Explore Circular Stories

Browse through case stories from our many partners and learn more about circular economy, the newest publications, inspiring initiatives, and ways to take action.  

There are also stories about ongoing competitions hosted by our partners, and open calls for proposals which provides opportunities to take part in the circular economy.     

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2021 Pioneer Stories

HOW TO RECYCLE SMALL AND LARGE APPLIANCES - 5 RECYCLING OPTIONS TO HELP YOU

Rubicon is on a mission to end waste, in all its forms. This include large and small appliances. With only 6% of small appliances being recycled and 2.1 tons of major appliances being sent to a landfill in 2017, appliance waste is on the rise. To combat this, Rubicon has made 5 appliance recycling options to help you dispose your appliances the best way possible. This include appliance resale or donation, appliance swaps through retailers, schedule an appliance recycle pick up, sell for parts (scrap) or the EPA RAD program. By making a proper disposal of your small and large appliances, you can save or even make money. Use one of the five recycling options, and join Rubicon in their mission to end waste.  

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GIVING OLD PRODUCTS NEW LIFE: DELLS PLAN TO DISCARD THE IDEA OF WASTE

Recovering materials and components before they exit the economy and returning them to usefulness is a key concept within the circular economy. This can make materials “closed-loop,” meaning they are reused for the same purpose again, or they can be “open-loop,” in that they are reused but serve a different function. In the transition to a circular economy, Dell is employing both approaches. Closed-loop initiatives include harvesting rare-earth materials and motherboard components from retired computers and reusing them in new models. Open-loop initiatives at Dell include recycling plastics to make new parts for new computers and monitors each year. After materials are disassembled, the plastics are shredded, melted, and then mixed with virgin plastics. The average closed-loop recycled content of the resins used is 30-35%.

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BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND - DELL'S VISION FOR CIRCULARITY

As a company that creates technology used by millions of people around the world, Dell has made a commitment to users to prioritize circularity in design and use of valuable resources. To achieve their ambitious moonshot goal, particular emphasis is being placed on conserving resources used in their products, by reusing and repurposing internal components and motherboards from retired computers in new products to extend the life of valuable materials. Additionally, Dell is exploring how implementation of artificial intelligence can be used to provide users with insights into operation and carbon footprint analysis of their computers, as well as facilitating product turn in. The company hopes to inspire transformation in the technology industry, as it will take industry-wide action to truly rethink existing design approaches.

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EMPHASIZING CIRCULARITY IN BUSINESS & PRODUCTION

ABB was recently recognized as one of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations by Corporate Knights. But ABB strives to accomplish even more in the coming years through implementing its 2030 Sustainability Strategy. Among ambitious emissions reductions and social progress goals, the strategy includes 3 principle circular economy targets. Firstly to bring at least 80% of ABB products under their circularity approach. Initial steps towards this goal include making plastic box covers from recycled post-consumer plastic. Secondly, to reduce waste ending up in landfills to zero. Compressive maintenance programs and refurbishment initiatives are part of these efforts. And thirdly, to achieve carbon neutrality across their own operations. This includes the transition to renewable sources of energy, improving energy efficiency across factories and sites, and electrification of transportation.

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BUILDING SERVICES DESIGN: ARUP'S CRADLE TO CRADLE-INSPIRED APPROACH

Arup is a global consulting, design, and engineering firm that is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment. Since 2016, Arup has been the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Global Knowledge Partner for the Built Environment, and they are committed to accelerating the transition to a circular economy. Arup has produced a comprehensive guideline that enables engineers to integrate cradle-to-cradle-inspired elements into building designs. It covers design criteria, system selection, system sizing, design for deconstruction, as well as material and product selection for the main MEP disciplines, and sets out a number of criteria by which the cradle to cradle aptness of a design can be measured.

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ESG REPORTING - TOWARDS A FUTURE WITHOUT WASTE

When Rubicon® was launched in 2008, the core idea was to solve the problem of waste. Managing waste, the unwanted byproducts of human activity, is not a new challenge. The archaeological remains of great cities, including Rome, Jerusalem, and Paris testify to humanity’s long-standing focus on managing and carrying away waste in all its forms. Rubicon made an early strategic decision to use every tool in our arsenal—customer centricity, small business empowerment, and the strength of digital platforms and data—to transform a stagnating industry whose business model was a threat to the health of our planet.

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CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN THE ERA OF COVID-19: HOW CIRCULAR CITIES MAY BE THE KEY TO PANDEMIC RECOVERY

We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has devastated lives and livelihoods. Could now be the time to make the shift from a linear to a circular economy? Freshfields believes that the economic circumstances in New York City caused by the pandemic have made the glaring need to make this transition apparent, and assert that increasing circularity will be the key to cities post COVID-19 recovery. The strain on global resources, destabilization of supply chains, job loss, and exacerbation of inequalities are only a few widespread concerns that could be eased by the shift to a circular economy. This shift could lead to increased economic resilience by reducing import dependency, new local jobs in repair, waste diversion, and recycling industries, and reduction of harmful emissions affecting low-income communities. Freshfields has launched the New York Circular City Initiative, a collaboration of over 20 experts, influencers, and thought leaders working together to help NYC make the transition to the circular economy. They are committed to developing sustainable solutions that transcend industry sectors and the public/private divide in the long-term while supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts in the short term. 

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NEW YORK CIRCULAR CITY INITIATIVES ANNOUNCES VISION TO GROW 11,000 JOBS AND REDUCE WASTE TO ZERO

A new report and vision issued by the New York Circular City Initative recommends a series of measures to the city, its businesses and financial institutions to accelerate the creation of a circular economy in New York, which will support the recovery from COVID-19, help catalyze thousands of jobs and maximize resource use while minimizing waste. Convened by leading international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, the New York Circular City Initiative is a coalition of leaders from the Mayor's Office, city agencies, multinational corporations, foundations and academic institutions excited to reimagine the way New York's economy works.

