Local and Regional Governments Using Waste to Inform Circular Economy Policy
237 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019
Date Written: January 5, 2019
The circular economy (CE), in which wastes from one activity or process are reused as resources for others, is beginning to take hold as a development strategy. CE models can preserve resources, create jobs, add economic value, minimize waste, and curb greenhouse gas emissions, yet few governments have enacted policies to move toward a circular model.
CE policy, when present, is likely most effective on the municipal level: the majority of the global population lives in cities, the majority of global resources is used and waste is produced in cities, and urban economies claim the largest share of global GDP. Cities present an ideal economy of scale — relatively large populations, presence of industry, and high density — to implement the CE. Successful precedents for municipal governments adopting the CE as a development strategy could serve as a global model and catalyze a global paradigm shift.
This research presents in-depth case studies of governments of varying scales pursuing CE development and identifies commonalities and factors for success. The case studies consist of three U.S. cities, two foreign cities, and one foreign country. The international case studies offer discussion of regional, national, and supra-national CE frameworks and initiatives in contrast to the U.S. case studies in which such higher-level frameworks and initiatives are absent.
These case studies exhibit several common factors that contribute to CE implementation success: identifying and incentivizing waste as a resource; multi-governmental, regionally-based efforts; partnerships within government and with external partners; dedicated funding; and metrics to quantify CE impacts. Most significantly, however, the most successful case studies are those governments that unequivocally and explicitly adopt the CE as a formal, holistic economic development strategy with supporting frameworks at multiple scales. These governments have seen greater success thus far than those adopting only particular CE principles embedded in plans framed more simply around zero waste or less specific sustainable development goals.
Keywords: circular economy, zero waste, closed loop, recycling, composting, resource efficiency, waste utilization, sustainable materials management, industrial symbiosis, industrial ecology, ecological economics, sustainable economic development, eco-industrial park, policy, local government
JEL Classification: O38, O44, O57, Q01, Q50, Q51, Q53, Q56, Q57, Q58, Q59
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation