular economy transition to happen by providing the appropriate governance and economic tools. Cities can set up incentives, catalyse funds, adapt regulations, etc. For example, the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) in London (United Kingdom) proposed to develop a venture capital fund, seeking private sector partners to join; the city of Amsterdam (Netherlands) created a revolving sustainability fund for businesses to pay back within 15 years with a very low interest rate.

This analytical framework applied to the case of Umeå, Sweden, will identify the main opportunities and challenges (Chapter 2), as well as tailored policy recommendations to promote, facilitate and enable the circular economy (Chapter 3).

copy the linklink copied!People and firms: An innovative ecosystem to boost the circular economy transition

The dynamism of the business community and the civil society is a key factor for the implementation of the circular economy in the city of Umeå, Sweden. Beyond the actions that the municipality put in place, i.e. for the green transition, sustainable mobility and sharing economy, the future of the circular economy in the city can count on a wide range of stakeholders that can contribute by building knowledge while enhancing innovation and experimentation. Categories of stakeholders and their actions are reported below.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), associations and businesses located in the city of Umeå play a role as promoters and implementers of the circular economy. Several stakeholders from civil society and the business sectors have been increasingly contributing through their activities to reduce food waste, make mobility cleaner and increase the use of recycling material in the building sector. Importantly, some initiatives focus specifically on building knowledge and raise awareness, with the ultimate goal of creating a collaboration for the implementation of circular economy related projects. For example, the Umeå branch of the NGO Cradlenet Norr, founded in 2015, organises bi-monthly meetings to raise awareness of circular economy issues, discusses challenges with different stakeholders (e.g. small- and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs], municipal authorities, business coaches, university researchers and students), organises specialised field visits and participates in international events and platforms on the circular economy. Similarly, from 2010 to 2019, a group of engaged citizens gathered together in the Environmental Café (Miljöcaféet) to discuss environmental topics, including the circular economy (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, 2016[15]).

Universities and research centres can help create technical and non-technical knowledge on the circular economy. There are some initiatives already in place:

  • The Umeå University (UMU) is specialised in environmental science and technology, natural resources management and design. The UMU’s School of Architecture has included the circular economy in its sustainable urban development master courses and has been collaborating with the municipality and the Sharing Cities group as a way of encouraging students to include the circular economy in their research.

  • The Institute of Design is adapting to the demand of the transformative industry, calling for expertise in eco-design for products, production processes, modular building, etc. Various collaborations with the municipality are ongoing, including an incubator on creative industries. During 2018 and 2019, master’s students from the institute collaborated with Västerbotten Region in the Mobility and Transport for the Visitor Industry (MOVEBI) project. The preliminary study will test sustainable transport and mobility solutions for tourists and the food sector in the biosphere reserve Vindelälven-Juhtatdahka.

  • The Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics (USBE) provides a course on sustainable entrepreneurship, in collaboration with SMEs and start-ups. Research in this field is key for the circular economy to happen. If pilot activities are not profitable, they will not be likely to scale up. The USBE hosts the Council for Sustainable Development, an initiative of the municipality of Umeå, gathering students, tutors, politicians, officials and sustainability experts, to discuss solutions in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.1

  • The Faculty of Science and Technology of Umeå University has carried out several research and development (R&D) projects with a focus on future sustainable solutions. These initiatives are carried out in collaboration with the municipality of Umeå, companies owned by the municipality and the private sector. This scheme leads to the exchange of knowledge and the creation of interfaces between students, researchers, citizens and the private sector. Specific technical or system analysis results (e.g. life cycle analysis) can also provide support for circularity at the urban level.

Innovative business and start-ups can benefit from existing incubators to develop circular-related projects. The incubators2 are specialised in five main areas: new business models support (Uminova Innovation), creative industries (eXpression Umeå), life sciences (Umeå Biotech), young start-ups (BIC Factory) and sharing economy (Coompanion Nord). The first three incubators are co-financed by the municipality, the regional government and Umeå University, while the BIC Factory is co-financed by local and regional government. There is a demand by the municipality to include circular economy projects in the core activities of the incubators while enhancing circular upgrading (valorisation and new business opportunities):

  • Uminova Innovation is specialised in innovative and scalable business ideas that have the potential to grow in the market. Since its creation in 2003, it has provided business support to more than 150 companies that together have more than 650 employees and have a turnover of nearly SEK 850 million. Nowadays, 50 start-ups and 40 companies are part of the incubator (Uminova Innovation, 2019[16]).

  • eXpression Umeå encourages the inclusion of sustainability dimensions within companies and promotes innovative design and creativity in close co-operation with local producers (eXpression Umeå, 2019[17]).

  • Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI) is one of Europe’s top 15 biotech incubators (Umeå Biotech Incubator, 2019[18]). The incubator aims to grow the Scandinavian life sciences sector by developing biomedical businesses that contribute to regional and national growth. A cluster of the forest industry is part of the UBI Incubator. The cluster is formed by start-ups and forest industry companies (e.g. paper mills) working on a bio-refinery project transforming bio-waste into new products. The municipality supports the Forest Hub financially through European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) projects.

  • The BIC Factory supports young entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses in the municipality (BIC Factory, 2019[19]).

  • Coompanion Nord is an incubator specialised in fostering co-operative entrepreneurship. It provides advice and guidance in starting co-operative companies3 and supports start-ups in developing new tools focusing on sustainable projects and the sharing economy (Coompanion, 2019[20]).

There are several networks aiming to create synergies within and among economic sectors and to engage citizens towards sustainable consumption patterns. The Network for Sustainable Construction and Real Estate Management in Cold Climates (Nätverket för hållbart byggande och förvaltande) launched by the municipality in 2008 gathers 55 members from all segments of the construction supply chain. Sustainability and the circular economy are key topics for the monthly breakfast meetings and at the annual member meeting (Network for sustainable construction and real estate management in cold climates, 2013[21]). The network has enabled the creation of a public-private partnership4 to develop by 2024 the new Tomtebo Strand city district, which incorporates circular economy principles in its structural plan (Municipality of Umeå, 2019[22]). The Sustainable Restaurants Network (Hållbara Restauranger) involves 14 restaurants in the city for sustainable practices in the food industry and food waste management. On a wider scale, the North Sweden Cleantech is a regional innovation platform focusing on exporting green technology, clean energy and sustainable solutions through business support and networking. A hundred companies are currently part of the platform. Since 2016, the platform has been organising circular economy capacity building events (North Sweden Cleantech, 2019[23]).

The traditional knowledge of the Sámi people5 can be inspirational for the circular economy transition. The Sámi people are part of the indigenous peoples of Sweden. The Sámi economy, based on traditional livelihoods such as reindeer husbandry, hunting and fishing, is dependent on shared access to land and water. The protection of nature is therefore linked to the preservation of the Sámi culture. Principles of sustainability are foremost in Sámi considerations. As such, the use of natural resources should take into account a balance between the exploitation of resources and the negative consequences on ecosystems (e.g. soil degradation) (OECD, 2019[24]).

copy the linklink copied!Policies: Identifying sectors holding potential for the circular economy

All sectors are concerned in a circular economy but some have higher potential. Often the circular economy in cities and regions is seen as a synonymous with municipal waste recycling but it is more than that. Cities and regions in their circular economy strategies have identified key sectors that show the greatest potential in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits. These sectors include built environment, food, water, and textile amongst others. According to local specificities, cities and regions are setting up circular economy initiatives for less traditional sectors, such as fashion and culture.

Making a sector “circular” implies rethinking value chains and production and consumption processes. “Circularity” implies that any output can be an input for something else within and across sectors. It aims to: make products and goods last longer through better design; produce products and goods using secondary and reusable materials and renewable energy while reducing atmospheric emissions; produce and distribute products locally and consume them in a conscious and sustainable manner; and transform waste into a resource (Figure 2.3). Below, specific attention will be dedicated to those sectors that more prominently stand out from the discussion with various stakeholders in Umeå. This is key to establish the role of the “do-ers” (e.g. entrepreneurs, SMEs, private companies, CSOs, etc.) in the transition from a linear to a circular economy and foresee coherent policies for the future. Information on the sectors included in other cities and regions’ circular economy initiatives is presented in Table 2.1.

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Figure 2.3. OECD circularity within and across sectors
Figure 2.3. OECD circularity within and across sectors

Source: OECD (forthcoming[13]), The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Waste

The new municipality’s Waste Plan is expected to include circular principles by 2021. The Waste Plan 2010-20 sets guidelines for the waste management in the municipality and includes reuse, waste minimisation and recycling goals. The plan foresees three overarching goals: i) decrease the amount of waste; ii) increase recycling; and iii) reduce environmental impacts due to waste management (e.g. related to the vehicles for collecting waste, littering and hazardous waste). The Waste Plan 2010-20 foresees an increasing rate of household waste recycling: it aims to reach 50% of biologically treated food waste and recycled household waste, including through biological treatment. Vakin, the waste and water utility company owned by the municipality, is responsible for drafting the plan for six municipalities by 2021. Afterwards, each municipality will set its own specific waste plan. The plan aims to promote the circular economy through the prevention of waste, which is a requirement from the national Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Given the diversity in size and capacity of the six municipalities, the major challenge in setting the waste plan is to be ambitious but also realistic enough to take this diversity into account. As such, the plan will be reviewed every four years and will be accompanied by indicators for each action that can be progressively fulfilled, instead of having a binding end date.