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2021 Partner Stories

SWEDEN SHOWCASES DEVELOPMENTS IN SUSTAINABLE TIMBER

Located just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, Skellefteå has a long tradition of timber building—this was the primary inspiration behind the international competition winning design for Sara Cultural Centre. Opening to the public in 2021, the building is at the forefront of a global movement towards Carbon Neutral construction. The use of timber has reduced the climate impact of the construction and acted as a key driver for environmental, economic, and social sustainability in a broader sense. The regional forest industry and construction knowledge played an important role in the project and is complemented by recent developments in engineered timber (CLT) technology. The advancement of research in engineered timber has unleashed a world of previously unimagined design possibilities. 

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URBAN FUTURE PRIZE COMPETITION: ENCOURAGING INNOVATION IN CLEAN TECHNOLOGY

New York's forward-thinking state and city governments, thriving tech sector, and massive scale make it one of the top startup clean tech economies in the world. The city has become the ideal laboratory for creating sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing climate challenges. For a fifth year, the Urban Future Lab will me hosting the Urban Future Prize Competition, which brings the brightest climate tech entrepreneurs together with mission-driven investors, policy leaders, and the NYC community for our annual competition and summit. This year, three winners will be awarded $50,000 cash prizes and will receive admission into New York's longest-running and most successful climate tech program, the ACRE Incubator.

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THE MATERIAL FLOW ANALYSIS: A TOOL FOR IMPLEMENTING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The Circular Economy needs a boost in skills, education, and awareness in order to effectively initiate the transition process. This is where particularly the Material Flow Analysis, developed by the Circular Economy Research Center (CERC) of the École des Ponts Business School, comes in as a handy tool. The Material Flow Analysis is an instrument to fuse the upskilling and re-skilling process. Moreover, it is a quantitative material accounting practice where the flows of materials throughout the economy are mapped. It allows for managing the materials efficiently and helps to find ways of reducing the environmental impact and costs of materials. On the application front, MFA can be incorporated in the non-financial reporting of organizations to make their operations more circular. Additionally, online platforms can be created for flow accounting where it is easy and convenient to identify for example hotspot materials. As such, the fundamental principle behind the tool is to track and use data extracted by the tool to know where resources are currently being deployed and how we using them to prevent them from getting wasted. 

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LONDON AUTHORITIES & BUSINESSES PUSH FOR A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

A new survey commissioned by ReLondon—a partnership between the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management—highlights the desire from local authorities and SMEs for the circular economy to be a higher priority going into the future, both for their own organizations and for UK policymakers. The study, with 300 senior decision-makers in local authorities and small businesses across England, found that 77% believe that accelerating a global circular economy should be a high priority for policymakers in the build-up to COP26. 

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NEW ALL-TIMBER CONSTRUCTION NOT ONLY LIMITS CARBON EMISSIONS BUT SEQUESTERS IT

Ör Centrum is a new residential building not far from the center of Stockholm that creates synergy with the natural environment through the timber-led construction approach. Its walls and floors are made with cross-laminated timber, which manages to capture aesthetics and comfort while sequestering approximately 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Timber was sourced locally when possible, which served to further reduce the environmental impact of the project by limiting carbon emissions associated with the transportation of materials. When completed it will be one of the largest all-wood neighborhoods, consisting of close to 4,200 cubic meters of wood. Through careful planning and preparatory work, the on-site production time will be shortened by around half compared with prefabricated concrete construction and will create less disturbance to adjacent properties.

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FABSCRAP: REDUCING PRE-CONSUMER TEXTILE WASTE

FABSCRAP is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending commercial textile waste. FABSCRAP provides a pre-consumer textile recycling service to hundreds of companies in the apparel, interior, and entertainment industries. In less than five years, they have diverted over 650,000 pounds of material from landfills. These materials are sorted for reuse or recycling with the help of thousands of volunteers. Small pieces are recycled into shoddy and reusable materials are available for free or for sale at their Brooklyn Warehouse, Manhattan Shop, and Online Store. FABSCRAP also offers educational presentations and Digital Workshops.

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COLLECTING PLASTIC USAGE & DISPOSAL DATA TO EMPOWER DECISION-MAKING

Ocean Conservancy has partnered with the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute (NMI) to implement the Institute’s Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP). The CAP includes collecting data that can empower cities in decision-making and answer important questions such as how plastic is used and disposed of and how circularity can be increased. The material of focus is consumer plastics, primarily single-use plastics, with the goal of reducing any plastics that reach waterways and oceans. Since 2019, the CAP has been initiated in 10 countries and 26 cities, including in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Panama, and Mexico. Ocean Conservancy and NMI are looking forward to expanding the CAP to Miami and two cities in Chile this year.

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TAKEOUT & DELIVERY IN RETURNABLE REUSABLE CONTAINERS

New Yorkers throw away an estimated 1 billion takeout containers every year, generating an estimated 414 billion pounds of waste. DeliverZero is a service that makes it easy to order takeout and delivery from local restaurants in reusable containers that you can return right at your door. Return the containers to a DelierZero delivery person next time you order from any restaurant on DeliverZero, or schedule a time to drop them off at any restaurant they work with. It doesn’t cost extra, as long as you return them within 6 weeks. Now through March 31st, you can use the code CIRCULARCITY10 for $10 off your order. 

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DIGITIZING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY: MANAGING PHYSICAL ASSET TO ELIMINATE WASTE

Rheaply is a technology for connecting organizations and their employees to available workspace resources, catalyzing the transition toward the circular economy. As the only market solution that combines an asset management system with an online marketplace, Rheaply’s Asset Exchange Manager (AxM)™ enables organizations to manage and transact physical assets (furniture, equipment, electronics, and other salvage) more effectively, eliminating unnecessary waste and spend. Since 2016, Rheaply has diverted over 14.5 tons of workplace resources from the landfill, saving organizations – from Google to MIT to the City of Chicago– over $1.6 million.

