On May 16, the Global Shapers Frankfurt Hub organized “URBAN IMPACT”, an edition of the NextB2B Forum, with a focus on cities and circular economy. Building on the World Economic Forum white paper on “Circular Economy in Cities: Evolving the model for a sustainable urban future”, the event aimed at bringing together thought leaders in order to shape the conversation and to raise awareness about the topic.
The event, developed in partnership with GreenTech Hub and Hessen Trade and Invest, saw inspiring innovators, strong startups, public investors and private research institutes debating on a panel. Startup pitches included innovative ideas about circular fashion companies and green buildings, showing how circular economy is quickly becoming an innovative business opportunity. One idea took the center stage: we are on a mission to transform our urban ecosystem by “redefining, reimagining and redesigning today’s business and city models from linear to circular”. A discussion on how to enable this quickly evolved in a vivid debate.
Indeed, the conversation considered many contrasting ideas. On the one hand, cities in the next 30 years would need to be completely rebuilt for creating a sustainable environment with circular economic models. On the other hand, our need to scale down was emphasized, potentially having greater importance than scaling up circular models: we would need to reduce first. This brought up the idea of competitiveness in the boundary conditions of our current economic system, emphasizing the point of circular economy as a system change. In that respect, we are only at the beginning of a steady evolution of business models. Those will increasingly need to address the urgency posed by the threat of climate change and find ways to innovate sustainably.
Circular cities play a key role in fostering the USD 4,5 trillion global growth opportunity of circular economy. Today, three quarters of our natural resource consumption occurs in cities, where more than 80% of today’s global GDP is generated. In that respect, urban mining and cities becoming resource repositories was highlighted as a key theme in the transition to circularity, self-sufficiency and ultimately sustainability of ever-growing hubs. Likewise, the bioeconomy poses a great opportunity, with materials fit to the local context and inspired by nature, the original zero-waste designer. In the same vein, material neutrality would be key, with some materials such as plastics requiring destigmatization. The problem would not be one material like plastics per se. Ultimately, enabling a true circular economy is about creating an entire system with closed loops where such materials like plastics are consistently recycled and reused by design.