Circular Charlotte: Becoming a zero waste and inclusive city

Developing a strategy that lays the groundwork for Charlotte's circular transition

‘Circular Charlotte’ explores how Charlotte can start implementing a strategy to become the first circular city in the United States. We investigate how many valuable resources are currently lost through Charlotte’s waste system, and how these could be diverted into new, high-value uses; present a vision, co-created with city stakeholders, for a how a Circular Charlotte could look and function; and describe a roadmap with five business cases as a starting point for action.

  • Clients: Envision Charlotte, City of Charlotte
  • Date: October 2018
The challenge

The city of Charlotte sees the circular economy as a way to both bridge a growing social divide and reduce environmental impacts. With 88% of the city’s waste currently ending up in landfill, the magnitude of the transformation that has to happen to achieve a circular economy requires a clear strategy and a coordinated roadmap of actions.

The challenge
Our approach

Based on inputs from local stakeholders, including workshops and consultations, Metabolic created a vision for a Circular Charlotte, developed a set of Key Performance Indicators to measure progress towards achieving this, and evaluated the current state in Charlotte. We calculated that the city’s 900,000 tons of annual waste represent a residual value of roughly $111 million per year and the city could create more than 2,000 jobs by harnessing material instead of dumping it into landfill.

Our approach
The outcome

Based on this initial assessment, we proposed a strategy that lays the groundwork for Charlotte’s circular transition. As a starting point for translating the strategy into action, we proposed five circular business cases which which together could divert up to 15% of the waste from landfill, create up to 492 new jobs, and generate up to $34 million in revenues. We are currently working with city officials and partners to operationalize these business cases, one of which is an Innovation Barn that will showcase circular practices in action.

The outcome

“We are thrilled to implement the circular economy strategy in Charlotte. The strategies outlined in the report will help Charlotte address key issues impacting the entire city – economic and social mobility. We fully expect Circular Charlotte, along with the work we do, to help us become the epicenter for people and cities to learn how to experiment, create and innovate.”

Founder & CEO


For more information about this project, please get in touch.