Circular Economy & Urban Metabolism

The work of the Chair of Circular Economy and Urban Metabolism (or Chair Circular Metabolism) revolves around the interaction of the fields of circular economy and urban metabolism.

Circular Economy

Over the last years, circular economy has become a container concept, or umbrella term, used by academics, policy makers, waste managers, multinational companies to express different phenomena, solutions, business models that break with our current linear pattern of material use which takes, makes and wastes materials. 

In fact, circular economy has been very well accepted by a variety of stakeholders as it appears to tackle environmental challenges (resource depletion, air/water/soil pollution) by creating new economic opportunities. Countries, companies and cities have developed ambitious programmes and action plans to close their material loops. 

Yet, despite the numerous diagrams, action plans and innovation are we heading towards a more circular economy? And how is circular economy translated to urban economies which are predominantly tertiary-based? We use Brussels and its Regional Programme for Circular Economy as a case study to document the (potential) transition of cities towards a more circular state.

Urban Metabolism

Urban metabolism is the scientific discipline used as a backbone for all productions and reflections of the Chair Circular Metabolism. While circular economy is an operational and implementation concept, urban metabolism is a concept that helps us better navigate through the complexity of urban systems by analysing them in a systemic way. 

While it is not yet a consolidated field, it draws elements from industrial ecology, urban ecology and urban political ecology to encompass the human-environment relationship in cities but also shaped by cities. 

Within the Chair, we use urban metabolism to provide a more critical stance towards circular economy, to debunk myths and provide more complex insights for different stakeholders.