The municipality is taking action to reduce waste and promote sustainable behaviours. As part of the reuse goals, the municipality set that, by 2020, all building materials suitable for reuse in city-owned properties (e.g. doors, windows, etc.) should be sorted before demolition. By that time, the second-hand shop Returbutiken that resells used merchandise from recycling centres, will receive disposed furniture, inventory and machinery from all city administrations and municipality-owned companies to enable reuse. To minimise the generation of waste, awareness-raising campaigns and training activities are planned, for municipal employees and students.

Recycling is strongly promoted in the city of Umeå. As for the recycling goals, the Waste Plan of Umeå established that, by the end of 2020, 70% of domestic waste and 50% of food waste should be source-separated (Municipality of Umeå, 2018[25]). The waste and water utility company owned by the municipality, Vakin, is responsible for the collection of domestic waste and the recycling centres. Household combustible domestic waste and food waste are collected in a curbside system. Packaging waste, i.e. glass, paper/cardboard, plastic, metal packages and newspapers are collected in 80 recycling stations located in the municipality. Bulky waste, waste for reuse and garden waste are collected in seven recycling centres. Metals are recycled in Umeå while other materials in Germany, the Netherlands or the South of Sweden (Municipality of Umeå, 2018[25]). A pyrolysis plant located in Umeå will produce biocarbon from the phosphorus derived from sewage sludge. This biocarbon produced will be used as fertiliser in parks.

The “pay as you throw” principle is applied in Umeå to reduce waste production. Waste management in Umeå is financed by a waste tariff, which is divided into three fees: a basic fee, which covers costs for recycling centres; a fee that covers the cost for collection, transport and the purchase and maintenance of vessels; and a variable weight-based fee, which covers costs for treatment of collected waste (Umeå Municipality, 2018[26]). The weight-based fee gives an incentive for households to reduce the amount of waste (e.g. through increased waste separation and sorting food waste separately). Collection of food waste will become mandatory from March 2020. Food waste is also financed through a vessel fee and a weight-based fee will be introduced. Local compost is allowed by the municipality: households have to report to the municipality if they choose to produce compost so that other citizens are aware and can complain in the event of odours or other associated problems (Municipality of Umeå, 2018[27]).

Energy

Waste is a source of energy: biogas is produced from wastewater for heating and electricity. The public provider of energy, Umeå Energi, is contracted by the municipal waste and water company, Vakin, to transform waste into energy. Umeå Energi provides district heating to 80% of Umeå’s buildings from waste incineration. A total of 150 000 tonnes of waste are incinerated per year by Umeå Energi. The ashes resulting from the incineration process (25 000 tonnes ashes per year) are sent to the DÅVA landfill company, located 500 metres away from the energy plant. The landfill, the biggest in northern Sweden, receives ashes from incineration, household waste (1%), industrial waste, contaminated soil and hazardous waste. For the last two decades, Vakin has produced biogas from wastewater for heating and electricity. It provides energy to company facilities, while the energy surplus is integrated into the municipal energy grid.

The municipality applies “product-as-a-service” schemes for the promotion of renewable energies. Since 2015, Umeå Energi offers households within the municipality of Umeå to rent a turnkey package of photovoltaic cells instead of buying them. The business model changed from an initial 15-year contract into the current service-renting scheme, which generated great interest among Umeå’s citizens. Umeå Energi received 800 requests during the first months of the programme. Installation and repairs are included throughout the contract period and, in the event of a property being sold, the new owner can choose to keep the service under the same original conditions. Umeå Energi is the first company to implement this system in Sweden and boasts 100 new customers a year.

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Table 2.1. Example of sectors included in circular economy initiatives in cities and regions

City/Region

Initiative

Waste

Construction and demolition

Land use and spatial planning

Food and beverage

Manufacturing industry

Textile

Water and sanitation

Energy

Biomass

Agriculture

Mobility

ICT sector

Forestry

Culture

Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Amsterdam Circular 2020-25

Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) (Spain)

Circular Economy Promotion Programme AMB Circular (2019)

Flanders (Belgium)

Circular Flanders (2016)

Greater Porto Area (Portugal)

LIPOR's commitment to circular economy principles (2018)

Nantes (France)

Circular Economy Roadmap

North Karelia (Finland)

CIRCWASTE – Towards Circular Economy in North Karelia

Paris (France)

Circular Economy Plan of Paris 2017-20

Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Rotterdam Circularity Programme 2019-23

Scotland (United Kingdom)

Circular Glasgow

Tilburg (Netherlands)

Tilburg Circular Agenda 2019

Valladolid (Spain)