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DESIGNING A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE USING BIOTECHNOLOGY

The world is in dire need of good design. Design that considers not just product utility, but the full lifecycle, from birth to rebirth. Biodesign Challenge is an education program and competition that supports classroom exploration of biodesign - an emerging discipline that bridges art, design, and biology. Students create projects that ask how fashion, food, medicine, materials, or energy might be better designed for both people and the planet. By harnessing the tools and creative applications of biotechnology, students reimagine what a more sustainable future might look like.

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BUILDING A ZERO-WASTE & CIRCULAR PARK IN NYC

The partnership between TRUE Certification and the Battery Park City Authority is one that promotes the triple bottom line; people, planet, and profit. Battery Park City Authority has been able to reach TRUE Gold Certification by participating in a circular economy that emphasizes reduction, reuse, and closing the loop in its zero waste practices. The tools and guidance provided by the TRUE Certification team make this a fun and innovative learning experience that can be applied to any organization looking to improve its impact on our environment while saving money in the process.

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NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN WIND TURBINE BLADE RECYCLING

Ten Danish partners have recently started a new research and development project ‘DecomBlades.’ This is a three-year project which seeks to provide a basis for the commercialization of sustainable wind turbine blade recycling. The combined expertise of these partners will be leveraged to address three recycling processes: shredding and recycling wind turbine blade materials, using shredded turbine blades in cement production, and developing a method to separate the composite material under high temperatures. The hope is that this project will serve to establish a robust recycling industry for turbine blades and that the international nature of the partner organizations will allow for these innovations to be implemented on a global scale. 

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CE ANALYSIS: CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE DESIGN

At Agritecture, their goal is to design economically feasible solutions while considering the environmental impact of the food system. In an article written by Alberto Lopez, he provides his perspective on what an integrated circular agricultural system should look like, and how it can achieve a sustainable balance between economic, social, and environmental aspects. Here, Alberto Lopez dives into a CEA integrated systems analysis, where he explores the agricultural system and the possible interactions. With an aim to integrate a closed-loop agricultural system, he argues that the strategies to achieve this balance involve “the creased circularity and durability of relevant inputs throughout the system, the increase of the value of the outputs by transformation, and the availability of horizontal couplings with other systems. These paths can be applied to any circular scenario, as long as there is a proper understanding of the system interactions, inputs, and outputs”.

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WHY ALL BUSINESSES NEED CIRCULARITY ACTION PLANS TO ADDRESS THE SDGS

The UN Sustainable Development Goals represent both an obligation and an opportunity. Not only does pursuing these goals make sense for society and the planet but sustainability is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions in untapped opportunities. Unfortunately, sustainability is often treated as a side effort under the Corporate Social Responsibility umbrella. Last year Rainmaking spoke to industry leaders and innovators from GANNI and Circular IQ who are frontrunners in circularity and are working to implement innovative approaches supporting the move from linear to circular value chains. Their discussion is available as part of Rainmakings series of Webinars and Panel Talks.  

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ANAEROBIC DIGESTION: A CIRCULAR ECONOMY SOLUTION TO MANAGE FOOD WASTE

It is estimated that more than 60 million tons of food are wasted in the United States each year. Thankfully there is a proven circular economy solution to manage food waste while producing renewable energy and recycling nutrients: anaerobic digestion. Trenton Biogas is a dedicated food waste anaerobic digestion facility with depackaging capabilities located in Trenton, New Jersey. It has the capacity to process 400 tons/day of commercial, municipal, industrial, and agricultural food waste streams. Trenton Biogas is collaborating with Danish companies and U.S. investors to determine how their technology can be harnessed for a more circular future. 

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REDUCING FOOD LOSS AND WASTE: A BUSINESS NO-BRAINER

Globally, one-third of all food is lost or wasted. This equals 1.6 billion tons of food with a value of approximately $1.2 trillion according to a Boston Consulting Group report from 2018. Reducing food loss and waste is therefore not only a necessary step towards sustainable development, but also a good business model. Since the Danish start-up company Too Good To Go launched its app in 2016, 64.9 million meals from 78,858 cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, and more have already been saved by more than 34.1 million users all around the world. Too Good To Go’s food waste mission is now entering the American market.

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BARNARD COLLEGE'S PATH TO BECOMING A CIRCULAR CAMPUS

Barnard College, a liberal arts college located in uptown Manhattan, aims to build a "Circular Campus." Alongside BLOXHUB and Rheaply they are building a holistic approach based on circular economy principles, designed to reduce waste, emissions, and costs while transforming consumption patterns on campus, and increasing access and affordability for students. The Circular Campus framework is divided into five major areas of focus: Design and Construction, Green Spaces, Reuse and Sustainable Purchasing, Waste Diversion, and Food and Dining. By shifting to a regenerative model, they expect to play their part in reducing emissions, educating and innovating on interdisciplinary challenges, and fostering a sharing and inclusive environment.

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SUPPORTING THE SDGs BY TRANSITIONING TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE CONCRETE  

NYC, otherwise known as the “Concrete Jungle,” consumes about 3 million tons of concrete per year. This comes at a cost: For every 1 ton of cement, 1 ton of CO2 is produced. The solution? Urban Mining Northeast’s (UMNE) glass pozzolan, which reduces the environmental impact of both standard concrete and glass waste, and creates a stronger, longer-lasting, and more resilient product for NYC’s landscape. The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business’ (CSB) Invest NYC SDG Initiative is working with city agencies to establish UMNE’s second plant for developing this green concrete locally. In doing so, the initiative is building a high-value circular economy for NYC’s glass waste stream, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping achieve NYC’s goal of zero waste to landfill by 2030.

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EXPLORING A NEW CARBON-NEUTRAL BUILDING MATERIAL

Parsons Healthy Materials Lab has been researching HempLime, a fully circular, natural, healthy, carbon-neutral building material. Their initial research is gathered in a guidebook called Hemp + Lime, which examines the feasibility of precast HempLime block production through demonstration projects. It illustrates how healthier building materials can be incorporated in the construction industry, especially for healthier affordable housing. This publication includes introductions to industrial hemp cultivation, hemp and lime use, the potential of manufacturing hemp-based products for a complete cycle of block production. It explores the potential of new jobs in agriculture and the construction industry in underserved rural communities.

