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Knowledge category: Tools and methods

The 15 circular steps for cities

Updated on 09.12.2022

This document outlines problems facing many linear cities today, arguing the case for circular change. It highlights elements that make cities suitable as both cradles and catalysts for a circular transition. The document also provides concrete guidance on how a linear city can start a circular journey, presented in the form of 15 circular steps.

Author: European Investment Bank
Year of update: 2018

More information

The 15 steps are subdivided into three main categories: planning, acting and monitoring. The ‘planning’ category includes steps such as characterising local resource flows, conceptualising options among sectors with circular potential, and crafting a circular vision and strategy with clear circular goals and targets. The ‘acting’ category focuses on steps that involve ways to actively implement a circular economy, such as closing loops by connecting waste generators with off-takers or constructing and procuring circular buildings. The ‘monitoring’ category aims to maintain the implementation of the circular economy.

Relevance for Circular Systemic Solutions

This document can assist city stakeholders with transitioning towards a circular city and enacting circular actions. By design, the document considers as a pre-requisite the involvement of all relevant value chains and sectors and the cooperation of stakeholders to carry out the steps. The proposed methodology considers important aspects such as the coaching and education of citizens, connection and cooperation between circular stakeholders, and communication on circular progress based on monitoring.

How to use this tool or method

This tool serves as a step-by-step guide for cities, elaborating on the three key steps to be taken on the path to becoming a circular city: planning, acting and monitoring. The tool thus provides general guidance in the form of steps that cities can follow to the extent they find appropriate and useful. For each step, an in-depth explanation is provided.

Type of tool or method

Strategy design and decision making


Environmental pollution and land use

Increased recycling rates


Equality of opportunities/Just transition toward a sustainable and inclusive circular economy

Education, knowledge, training and reskilling

Stakeholder and citizens mobilisation, engagement and participation

Material savings


Social aspects

Training/reskilling/capacity building, including vocational education and training, continuous training

e.g. for public administrations, SMEs, start-up

Awareness raising and education

all actors

Stakeholder mobilisation

including citizens

Stakeholder participation

including citizens

Behavioural changes

Territories involved


large 500 000-200 000, medium 200 000-50 000, and small cities 50 000-5 000