Valladolid Circular Economy Roadmap (2017-18)

Source: OECD (forthcoming[13]), The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Food

The food sector holds great potential for greater circularity. The city of Umeå promotes sustainable farming practices and fosters local food production and commercial network. The planned local food strategy intends to incentivise people under 40 years old for to conduct farming activities in Umeå’s surrounding areas. The city is developing an online tool to map the relevant actors involved in the food sector value chain (producers, processors, manufacturers and retailers, restaurants, coffee shops). At the regional level, a first draft of the regional food strategy is expected to be launched in 2020 and it is likely to include circular economy principles. Box 2.1 illustrates examples of circular initiatives in the food sector in cities. The circular food system in cities and regions are based on strengthening synergies across the food value chain from production to distribution and waste handling (OECD, forthcoming[13]).

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Box 2.1. Making the food sector circular: Examples from cities

By 2050, cities will consume 80% of food. A total of 2.9 billion tonnes are destined for cities annually (resulting in 0.5 billion tonnes wasted). According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2019), cities can significantly influence the way food is grown, distributed and consumed, by ensuring environmentally sustainable cultivation and by fostering the interaction with producers in their peri-urban and rural surroundings. Moreover, achieving a regenerative food system in cities will entail an annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 4.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent and the generation of annual benefits amounting to USD 2.7 trillion by 2050.

There are several examples of initiatives to make the food sector more circular in urban and rural areas. These initiatives focus on different aspects of the food sector dynamics, from reducing food waste (Ljubljana, Porto, Umeå), promoting urban agriculture (Brussels, Guelph, Paris), supporting local food production (Umeå), improving the co-ordination between urban and rural areas (Valladolid), incorporating restaurants and the hospitality activities into these efforts (Amsterdam, Umeå, Valladolid) or the production of organic fertilisers (Porto). For example, in Spain, Valladolid’s food strategy intends to improve the co-ordination between urban and rural areas and create employment opportunities whereby the city can act as an agro-incubator for responsible consumption and local production. The eco-market located in the city is the first step to providing city customers with locally grown products. The city of Toronto (Canada) put in place the Urban Harvest programme to help reduce food waste and benefit the broader community by collecting surplus fruit and vegetables from residents’ backyards and redistributing them to local food banks and programmes. Urban Harvest also provides opportunities to learn about preserving food through canning workshops.

Source: OECD (OECD, forthcoming[13]), The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing, Paris; Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2019[28])Cities and Circular Economy for Foodhttps://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/Cities-and-Circular-Economy-for-Food_280119.pdf (accessed on 30 April 2019).

Through the Sustainable Restaurants Network (Hållbara Restauranger), the municipality of Umeå helps restaurants become more sustainable and in the long term, will provide Umeå’s residents with information about consuming sustainably when eating out. Created by a Swedish sustainability consulting firm, the network is a national project carried out in Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm and Umeå, where it started in 2017 with four restaurants and currently counts ten more. The restaurant network is financed through two municipal projects: Low Carbon Place and Coaches for Energy and Climate. The network builds knowledge and allows sharing good practices among members. Resulting from the collaboration between Västerbotten Region, the County Administrative Board and Smakfestivalen, a networking meeting was held during the local food festival Smakfestivalen that aimed at connecting producers, restaurants and other stakeholders. Several restaurants took the initiative to start collaborations with local producers. Some of the member restaurants are already implementing circular practices to minimise food waste, such as buying wholesale products not usually sold to restaurants and selling the remaining food of the day through apps at a reduced price. The network is also developing a certification to show customers which restaurants are incorporating more sustainable ways of working (Green Umeå, 2020[29]).

There are also interesting new business models to minimise food waste and reinforce local food production and consumption. REKO-ring, in particular, promotes a seasonal harvest market and creates interactions with local producers. REKO (rejäl konsumtion, fair consumption) is a model for trading between a group of producers and a group of consumers. Within REKO, consumers order food from local producers directly, without intermediaries or administrative costs. REKO operates via closed Facebook groups, via which consumers and producers co-ordinate orders and deliveries. Pre-ordered products are distributed from a specified meeting place, usually once a week. In 2015, approximately 100 000 additional members joined in more than 100 REKO “rings” (Facebook groups) and the turnover was estimated at EUR 8 million. The model is spreading throughout Finland and other Nordic countries. In addition to the REKO-ring for consumers, there is an initiative in Sweden to create a REKO-ring for restaurants and other companies (REKO, 2019[30]).

