Circular City Week Trends to Watch in 2021
Danish Cleantech Hub is once again excited for the third time to give circular economy a platform during our annual festival: Circular City Week New York on March 22-28, 2021. Throughout the week 100+ partners from all over the world, will be showcasing and discussing new developments and actions being taken to increase circular economy. Topics covered during the week include circularity in fashion, architecture, food, consumer products, urban development, and much more.
Based on the 60+ events that are being hosted by our wide range of partners, we are seeing some prominent circular economy trends. These are worth noting, as they provide pointers for where the conversation and future action will be concentrating in the coming years.
Goal Setting and Tracking Circularity
Over the past five years, an increasing number of companies have been releasing ambitious circular economy goals to be met as soon as 2025 and 2030. This trend is exciting however, collection, analysis, and reporting of the related data is imperative. During Circular City Week 2021 this development will be explored by Dell Technologies who is also working toward offering corporate client’s access to a dashboard, that will help them analyze the performance of their electronics and calculate the impact on a given company’s carbon footprint. Likewise, RecycleGO will also highlight this subject detailing their software, which optimizes the recycling process and uses blockchain-backed chain-of-custody to track the flow of recyclables through the supply chain.
Large corporations like ABB, Arup, and Freshfields have each made strides in their circular economy goal setting during 2020, which they also will be featuring during their respective Circular City Week appearances. ABB’s 2030 Sustainability Strategy outlines a commitment to preserving resources and enabling the construction of a low-carbon value chain and society beginning with their own facility operations. Arup has released their annual Sustainable Futures Report, detailing both their own sustainability targets and emphasis on helping their clients build strategies to meet commitments. And global law firm Freshfields, is working towards green job creation through their New York Circular Initiative, which aims at applying circular implementations to New York City’s economy in areas such as the intelligent use of products and raw materials.
During past Circular City Week’s tools to quantify the environmental and monetary impact of implementing circular economy strategies, was starting to be referenced. Among the most noticeable is The Ellen MacArthur Foundation with their launched of Circulytics, a free-to-use tool that enables companies to measure their circular economy performance. The Foundation believes that:
“We cannot create a circular economy until we can properly measure it, and these tools are giving us the ability to do so.”
Integrating Circular Economy into Education
Another trend that will be prominent during Circular City Week 2021, is the increased focus on integrating circular economy into education to enable sustained change.
Higher education institutions are focusing now, more than ever, on bridging the current disconnect between unsustainable campus operations with the research and innovation being done by faculty and students. A great example of this is, BLOXHUB who has joined forces with Barnard College to conceive a Circular Campus model. They will be holding an event to discuss their motivations and progress. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation will also be contributing to the dialog around this emerging trend by inviting representatives from colleges, universities, and affiliated organizations to discuss how the sector can better support a transition to a circular economy.
According to Sandra Goldmark, Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action at Barnard:
“Higher education has the unique opportunity and responsibility to research, develop, test, and socialize circular systems. A campus is in some ways a microcosm of the larger world, and therefore a great place to research and develop systems-based solutions.”
The teaching practices of circular economy for children and early learning methods, is likewise a growing topic. One of these learning-based events also fitted for children that are planned by Cahoots about the importance of taking care of clothes, and how to be mindful about clothing consumption patterns. SIMS Municipal Recycling materials recovery plant in Brooklyn, has throughout the year, tours where children can get involved - hands-on - in the circular economy.
Materials at the Heart of the Transition
Mounting consumer awareness about the environmental and ethical concerns, associated with our consumption patterns, has led to an increase in the use of sustainable materials and the reuse movement. During Circular City Week 2021, this comes to show in a range of events hosted by a diverse group of actors including Accelerating Circularity, The Remix Market, Laurence Carr, Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Mebl, and Reloop Americas. Each and all, share the common focus to break down material supply chains into small processes, in order to understand and discover how systems can be better brought together logistically, economically, and technically. Rubicon has as an example, created a toolkit where a range of different materials are analyzed and the outcome are guides for the recycling, upcycling or reuse processes of these.
Innovation in materials and upcycling are also topics covered by event hosts during the week, from the fashion and interior design industry. Kintra Fibers will also facilitate a discussion about damaging nature of microplastics and the future of bio-based and compostable fibers in fashion. Also Lenzing will explore this topic by looking into two complementary re-use models for plastic bags and their feasibility in New York City. Embracing the necessity to rethink the use of plastic and transitioning to sustainable materials for packing, will continue to be a noticeable topic. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Ocean Conservancy are both examples of event hosts that are narrowing in on raising awareness towards these issues and implementing effective solutions.
Circularity in the Energy Sector
The term circular economy is often applied to recycling, repairing, refurbishing. However, in 2021 we are already seeing a trend where companies are applying circular economy approaches to their clean energy initiatives. Innovation in the renewable energy sector and the built environment have inspired large corporate entities including Enel, ROCKWOOL, Hines, and The Durst Organisation, to share, during Circular City Week, the novel ways in which they integrate circular economy strategies into their long-term sustainability plans. NYSERDA is also taking part in these conversations to showcase how energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources interconnect with developing a more dependable, affordable, and circular energy system for all New Yorkers.
Within architecture and buildings, a wide range of NGOs are also becoming enablers for building owners and real estate developers. TRUE by the US Green Building Council is for instance, exploring how ESG goals can be used to motivate owners, as well as align with zero-waste targets. Likewise, ASHRAE New York Chapter showcase how their circular inspiration in energy systems and design execution. are done by a ‘bottom up’ approach championed by Nordic principles.
Published March 1st 2021