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ESTABLISHING AN ACADEMIC BASIS FOR CIRCULAR ECONOMY INNOVATION

The Circular Economy Research Center (CERC) at the Ecole des Ponts Business school is leading cutting-edge research in the domain of Circular Economy. The Center has been a frontrunner in the establishment of the domain from its earliest stages. Their research focuses on technologies, skills, and education curriculums that can expedite the transition from the linear model to the circular model with numerous prestigious grants awarded in niche Circular Economy research themes. 

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INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY STEERS THE GREEN AGENDA IN FARMING AND FOOD

The agriculture and food industries rely on technology to reduce energy and water consumption, minimize food loss, and recycle wastewater and heat. Denmark is a global role model for high production yields and resource efficiency and, as such, a major exporter of technology that supports the green transition. A new white paper from Food Nation explores how technological innovations from Danish suppliers will shape the sustainability agenda and support the transition towards a more circular food system. 

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EUROPEAN STAKEHOLDERS PUSH TO INCREASE RECYCLED CONTENT REQUIREMENTS

According to the United Nations, more than 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced worldwide every year, of which only 9% is recycled. Reloop identified a gap in recycling legislation—there were no laws mandating a minimum percentage of recycled content in plastic packaging. In order to address this gap and increase the proportion of plastic waste being recycled into new products, Reloop conducted an analysis through interviews with industry experts and an in-depth literature review. A coalition of European legislatures has used this study’s culminating report and recommendations, as the basis to push for increased recycled plastic content targets. Today, the Single Use Plastics Directive includes a 25% target for recycled content in PET bottles by 2025 and at least 30% in all plastic bottles by 2030.  

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CIRCULAR ENERGY SYSTEMS TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT 

ASHRAE believes that achieving climate neutrality through CO2 emissions reductions in the built environment is a lofty, but achievable goal.  However, a major shift in the way architects, developers, engineers, and municipalities think about building design, codes, and legislation will be necessary. Circular energy systems and design execution using a ‘bottom up’ approach is a proven concept championed by Nordic principles that could help designers and owners in New York City achieve these goals.  ASHRAE New York is committed to promoting circular design practices and strategies to help achieve New York City’s and the State of NY’s goals for carbon reduction.

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SME'S ROLE IN TRANSITIONING TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Denmark has a longstanding tradition for developing green and sustainable solutions. The next generation of which is likely to be generated through a transition to a circular economy and resource efficiency. CLEAN–Environmental Cluster Denmark, has developed a program together with Danish partners called Green Circular Transition. This program enables SMEs to be at the forefront of this development and prioritizing customer’s needs. CLEAN's mission is to create innovation and growth within Danish companies that have or need environmental technology solutions. In order to do this, the cluster connects the public and private sectors with research institutions and facilitates projects which accelerate innovation and spur the green transition.

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CATALYZING POLICY CHANGE IN NORTH AMERICA

In a world faced with climate change and an ever-increasing demand for natural resources, Reloop Platform aims to advance policy that promotes a world where resources are kept in continuous use and waste and pollution are eliminated. When it launched in 2015, Reloop’s initial focus was on bringing together stakeholders in industry, government, and NGOs to shape waste reduction policy in Europe. The organization has since become one of the leading organizations for technical expertise around circular economy policy and in 2019, began a global expansion with the launch of Reloop Pacific, followed by Reloop Americas in 2020. Reloop Americas will initially cover Canada and the U.S.A., with possible expansion into Latin America in the future.

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SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION: INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

A core focus of Working in Support of Education (W!se), a non-profit organization, is to help high schools prepare students for college and the workplace. Given environmental, economic and social challenges facing many countries, readiness for the future means having a foundational knowledge of sustainability. W!se’s Engineered Green Economics initiative was developed to meet the growing demand for workers to understand sustainable and circular practices and to nurture the next generation of talent with the capacity to influence change. W!se also continues to work with teachers to build these new learning opportunities that help students explore the circular economy and build new innovations and practices. Young people need to know that while the current issues may seem overwhelming, they will enter the work world just when the demand for talent in sustainability job fields is rising and they will be ready.

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RETHINKING THE PLASTIC SHOPPING BAG: NINE INNOVATIVE METHODS

The average amount of time between when a single-use plastic bag is received and discarded is 12 minutes. 12 minutes leading to decades in landfills, or worse oceans. Closed Loop Partners’ Beyond the Bag Challenge seeks to develop innovative solutions for replacing the plastic shopping bag. 9 winners of the challenge were recently released—with solutions spanning reuse and refill models, innovative materials, and enabling technologies. Solutions include “Fill it Forward,” which creates a tag that connects bags to a mobile app where users track their environmental impact, help give back to charitable projects, and offer rewards that encourage reuse. Another winner is GOATOTE, which offers a kiosk system that provides easy access to clean reusable bags, as well as a return system. 

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ACTIVATING BUILDING MATERIAL REUSE: TRANSITIONING TO A MORE CIRCULAR BUILT ENVIRONMENT

The United States generates 600 million tons of construction and demolition debris annually—twice the amount of municipal solid waste. Only an estimated 22% of this material gets reused in new products, with the rest going to landfills or turned into aggregate or fuel. This is a missed opportunity, as material reuse reduces greenhouse gas emissions, conserves natural resources, and has the potential to protect public health and create jobs. AIA New York’s Committee on the Environment hosted a roundtable during Circular City Week to discuss how material reuse can be collaboratively activated by designers, municipalities, and reuse organizations to help reduce waste and carbon impact, and to create an increasingly circular built environment.

