Measuring circularity

Measuring the Circular City

Solid circular planning and decision making requires an understanding of the material and energy flows entering, being consumed, transformed or stocked in and leaving cities, or, in other words, the urban metabolism. This includes measuring material, waste, water and energy flows and stocks in cities, and getting an idea about the (utility) infrastructures, actors and companies that facilitate those. Gathering and visualising this data, helps to identify where and how to intervene and which loops to close. It provides cities with insights into their economic activities and allows connecting the dots between current initiatives and their potential to make their city more circular.

Cities need to understand how their activities impact the state of the circular economy in their region. To achieve circular goals, these need to be defined and progress needs to be measured. Defining operable circular city indicators helps to understand which parameters need to be measured and where citizens and cities can have most impact.

Understanding the Urban Metabolism

A Material Flow Analysis seeks to answer questions about a city such as:

  • How does the city function?
  • Where does it get its materials from? Who consumes them?
  • What types of production and manufacturing activites does the city have?
  • What type of waste and pollution flows is the city producing and who is responsible for those?
  • Where does it process the waste and how?
  • What kind of materials are stored in the buildings and infrastructure?

Circular City indicators

Indicators help to measure the progress towards the circular economy in a city and the success of circular economy pilots. The CityLoops project is developing a comprehensive indicator set for circular cities, including guidance on how to measure them. At the end of the project, this will result in an evaluation framework based on a series of circularity and sustainability indicators. The results will be published here soon.

Defining impact

Assessing the state of the circular economy in a city can be done at three levels:

  1. Supporting factors - such as policy levers, capacity building and awareness
  2. The state of the material and nutrient flows: material flow analysis
  3. Environmental, economic and social outcomes of the above