Circular economy is often perceived and described as a complex system, in need of a new set of skills, knowledge and expertise channelled at structurally reorganising the existing mechanism of today’s economy.

This is in fact undoubtedly true. Moving to a circular model implies growing responsibilities mainly focused on re-examining the allocation, use and type of resources, seeking and providing new forms of support, devising new policy frameworks, coordinating the efforts at different levels of governance. A series of steps that, for regions and cities who are meant to be the frontrunners in charge of this transition, can be too steep or smooth, given the different profile that characterise them in terms of their geographical accessibility, economic performance, allocation of resources and so on.

On these grounds, copying and pasting solutions from other actors standing on the front line for the same cause, is a big no no. However, shifting to a circular economy, is the only viable option, and if on one side, it is a mandatory direction that everyone will have to take, on the other it is a transformative change that will lead to the creation of new jobs and new opportunities.

Regions and cities have different identities, with a distinctive background and personal traits that make them unique and diverse. Being aware of their own heritage and set of resources is essential to break down the concept of circular economy and pick up the facets that are more suitable for their particular reality.

But what is the starting point for regional and local authorities to foster the implementation of circular economy programmes?

As can be inferred, cities and regions play a pivotal role in accelerating the transition towards circularity.

In order to embrace circular practices, there are a series of important steps to be taken that can support the initial approach to a new economy based on circular loops.

Public procurement, for example, is a strategy that can be successfully used by local and regional authorities to include circular products in their purchasing decisions, by prioritising the positively assessed ones that can be defined as green and sustainable in a more circular sense. Pre-commercial procurement, led by the research and development for the design of new innovative solutions that have not been commercialised yet, should also be coupled with the first kind.

Engaging with local and regional stakeholders in the early stages of a newly devised circular economy action plan, also deserves absolute priority. Involving them from the very beginning in the design of effective strategies to foster circularity in Regions means exploiting the valuable knowledge and experience that these actors are willing to share to make the set ambitions more easily achievable. Expanding the network of stakeholders and providing opportunities to promote smooth communication between them, is absolutely critical for a successful outcome of the whole transition process. If not possible through direct actions, any sort of mutual support can be promoted through intermediary actors or existing networks, such as business associations, business development agencies or local councils, whose role is hugely relevant for enhancing cross-communication between the different actors involved in the implementation of circular economy programmes. Of course, the design of a solid network based on the interaction with stakeholders, is more likely to happen when any form of financial support is included. Grants, loans, tax incentives are all examples of economic tools that can drive stakeholders’ engagement towards the desired direction.

Sharing knowledge, organising events and collaborating with businesses, universities, research centres are all vital actions to spread the awareness of the importance of adopting a circular economy approach for the future. All actions should be put together and channelled towards the definition of a regional and local roadmap for circular economy, that will be fostered by the availability of existing good practices and the common collaboration with all the actors committed to supporting the circular economy implementation at all possible levels.

Competition? Definitely outdated. Collaboration? The stage is yours.

References:

Bačová M., Böhme K, Guitton M., van Herwijnen M., Kállay T., Koutsomarkou J., Magazzù I., O’Loughlin E., Rok A., Pathways to a circular economy in cities and regions, 2016