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THE INTERIOR DESIGNER'S ROLE IN A CHANGING ECONOMY

As a passionate steward for the environment and a pioneer of the concept that interior design sits at the intersection of human health and wellbeing, Laurence Carr's mission is to educate as many people about the circular economy as possible. She believes that a regenerative approach to interrupting the climate crisis must be taken from within the industry and that interior designers have the responsibility to consider how their choices can aid in the move toward a more sustainable future. Interior designers should seek to deeply understand how material production impacts human health and the natural environment—making ethical and circular design choices. Embracing a more circular economy where design is regenerative and waste is designed out of the process, can contribute radically to planetary health and peoples' wellbeing.

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IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITES FOR RECOVERY, RESILIENCE, AND REGENERATION

The transition to a circular economy presents both unique challenges and tremendous business opportunities in the US and Canada. This week Enel North America, a leading sustainable energy company, published a report describing the company's viewpoint on the challenges and opportunities for the circular transition through analysis, examples, and partner case studies. The pater details how the application of circular economy principles is evident across the full value chain of Enel's operations and the company's long-term strategy. As a leader in the energy sector, and an enabler of greater energy circularity among Enel's cross-sector partners, the company has committed to continuously drive towards the achievement of greater circular outcomes throughout its projects and products. Enel has extended its commitments to creating shared value in the communities where it works and lives - applying regenerative land-use models for solar and enabling its costumers and partners to achieve their sustainability goals. 

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FACILITATING MATCHMAKING BETWEEN SUPPLY & DEMAND OF SECONDARY MATERIALS

The vast majority of all waste is industrial waste. This is often in better condition than household waste, and therefore holds the potential for high-value reuse. Yet, industrial waste collecting and processing contracts are privately concluded, and data about these waste flows has to date been used mostly for control and enforcement purposes. Researchers of the AMS Institute have been granted access to this data and turned it into comprehensive maps and graphs, which moreover provide insights on its broader impacts in relation to transport and economic sectors. This has resulted in the spin-off geoFluxus, which now assesses the impact of different waste scenarios, as well as enables matchmaking between supply and demand of secondary materials.

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THE BEYOND THE BAG INITIATIVE

The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag launched by Closed Loop Partners' Center for the Circular Economy opened the Beyond the Bag Challenge in August, inviting entrepreneurs, designers, suppliers and problem-solvers to submit solutions that replace the current single-use plastic bag. Through the Challenge, the Consortium brings to light future-forward, tech-enabled solutions that can help build a new system that serves the function of the retail bag in a sustainable, affordable and inclusive way – helping transport goods from store to destination in a way that aligns with diverse retail systems and delivers ease and convenience for all.

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REUSABLE SALAD BOWLS: THE PATH TO REDUCING WASTE & INCREASING CIRCULARITY

Just Salad has released its annual sustainability report announcing new steps to support the Circular Economy. Just Salad is now piloting a digital version of its reusable bowl program, the world’s largest and longest-running program of its kind. Under the pilot, now live at Just Salad’s 600 3rd Avenue location, customers can order food for pickup from orderjustsalad.com in a Green Reusable Bowl and return the container for professional washing and sanitation. The report also discusses Just Salad’s carbon labeling initiative and no-plastic meal kit brand, Housemade. You can use code CIRCULARJS5 for $5 off at orderjustsalad.com or the Just Salad app. Use code HOUSEMADECCW10 for $10 off your 2nd order on gethousemade.com.

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BRINGING TOGETHER EU STAKEHOLDERS TO SUPPORT THE TRANSITION TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The Circular Economy Alliance, a consortium of stakeholders from industrial, academic, and consumer organizations, was established with the sole aim of bringing together stakeholders with a genuine interest in supporting the transition from a linear to a circular economy. Given the scarcity of resources and environmental degradation caused by the current linear model, it is clear that such a transition is necessary. The transition can only be expedited in a focused and targeted way from the actual users and beneficiaries. This alliance is committed to enabling this bottom-up transformation by identifying gaps, defining requirements, proposing solutions, sharing expertise in enhancing the efforts in upskilling, and reskilling people of any age and working level. 

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COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING:
A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE

It’s time to reimagine the future of compostable packaging. It’s 2030, and facilities are composting more food and packaging than ever before. We’ve started building sustainable food, packaging, and land systems to tackle climate change through avoided emissions and stored carbon. Today’s discussions are narrowly focused on the packaging and foodservice industries and how to transition compostable packaging into a larger, beneficial system. Better data on contamination, food waste legislation, and a renewed focus on carbon sinks can help pave the way.

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HAS SUSTAINABLE FASHION PAVED THE WAY FOR SUSTAINABLE FURNITURE?

The fashion industry’s harmful social and environmental impact has driven consumers, brands and nonprofits to spawn the sustainable fashion movement, sparking improvements in working conditions, raw materials, and waste mitigation. At the same time, a much more nascent—but equally crucial—sustainable furniture movement has emerged but has not yet galvanized the public like fashion. mebl | Transforming Furniture is exploring how the lessons learned from the sustainable fashion movement can be used to increase circularity within the furniture industry, bringing the industry into the future. 

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BLOXHUB x BARNARD COLLEGE: BUILDING A CIRCULAR CAMPUS IN NYC

Last fall BLOXHUB, a Nordic Hub for sustainable urbanization, and Danish Cleantech Hub in New York put out an open call to New York companies and organizations interested in incorporating circular economy solutions into their construction or urban planning projects. Barnard College’s “Circular Campus” project was announced last week as the winner of this call. Through this initiative, Barnard seeks to rethink campus living and reduce emissions and waste. They have set an ambitious goal: to become the first Circular Campus in the United States. BLOXHUB is partnering with Barnard to facilitate this process and to help create meaningful solutions based on circular principles. Additionally, this partnership hopes to identify a Circular Campus model that can be applied to other institutions of higher learning. 

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CATALYZING THE CARBONTECH ECOSYSTEM

The Carbon to Value (C2V) Initiative will unlock a new carbontech economy, bringing innovative solutions to scale as rapidly as possible through the creation of a robust, powerful, and collaborative new ecosystem. Applications are now open for startups to join the first C2V accelerator cohort, which will run from May - November 2021. Startups selected to participate in the program will have the opportunity to engage with the Carbontech Leadership Council, an invitation-only group of executive leaders across diverse industry sectors driving the future of carbontech. 

