Designing circular resource flows in European cities

A blueprint for the management of critical urban flows to fast-track the transition toward circular and regenerative cities.

In this project, spanning 3 years and 6 cities, the Metabolic Institute will explore how key material flows such as plastics, textiles, organic waste, and construction materials move through urban landscapes. Once these flows are clearly mapped and their environmental hotspots understood, circular innovations and strategies will be developed to reconfigure them, and strengthen the participating cities’ regenerative capacities. 
  • Funder: EU Horizon 2020

  • Grant Agreement: N°820937

  • PartnersCopenhagen Business School, Dyne, IAAC, Waag Society, Ecovala, Gemeente Amsterdam, Commune de Paris, Comune di Milano, Kommune Vejle, Municipul Cluj-Napoca, Senatskanzlei Berlin

  • Participating Cities: Amsterdam, Berlin, Cluj-Napoca, Milan, Paris, and Vejle

  • Date: July 2019 – August 2022

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 820937

The challenge

Cities are responsible for three quarters of global consumption, the vast majority of which is produced outside the urban boundaries. With 68% of people projected to live in cities by 2050, their size and economic impacts are expected to grow. Reducing urban waste and environmental impacts has become both a priority and a key leverage to transition the economy into a regenerative and circular state.

The challenge
Our approach

Metabolic Institute is applying Material Flow Analysis to understand and trace the metabolism of six European cities. Practically, this tool enables the assessment and modeling of the materials, energy, water and waste that move into, out of, and within a city. In each REFLOW pilot city, we are assessing critical urban resource flows including plastic, textile, organic waste, timber and energy. We will then identify the major environmental hotspots caused by these flows and offer interventions aimed at reducing their negative impacts. The social-cultural, environmental, and economic context of cities and their stakeholders act as leading lights for how we guide the reconfiguration of these resources flows and intervene effectively in each pilot city.

Our approach
The outcome

REFLOW will offer a new strategic vision for circular and regenerative cities, and provide tangible and tested blueprints on how to reconfigure urban metabolisms while catering to the needs of citizens as well as public and private actors. The social, environmental, and economic impacts of the interventions implemented in each pilot will be closely monitored for the duration of the project. REFLOW will provide critical insight on circular urban resource flows, and the conditions required for circular innovations to flourish in European cities. The project will present real-life and open-source examples, tools and learnings which can be widely applied to other existing urban contexts. 

The outcome
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Research Director


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