Building sector

The building sector in Umeå holds strong circular potential. Umeå is the only city in Västerbotten Region in which the population is projected to grow. As a consequence, and during the next three decades, a total of 60 000 new homes will be built. This is an opportunity to move from “business as usual” to a more circular approach whereby materials from demolitions and secondary construction materials can be used in combination with energy and water efficiency in buildings. Some examples of Cradle-to-Cradle constructions (Box 2.2) are already taking place in Umeå. The municipality of Umeå, in co-operation with several actors,6 is planning the University City district where nine innovative climate-smart solutions are being tested between 2019-24. The municipality has set the target of all building materials suitable for reuse in city-owned properties (e.g. doors, windows, etc.) being sorted before demolition by 2020. Several initiatives have developed material passports to identify what kind of materials are used in buildings and contribute to their reuse after demolition (Box 2.3). The construction experience of the Green Zone, an eco-friendly and energy-efficient services area could be a source of inspiration for the building sector in Umeå. It is one of the first examples of circular use of materials and resources in the construction sector. It was developed 20 years ago when there was yet no explicit mention of the term “circular economy”. The project applies various forms of cleantech (e.g. recovery of excess heat and cold, green roofs, solar panels, reusable and recyclable materials and filters purifying indoor air).

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Box 2.2. The Cradle to Cradle approach for the building sector

Cradle to Cradle is a design concept developed in the 1990s by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, which promotes the use of construction materials and products that are recyclable in order to respond to the challenges of waste reduction and health protection. To achieve this goal, this approach enables the design of products that can be reintroduced into new manufacturing processes after their use, adopting a different way of thinking about the design, materials and flows employed for product durability.

Since 2010, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute manages the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard, providing designers and manufacturers with information on product materials and manufacturing processes. It measures five key aspects: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. The product receives a grade in each category (basic, bronze, silver, gold or platinum). The product’s overall qualification is equal to the lowest grade received in any of the mentioned categories. This is as a way to incentivise continuous improvements in all categories.

Some cities have already made some progress in this area:

  • In 2018, the city and county of San Francisco adopted a new regulation requiring all carpet installed in city-funded construction projects to be of Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard. This initiative intends to address San Francisco’s priorities for sustainability and material health, including the avoidance of chemicals of concern, appropriate durability, carbon impact and the use of fibre and supporting materials that contain recycled content and are themselves recyclable.

  • In 2007, the city of Venlo (Netherlands) made a commitment whereby all new city buildings were to be designed by Cradle to Cradle principles and, as a result, the new city hall, built in 2016, was designed employing this method. In order to observe the benefits of the new building, measurements such as air quality and temperature were taken from the previous building and will be compared with the new one in a forthcoming comparative study. It has already been observed that the new building’s facade absorbs 30% of sulphur and nitrogen oxides from the building’s surroundings and in terms of economic benefits, the project is estimated to deliver a 12.5% return on investment by 2040.

Source: Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (2019[31]), Cradle to Cradle Certified™, http://www.c2ccertified.org/ (accessed on 30 April 2019); EPEA GmbH (2019[32]), EPEA GmbH Website, https://epea-hamburg.com/ (accessed on 30 April 2019).

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Box 2.3. Material passports for circular buildings

In 2016, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute created a logbook or inventory to identify the building materials and hazardous substances used in the construction of new buildings in the city. The logbook is a web-based tool where suppliers and manufacturers of construction products can register the chemical characteristics of their products and is used to document and monitor the hazardous substances used in buildings. The system is validated by third-party audits of the companies responsible for the registration.

Other cities, regions and countries use material passports for circular buildings. Material passports are digital sets of data describing defined characteristics of materials and components in products and systems that give them value for present use, recovery and reuse. These passports are based on Cradle-to-Cradle design and can be introduced by clients and be used by architects and contractors for renovation and construction projects.

For example, with the objective of stimulating reuse, the city of Amsterdam has introduced material passports as one of the main action points of its circular economy action agenda in 2016. As such, construction companies using material passports are entitled to discounts on plots.

At a national level, the Dutch government has offered deductions (up to 75% of investment costs) to 310 eligible green investments that use material passports.

The Flemish public waste agency (OVAM), in collaboration with the Walloon Public service (SPW) and Brussels Environment Agency (Brussels Environment), developed an online open-access calculation tool called Tool to Optimise the Total Environmental Impact of Materials (TOTEM). The TOTEM helps architects, designers and builders assess the environmental impact of building materials to increase the material and energy performance of buildings.