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A CIRCULAR APPROACH TO DEMOLITION & CONSTRUCTION

It is estimated that one-third of today’s existing building stock will be demolished by 2050, while the equivalent of an entire New York City will be built every month for the next 40 years. A linear approach to demolition and construction means that this global construction boom will generate an astounding amount of waste. But building materials don't have to be wasted! Component parts can be dismantled for reuse through deconstruction. Material reuse diverts construction waste away from landfills, reduces natural resource depletion, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions created by the manufacture and transport of new materials. Build Reuse is a network of deconstruction and reuse professionals, architects, preservationists, engineers, and craftspeople finding creative ways to build a world without waste. They welcome everyone to join their network by becoming a member.

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2020 Stories

BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL - CAN COVID-19 RECOVERY BE ALIGNED WITH PLANETARY NEEDS?

Oliver Dudok van Heel from Freshfields explored in a blog how COVID-19 has altered our relationship with our planet, what this could mean for a postcorona world and how this will affect business. The COVID-19 crisis has helped us understand the symbiotic relationship we have with our planet and how human action and wellbeing is inextricably linked to the natural environment on a number of levels. 

 

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FROM PRINCIPLES TO PRACTICES: REALIZING THE VALUE OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN REAL ESTATE

Making an investment case is vital to the adoption of circular economy principles, helping the built environment sector tackle its environmental footprint and create better places for people to live and work. What tangible changes could real estate investors and businesses make to tap into these benefits? These are core questions that Arup and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation addressed in the newest publication. 

 

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POSTPONED: THE ZERO WASTE SUMMIT MARCH 24-26

Companies for Zero Waste, who is hosting the Summit, are taking a pragmatic approach to identify actionable items to mitigate the supply chain environmental impact. The second annual Zero Waste Summit also includes a hands-on pre-summit workshop by David Gajadhar, Chairman of Companies for Zero Waste. This workshop is designed to help organizations connect the dots across the supply chain for waste mitigation and performance improvement during uncertain economic cycles. Join 200+ sustainability directors, policymakers and investors at New Jersey Innovation Institute’s Agile Strategy Lab in Newark, New Jersey. 

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SOCIAL ENTERPRISES AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY

This blog looks at what we can learn from social enterprises in Chile, Portugal and the Netherlands that are already creating inclusive work opportunities for people in the circular economy. The inclusion of jobs in the circular economy is a key focus area for the Circular Jobs Initiative, by Circle Economy, a dutch impact organization that is working to ensure the transition to the circular economy is positive for work and workers.

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ACCELERATING INTO CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Circular Re-Thinking is one of the first professional training courses aimed at bringing experts into companies to accelerate the circular transition. Trentino Sviluppo in collaboration with consultancy firm Terra Institute and with the support of Renewable Matter’s editorial office conceived the Circular Re-thinking School, the project aims to create a connection between experts and young professionals who are interested in real circular economy processes and the companies that want to rethink their business models. These companies are hoping to find activators who will support the transition towards better sustainability practices through the enactment of a circular business vision. The program will be replicated in the US and the Netherlands.

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RESOURCE INNOVATION AND SOLUTIONS NETWORK (RISN) INCUBATOR

In 2016, the City of Phoenix and Arizona State University launched the first circular economy incubator program in the United States: RISN Incubator. The incubator is a niche-business accelerator for entrepreneurs in the early stages of waste-to-product innovation. We offer ventures an opportunity to rapidly scale and transform their startup into a vehicle to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges by helping them to test their concepts, build out their company and scale to market. Additionally, we lead education and capacity building efforts with community partners to help them gain an understanding of circular economy concepts, strategies and how it all can be implemented into their work. One way we do so is through our Professional Certificate in Ethical Circular Economy which is a 1 to 3 day intensive focused on systems thinking, social and ethical impacts, design strategies, and more.

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NYC RECYCLED GLASS AGGREGATE

Glass is, theoretically, endlessly recyclable. However, glass collected in curbside recycling programs gets broken and mixed with other recyclables. At Sims Municipal Recycling, glass is immediately screened out from the recycling stream and shipped to Sims’ Glass Plant where any residual non-glass materials are removed and glass is shipped for its highest and best use. While not all glass can be recovered for use in the bottling industry, Sims Municipal Recycling is able to supply builders with recycled glass aggregate (RGA) for use in a wide array of construction projects as a locally-produced, recycled, cost-effective aggregate product.

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PATHWAYS TO A CLEANER ENERGY FUTURE: THE CASE OF DENMARK

In June of 2019, Clinical Professor Carolyn Kissane lead an NYU Center for Global Affairs Global Field Intensive to Denmark and Norway, examining clean energy policies and sustainability.  Sixteen students participated in the program. Two students, Adrian Varga and Brian Myers, Energy and Environmental Policyconcentrators, in this blog post, examined Denmark's power sector and the innovative ways it is moving toward cleaner energy and deeper decarbonization.

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A BROOKLYN TECH LIVING LAB INITIATIVE

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) is excited to be a partner in testing out solutions that work toward an efficient, green, circular city. With our Living Lab initiative, DBP partners with smart cities startups to use Downtown Brooklyn as a testing ground for new technologies. Working in conjunction with incubators, accelerators and entrepreneurial hubs to identify urban tech startups, DBP is making Downtown Brooklyn a center for frontier urban technology. 

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BLOXHUB URBAN PARTNERSHIPS

BLOXHUB is the Nordic Hub for Sustainable Urbanization and we help create better cities worldwide through urban partnerships. Our goal is to help inspire and share the solutions across country boarders and fields of knowledge. With Urban Partnerships, BLOXHUB seeks to create a national or global initiative on behalf of its members, which will ensure strong partnerships, knowledge sharing and collaboration. 

