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Circular economy

Circular economy

Seeking solutions for resource flows that contribute to a sustainable, biodiverse environment.


A circular economy transition requires adapting to the specific situation of each city and region, utilising its inherent qualities and strengths. Cities and regions have different policies to support the transition to a circular economy, operate along with different times scales, but also differ in their foci and their urgency. As a result, achieving a circular economy will generally require intergovernmental cooperation, which may require special attention in the case of rurban regions where municipalities operate more independently.

A circular rural and urban region embeds the principles of a circular economy across all its functions, establishing a regional system that is regenerative and restorative by design, with a strong interaction between the urbanised and surrounding rural areas. A major challenge for rurban regions will be to identify the quantities and quality of the resource flow at a regional level while identifying and evaluating potential solutions that will contribute to a sustainable, biodiverse environment. The involves the essential digitalisation for measuring, monitoring and supporting these resource flows. Digital technology has enabled a fundamental shift in the way the economy functions, offering possibilities for radical virtualisation, de-materialisation and greater transparency of product use and material flows.

At the same time, it creates new ways of operating and participating in the economy for producers and users. Through the collection and analysis of data on materials, people and external conditions, digital technology has the potential to identify the challenges of resource flows in regions, outline the key areas of structural waste, and inform more effective decision-making on how to address these challenges and provide systemic solutions. For this purpose, cities and regions need clear, transparent rules that gradually raise standards. Systems for enforcing those rules and monitoring overall progress are required. This includes removing regulatory barriers within and across countries and phasing out incentives for unsustainable resource use.

Popular challenges and micro-modules



Financing circular economy

The ability to integrate various environmental, social and governance considerations when making financial decisions towards a circular economy. The knowledge about the sustainable investments, and the mindset to develop longer-term investment scenarios for sustainable economic activities and projects.


Waste management

The ability to manage the methods and processes used to collect, transport, treat, recycle, and dispose of waste for the benefit of a healthy, hygenic society. The knowledge of monitoring practices for safe waste disposal and a mindset to consider waste management as part of the circular economy, not only an end point.

ESCO skills


Responsible consumption and production

The ability to promote policies, activities, and educational programmes that encourage sustainable consumer consumption behaviour. The knowledge of methods for behaviour change in consumers and of the interconnected nature of production supply chains. The mindset to lead the change needed to realise changes in sustainable consumption and production.


Sharing and reusing

The ability to apply principles, policies, and regulations towards environmental sustainability. The knowledge and skills to identify and enact methods towards the reduction of waste, energy, and water consumption, the reuse and recycling of products, and the engagement in the sharing economy. The mindset to proactively develop effective policies and implement changes into a circular economy.

Latest opportunities

Challenges within this topic