Source: Circle Economy et al. (2016[33]), Circular Amsterdam: A Vision and Action Agenda for the City and Metropolitan Area, https://www.circle-economy.com/news/amsterdams-pioneering-journey-to-become-100-circular-by-2050 (accessed on 30 April 2019); Luscuere, L. (2016[34]), “Materials Passports: Optimising Value Recovery from Materials”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1680/jwarm.16.00016; Netherlands Enterprise Agency (2014[35]), Tax Relief Schemes for Environmentally Friendly Investment (Vamil and MIA), http://www.rvo.nl (accessed on 29 April 2019); TOTEM (2020[36]), Tool to Optimise the Total Environmental Impact of Materials, http://www.totem-building.be/pages/welcome.xhtml (accessed on 25 January 2020); Swedish Environmental Research Institute (2016[37]), Options for Increased Low-risk Recycling of Building Products, http://www.ivl.se (accessed on 25 January 2020).

copy the linklink copied!Places: Fostering urban-rural synergies for the circular economy

To reach economy of scale, water and waste services are operated across several municipalities. Since 2016, Umeå’s public waste and water company, Vakin, started acting as water provider in the municipality of Vindeln7 (Sweden) and has broadened its responsibilities with the mandate of promoting capacity development in the region. This includes working with key stakeholders to assure the maintenance and development of an integrated system for waste and water management. The company has also specialised in the development of capacity building tools and the introduction of digital technologies to bridge territorial gaps. For example, virtual reality tools have been developed to facilitate the operation and maintenance works in the water and sewage business in faraway municipalities. This is an ongoing pilot programme financed by Vinnova (18 months long).

Economic activities carried out in the region have great potential for the circular economy. Great extensions of native forests, bio-economy and farming provide important available resources that can create opportunities for collaboration within the circular economy approach. Mining activities pose the question of extraction and final use of resources. Strengthening the urban-rural connection could have a key role to play to further the circular transition.

copy the linklink copied!Governance challenges to design and implement the circular transition

Mostly, the challenges cities and regions are facing in building circular economies are not of a technical but an economic and governance nature. Technical solutions exist and are well known. However, to implement them, information and financial resources are needed, as well as an updated legal framework. Often, a holistic vision is still missing because of siloed policies. Cultural barriers are still a very important obstacle (OECD, forthcoming[13]). Key governance challenges to design and implement the circular transition in Umeå, Sweden, are presented below.

While the Strategic Plan 2016-28 states that Umeå will be a leader in a circular economy (Municipality of Umeå, 2016[9]), further clarity would be needed in terms of: how to make the most of the synergies across existing policies (e.g. green, smart, and sustainable ones), available funds and which mechanisms to put in place for the city to achieve this goal.

Clarifying the role of the municipality in designing and implementing a circular economy strategy can build leadership and trust. The mandate in terms of who is responsible for the design and implementation of a circular economy strategy amongst the city administration is still to be defined. While stakeholders appreciate that the municipality is taking the initiative of enhancing the circular economy culture, there is little understanding of the role of the municipality itself. A lack of leadership could lead to fragmented initiatives on the circular economy and weak accountability. Therefore, clarifying who will do what would serve as a reference for various stakeholders in identifying the focal point (office/departments) to go to for projects and investments.

Several departments are likely to get involved in circular economy-related activities, therefore co-ordination should be strengthened. As a holistic concept, the circular economy implies that municipal departments will have to co-ordinate to avoid duplications and grey areas. Given the culture of horizontality characterising day-to-day activities within the municipality, there are currently no designated co-ordination mechanisms for the circular economy amongst departments in Umeå. However, three Committees of the City Council Executive Board in particular can play a role in the implementation of a circular economy strategy: the Business Development and Executive Committee, the Planning Committee and the Sustainability Committee. In addition, there are several independent political committees, notably the Technical Board, the Building Board and the Environment Board that will have responsibilities in relation to specific circular economy activities.

There is no dedicated budget for the circular economy. However, several funding sources can be considered for circular economy projects, even though circularity is not one of their specifications. Dedicated funds are promoting the green transition: from the national funding schemes for cities, such as the Climate Leap (Klimatklivet) and Urban Environment Deals (Stadsmiljöavtalet) to “environmental boosts”, micro-funds for associations working on the green transition. The allocation of funds may face difficulty in relation to the fuzziness of the concept of the circular economy. Most policies refer to “resource efficiency” as an objective, but not to the “circular economy”.

Co-ordination with national and regional government would be needed to align goals and actions. Umeå is currently not part of the National Delegation for the Circular Economy but could be in the future. Västerbotten Region promotes collaboration across municipalities through thematic networks and some of the thematic groups may in the future be devoted to the circular economy as a cross-cutting issue. Västerbotten Region co-ordinates five networks in five areas: water and sewage, waste, planning and building permits, environmental inspections and fire brigade. These networks emerge from the opportunity to learn from the work carried out by the municipalities in these sectors and from the need for collaboration. Managers of each area meet between two and six times a year. They exchange experiences and learn from one another. The objective of these networks is to discuss thematic issues, plan activities and achieve better results than they would get on their own. Examples of these initiatives include the organisation of courses and seminars for employees, the development of common technical solutions and the designation of working groups to work on specific topics.