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ZERO WASTE PRACTICES SUPPORT THE TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE

TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste is the first program dedicated to measuring and improving zero waste system performance by encouraging the adoption of reliable, resilient and sustainable practices. Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. and supported by the USGBC, TRUE evaluates how well facilities perform in minimizing their nonhazardous solid waste and maximizing efficiency in the use of resources. With TRUE, a facility or building can achieve its zero waste goals, cut their carbon footprint and support public health. The focus for TRUE is on upstream initiatives including reduction, reuse, and closed loop practices. 

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ACCELERATING THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING

Six companies graduated from the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, managed by Closed Loop Partners, ready to scale their sustainable cup solutions. The diverse solutions include cutting-edge plant-based materials, new innovative liners for cups, and reusable cup systems that redesign the fiber to-go cup so that it is more widely recoverable or remains in circulation for multiple uses.

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LEARNING FROM CONSUMERS - HOW SHIFTING DEMANDS ARE SHAPING COMPANIES’ CIRCULAR ECONOMY TRANSITION

There are many ways in which companies can apply circular economy principles to increase profitability. All of this will be in vain, however, if companies cannot bring consumers with them as they transition. ING's latest circular economy research, a global study of 15,000 consumers, reveals that 83 percent believe their consumer choices can have a positive impact on addressing global environmental challenges. The research also provides fresh insight into three industries: fashion, food, and electronics. The findings highlight where consumers are already engaging in circular activities, their appetite for new product and service models, and how these shifting preferences will change the way that businesses operate and generate revenues in the future.

 

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A BUSLOAD OF FASHION PEOPLE GO TO A LANDFILL

Slow Factory is an organization focused on environmental justice and human rights via educational programs, cultural events, and special projects. In partnership with Adidas, our Landfills as Museums project encourages students and designers to adopt a waste-led design approach that considers the end of life of materials at the beginning in order to reduce the burden placed on the globe's landfills caused by overconsumption and waste.

 

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WASTE WISE CITIES

In 2018, UN-Habitat launched the Waste Wise Cities Campaign, a call to action for municipalities to enhance solid waste management and resource efficiency. It also outlines the need for the development of partnerships across all sectors of society, formal and informal, governments and NGOs, private and public sectors. Read more about this program and the nexus between women and waste in UN-Habitat's newsletter.

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URBAN MINING AND CIRCULAR CONSTRUCTION

Construction is critical to the healthy functioning of our economy. Yet, it is also one of the planet’s largest consuming sectors of energy and raw materials. How can we continue to build while minimizing negative impacts on the environment? The answer lies in urban mining and circular construction – but what is it and how does it help cities and developers? Read more for Metabolic's explanation.
 

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CIRCULARITY IN 2020

While the concept of a circular economy has made its way into the public consciousness; unfortunately, as of 2018, circularity globally is only at 9%. What do we need to ensure that Circularity delivers on its potential in 2020 and beyond? This question and more are posed by Gina Wu Lee, Founder of Upcycler and the author of Closing the Material Loop-How Innovators from the Public and Private Sector are Creating Value from Waste and The State of the Circular Economy in America. The Upcyclers Network was founded to challenge our reliance on natural resource extraction and build a sustainable economy where waste is simply a resource out of place.

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CIRCULARITY CITIES IN DENMARK

The Circularity City project has gathered municipalities and private sector frontrunners in Denmark to display how circular cities can be built. From 2017 to 2020, the focus has been to design new innovative, circular solutions in order to create a more positive environmental footprint in the built environment. This has been carried out through value-chain collaboration and development projects for both municipalities and corporations – all with the shared vision of establishing new circular solutions and scaling them, nationally and globally. The findings of this report will also be presented at Circular City Week New York, but you can already now access the findings.

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GREENTOWN LABS CIRCULARITY CHALLENGE

The #CircularityChallenge brought together startups and corporates with the mission of advancing groundbreaking technologies to enable a circular economy. The accelerator, run by Greentown Labs and chemicals leader BASF, connected entrepreneurs with the necessary mentors, team members, and business and technical resources to fast-track their technologies. The accelerator participants are disrupting the recycling industry and plastics and energy storage value chains. Hear from the startups and corporates at the Feb. 6 Final Showcase!

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MEASURING CIRCULARITY FOR BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has just launched Circulytics - the most comprehensive, circularity measurement tool available in the world. Circulytics is for any organisation that wants to accurately measure the full extent of their circularity with unprecedented clarity. Using company-level data, with applied insights and analysis from the Foundation's Data and Metrics team, Circulytics highlights and inspires opportunities for innovation, while allowing companies to track their progress. Now a freely available resource, Circulytics is a crucial tool for every organisation that wants to accelerate the adoption of circular economy practices.

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ReFASHION WEEK 2020

To raise awareness about textile waste and provide fashionable solutions, The New York City Department of Sanitation and its nonprofit partner, The Foundation for New York’s Strongest, team up to host the second annual ReFashion Week from February 22nd to the 28th. The week of events kicks off with an opening reception and panel featuring sustainable fashion experts and closes with an all-out fashion show highlighting thrift stylists and upcycle designers. 

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WHERE SHOULD OUR CLOTHES GO WHEN WE'RE DONE WITH THEM?

Every year, New Yorkers send 200 million pounds of clothing to landfill – that’s the equivalent of over 440 Statues of Liberty – but steps are being taken to change that. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation joined forces with NYC's Department of Sanitation and Economic Development Corporation for the Make Fashion Circular #WearNext campaign that united NYC with leading brands, collectors, recyclers, and resale companies, behind a common goal to divert clothes away from landfill. By swapping, selling, donating or recycling clothing, it’s possible to prevent clothing from ever becoming waste.

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DESIGN FRONTIERS FOR THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Parsons Healthy Materials Lab held its first large symposium, Material Health: Design Frontiers for the Built Environment in mid-November. Speakers from seemingly divergent perspectives presented their cutting edge work and pivotal discussions between disciplines emerged, making it very clear that collaboration across disciplines is essential for making radical change for a healthier future. Stay up to date with Healthy Materials Lab events and one of a kind online education opportunities.

