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Knowledge category: Tools and methods

United for Smart Sustainable Cities: A guide to circular cities

Updated on 19.09.2023

United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) is a global platform dedicated to supporting cities to become smarter and more sustainable. U4SSC develops strategic guidelines and measurement tools to assist cities with implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Its guide for circular cities contains a framework to improve circularity in cities and support stakeholders with circular actions.

Author: Okan Geray
Year of update: 2020

More information

The guide defines the key components of its circular city implementation framework, including:

  • city assets and products (various infrastructures, resources, goods and services available for use in a city);
  • circular city actions (outcome-orientated actions that can be applied to city assets and products);
  • circular city outputs (the outputs of circular city actions applied to city assets and products); and
  • circular city enablers (complementary activities that support or accelerate the implementation of circular city actions).

Each of these components has different potential for facilitating circularity in cities. The interactions between these components form the basis of the circular city implementation framework. The guide also provides a methodology for implementation (see ‘How to use this tool or method’ for more guidance).

Relevance for Circular Systemic Solutions

The circular city implementation framework can assist city stakeholders in enacting circular actions. The guide includes practical recommendations for preparing circular city actions and their implementation. It also provides several templates and approaches that may be useful for cities and regions, such as a template for assessing the current status of circular city enablers. This touches upon a broad spectrum of relevant aspects (e.g. public awareness, regulations and laws, existing strategies and policies, skills boosting programmes, existing financial incentives) and criteria that can be used to prioritise circularity actions.

The guide also offers an overview of case studies addressing different circularity topics, including city solid waste management, re-use of consumer goods and tools loaning, participatory urban planning, and circularity to promote local businesses and digitisation.

This guide may be useful for cities and regions that are at an early stage of circular development, particularly those that are in the process of developing a Circular Economy Action Plan and scoping out the most appropriate Circular Systemic Solutions.

How to use this tool or method

The guide’s circular city implementation framework has a four-step methodology that can be followed as a template. The methodology provides general guidance to cities, including methods for the following steps:

  • assessing current circularity, including identifying circular city enablers as actions and initiatives that can boost circular city output;
  • determining potential for circularity and prioritising circular city actions;
  • catalysing circularity; and
  • assessing projected circularity impact.