The issue of scale is important when taking into account the impacts of economic activities within urban and rural areas. The circular economy implies a rethinking of processes along value chains, whether production, distribution and consumption of products and services. As such, city boundaries might be too limited for taking into account the input/output of resources, materials and energy when it comes to food, construction and waste management. The city of Umeå is the only urban area in a rural region. In a sparsely populated area, reaching economy of scale is not easy, while transport and transaction costs can be high. Small municipalities usually lack capacity and infrastructure. For example, the public operator Vakin, since 2017, has provided waste and water services8 to one additional municipality, Vindeln, beyond Umeå, operating in this instance at the regional level. Umeå and five other small municipalities are about to bring forward a common waste plan. However, opportunities for the circular economy at the regional level (e.g. focusing on bio-economy, agriculture, the forestry and mining sectors) are still to be evaluated.

Matching human and technical capacities to needs brought about by the circular economy is key for the municipality to lead and manage the transition process. The circular economy is a relatively new concept for the city that has relied so far on external consultants for carrying out investigations and ad hoc studies. Building capacities within the municipality and matching human and technical resources to needs could enhance the legitimacy of the municipality to lead and manage the transition towards the circular economy. On the other hand, there are several initiatives in place to build capacity and knowledge of the circular economy, organised by not-for-profit and public organisations. However, while informative, workshops and events may often remain at a very high level, while businesses would benefit from more specific and practical input, including through peer-to-peer learning. In some research areas, including design, there is still room for improvement towards sustainability and circularity.

The concept of the circular economy is not yet clear to some stakeholders. Many stakeholders use the concept of the circular economy as a synonym for recycling. There is a form of scepticism across stakeholders that have been implementing environmental and sustainable practices and do not see the value added in the circular economy approach. There is a lack of adequate information about the opportunities brought about by the circular economy. To accelerate the circular economy transition it would be important analyse costs and benefits of various activities and sectors. Poor awareness of circular economy practices amongst key players can hinder opportunities for scaling them up.

Robust and updated data should inform policymaking and implementation. The municipality and the municipal utility companies monitor a variety of data that could be used to make decisions and implement them. However, it is still to be clarified how to relate them to the circular economy. Data are generally available on energy consumption, air quality, waste and recycling. Data on transport, CO2 emissions, district heating and share of renewables, as well as the share of renewable energy involved in the district heating system, should be updated.

There are some regulatory barriers common to other municipalities and others more specific to Umeå’s context. In general, as in other cities and regions, regulatory barriers are related to the definition of waste (each material is considered waste once it has been collected), which hinders the reuse of some materials that are being considered as waste because they could generate environmental and health issues. Other regulatory barriers are related to the use of second-hand materials, land allocation for experimentation, water reuse, and material from construction and demolition.

New forms of business models are flourishing but there is still untapped potential to be exploited. Innovative business models in Umeå go from product-as-a-service projects (e.g. solar panel renting schemes) to the promotion of local food production and consumption by getting producers and consumers together (e.g. REKO-ring project) or sharing initiatives (e.g. U-bike cargo bike sharing). Nonetheless, there is an important untapped potential to put in place a circular economy system that would move from a downstream focus on waste management to upstream processes, including circular design. Some barriers to unlocking new business models’ potential to thrive are: i) the lack of financial support for pilot projects; ii) the allocation of existing funds supporting linear production processes that could be partly redirected to innovative circular business models (e.g. in the agriculture sector); and iii) the lack of physical spaces for experimentation. Box 2.4 presents examples of circular business models in cities and regions.

The municipality’s Green Public Procurement in Umeå is not yet fully implemented. The municipal tender for the refurbishment of the Maja Beskowskolan School aimed to comply with the environment building (Miljöbyggnad) standards established by the Sweden Green Building Council. The local government is advancing in the incorporation of circular economy principles into its procurement procedures and has committed to reduce the climate impact produced by its purchasing decisions, aiming to be climate neutral by 2030 (Municipality of Umeå, 2016[38]). Finally, the municipality foresees the use of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to factor in cost-effectiveness and efficient use of the resources in proposed projects. In practice, though, LCA is not widely used. In 2019, the municipality of Umeå joined the “Climate Considerations in Procurement” project, funded by the Swedish Energy Agency (Municipality of Umeå, 2019[39]). The project is expected to carry out several actions in view of climate considerations and the promotion of circular goods and services in the procurement process of the municipality of Umeå.