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NEWS FROM CIRCULAR ECONOMY RESEARCH CENTER IN PARIS 

Circular Economy Research Center (CERC) has been established to lead and support novel research initiatives and to design new multidisciplinary business models which can support the transformation process from a linear to a circular economy. Conscious of this transformational context which can lead to a more sustainable future, Ecole des Ponts Business School is engaged in the domain of Circular Economy and promotes the responsible and cyclical use of resources. Stay updated on news from leading circular research  with these four CERC projects: Circular Economy and the Internet of ThingsIdeal-CitiesSmartShip, and Bio-Phoenix

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NEW YORK CIRCULAR CITY INITIATIVE

“Imagine a New York City where no waste is sent to landfill, environmental pollution is minimized, and thousands of good jobs are created through the intelligent re-use of products and raw materials”, asks Oliver Dudok van Heel, Head of Client Sustainability for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Oliver and his team at Freshfields have convened thought leaders from city agencies, businesses, financial institutions, universities and think tanks to identify key levers of change to aid New York City transition to a Circular Economy. Recommendations and next action steps will be presented during Circular City Week. This initiative is part of Freshfields overall mission of collaborating with clients to provide strategic advice to enable them to achieve a sustainable future for themselves and the communities in which they operate.

 

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URBAN-X: WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Americans create 70 pounds of apparel waste per person each year. And those 23 billion pounds of waste are costing cities hundreds of millions of dollars. Thrilling, a platform for second-hand and vintage boutiques, plans to reduce the environmental impact of clothing by 75 percent. Read more about how the URBAN-X alum is making an impact in the circular economy. 

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EXPLORE A BLUECITY

BlueCity is an international icon of circular economy, a national platform for circular entrepreneurs, and a very visible local accelerator that empowers circular entrepreneurs and inspires citizens. Their goal? To provide start-ups and scale-ups with access to circular resources, knowledge and talent, to turn ideas into action and ultimately: to help sustainable entrepreneurs to grow from intention to impact.

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COOPER RECYCLING

Deep inside of Brooklyn’s Industrial Zone, Cooper Recycling boasts a state-of-the-art recycling system that can process up to 2,000 tons of NYC’s construction and demolition debris every day. As calls for environmental progress and sustainable development get stronger, Cooper is positioned to lead the construction industry away from the traditional make-take-dispose model and towards a circular economy where construction materials are recycled to a higher use than mere disposal in a landfill.

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PIONEERING SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN

In summer 2019, Laurence Carr Design was selected to design a room for the prestigious Hampton Designer Showhouse benefiting Stony Brook Hospital in Southampton, New York. Laurence Carr Design created "The Restorative Room" centered around sustainable products and promoting the circular economy, through practices such as sourcing antiques, upcycling furniture, and working with eco friendly vendors. Read more about their projects, initiatives, and sustainable holistic design firm below.

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ECO-INDUSTRIAL PARKS INITIATIVE

UNIDO’s Eco-industrial Parks initiative supports industrial transformation based on circular economy principles. An eco-industrial park is a community of businesses located on a common property in which businesses gain competitive advantage through industrial symbiosis. Through physical exchange of materials, energy, water and by-products, the eco-industrial parks promote resource efficiency and circular economy practices while also helping address inter-related aspects such as social standards and improved infrastructure.

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EXPLORE A CIRCULAR FOOD CLUSTER

19% of Danish food companies are part of circular economy today and 54% are heading towards implementation of circular economy. The Danish Food Cluster is a member organisation that covers small and large corporates, knowledge institutions, and organisations. All in all 75% of the Danish food sector of which large members like Nestlé and smaller members like Cellugy already have implemented circular economy in their production. 

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DESIGN WEEK AT THE MAKER SPACE

On February 10-15 2020, the Design Lab @ NYU MakerSpace will host their annual Design Week focusing on sustainability, design and the circular Eeonomy. Through workshops, a documentary screening, a recycling facility site visit, and panel with leading experts (Frog Design, Closed Loop Partners, and more), participants will be invited to explore ways to reduce waste, re-use materials and embrace a circular design mindset. All events open to the public. 

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A SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING COALITION BOOTCAMP

SPC Immerse 2020 is the new Sustainable Packaging Coalition Bootcamp to be held in NYC at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 12th, 2020. This one day bootcamp will provide attendees with an immersive experience on packaging sustainability core concepts and it’s designed for sustainability, packaging, branding, marketing, communications, procurement and business development professionals that want to become more fluent in the topic.

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HOW TO PRODUCE MORE FOOD WITH LESS - CASE BANK BY FOOD NATION

Food Nation is a public-private partnership established by the Danish Government and leading private organisations and companies. Food Nation creates awareness of Denmark as a global frontrunner within innovative, sustainable and efficient food production and works as a gateway for international decision makers seeking information about Denmark as a food nation.

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CELEBRATE THE 
H2 REFUEL ACCELERATOR

The Urban Future Lab, in partnership with Greentown Labs and Fraunhofer TechBridge, invited participates to  celebrate the conclusion of the first ever H2 Refuel Accelerator. This unparalleled collaboration offered hydrogen technology startups opportunities and growth strategies with the support of Shell, Toyota, and NYSERDA. Pitches from the startup participants were given in Boston, which gave  the audience a chance to learn more about hydrogen's potential for zero-emissions fuel. 

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CRADLE TO CRADLE: DESIGN & INNOVATION FORUM IN STOCKHOLM

Learn everything about Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute on 4-5 November to hear ideas, inspiration and practical insights from leading innovators, designers, brands and manufacturers on advancing safe and circular design, and accelerating circular business models across the Nordic region and beyond. Explore opportunities, solutions and ideas for transforming products for the circular economy with leading innovators including G-Star RAW, Houdini Sportswear, Troldtekt , Steelcase, Tengbom, 3XN/GXN, Stockholm Resilience Centre, RISE, Nordic Circular Hotspot and more. William McDonough, co-founder of Cradle to Cradle Certified, will deliver a keynote address.

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