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Box 2.4. Examples of business models for the circular economy in cities

Several circular business models are applied in cities and regions. They consist of circular supply and collaborative consumption models, service systems, resource recovery business models, hire and leasing:

  • Circular supply models replace traditional input with secondary materials. For example, in 2018, the city of San Francisco (United States) approved that all carpets installed in city departments would have a Cradle-to-Cradle design. This initiative was approved as part of its objective of reducing the amount of discarded carpets sent to landfill.

  • Collaborative Consumption is based on the rental or sharing of products or services across citizens. For example, the city of Seoul launched in 2012 the “Sharing City, Seoul” project through which it created almost 100 sharing models, including shared bicycles and parking spaces. Almost half of the cities and regions responding to the survey expressed that their circular economy strategies have incorporated collaborative consumption and production models such as sharing economy, product-as-a-service, crowdfunding, etc. A total of ten cities stated that they plan to include them in the short term and four do not foresee that possibility. Several cities have sharing mobility in place (e.g. Milan, Paris).

  • The service system model involves paying for the service rather than for the ownership of the product. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol rents light as a service instead of the traditional model of buying light bulbs: with this model, Schiphol pays for the light it uses while Philips continues to own the installation and is responsible for performance and durability.

  • The resource recovery business model transforms waste into secondary material. The city of Phoenix (United States) has established a partnership with a feed company to divert 34 000 tonnes of palm leaves from landfill annually. The objective of this agreement is to transform this waste into an ingredient for livestock feed, resulting in a reduction of the city’s annual disposal cost.

  • Hiring or leasing products serves to lengthen product lives for repeated use according to the original objective of their use, before being turned into different products through recycling when possible. For example, for the celebration of the 2020 Olympic Games, the city of Tokyo (Japan), aims to rent materials, leasing them after the games. The circular economy will play a role in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games that will take place in Paris (France). Beyond leasing, the city has convened and advocated to include circular economy and solidarity in their public procurement process and to connect major companies with small entrepreneurs that are experts in specific topics (OECD, forthcoming[13]).

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2017[40]), Selling Light as a Service, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/case-studies/selling-light-as-a-service (accessed on 28 January 2020); OECD (2018[41]), Business Models for the Circular Economy, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/environment/waste/policy-highlights-business-models-for-the-circular-economy.pdf; GreenBiz (2015[42]), “The 5 business models that put the circular economy to work”, http://www.greenbiz.com/article/5-business-models-put-circular-economy-work (accessed on 7 November 2019); Waste and Resources Action Programme (2019[43]), Innovative Business Models, http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/innovative-business-models-old (accessed on 28 January 2020); C40 Cities (2018[44]), Municipality-led Circular Economy Case Studies, Climate KIC; CEC (2019[45]), Renting Lighting: Schiphol Airport, Circular Economy Club, http://www.circulareconomyclub.com/solutions/renting-lighting-schiphol-airport/ (accessed on 28 January 2020); Zink, T. and R. Geyer (2017[46]), “Circular economy rebound”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12545; OECD (forthcoming[13]), The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, Synthesis Report, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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Notes

← 1. Since 2015, USBE’s environmental management system has gained ISO 14001 certification, a set of standards that certifies environmental responsibilities for companies and organisations (ISO, 2015[49]).

← 2. An incubator is a place whereoffers the support given to the entrepreneur from the start‐up stage to the expansion phase are carried out. In an incubator, the would‐be entrepreneurs and the existing SMEs find a suitable placespace, in terms of facilities and expertise, to address their needs and develop their business ideas, and transformtransforming them into sustainable realities (EC, 2010[48]).

← 3. A co-operative economic association is a legal entity of at least three people where all members have a vote and decide jointly on the size of the start-up capital and how to allocate surplus.

← 4. A collaboration project between the municipality of Umeå, HSB, NCC, PEAB, Riksbyggen, Rikshem, Skanska, Slättö, Umeå Energi, Upab and Vakin.

← 5. The Sámi people has an estimated population of around 20 000 to 40 000. It has lived for time immemorial in the area that currently extends throughout the northern half of Sweden, Norway’s coast and inland areas, northern Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia (OECD, 2019[24]).

← 6. Umeå University, Region Västerbotten, Akademiska Hus, RISE, Umeå Energi and Upab.

← 7. Vindeln is a municipality of 6 000 inhabitants. Vakin receives EUR 1 million in annual revenues for the service while, in Umeå, it generates EUR 23 million per year (interviews in Umeå, 2019).

← 8. Since 2015, the European Commission has formally notified Sweden for not ensuring wastewater treatment in 13 towns, including 2 municipalities located in Västerbotten County (Official Journal of the European Union, 1991[51]). In 2019, the issue still affects ten municipalities in the country and three municipalities in Västerbotten County (Robertsfors, Lycksele, Malå). In July, the European Commission referred Sweden to the Court of Justice on this issue (EC, 2019[47]).

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