Circular economy is seen by many as a promising answer to adapt and/or mitigate climate change through the elimination of waste and the circulation of materials and products for as long as possible, as well as the regeneration of nature. However, such a transition is not free of multifaceted challenges which can be context dependent, especially in relation to waste management. Besides the large environmental impact and costs waste generation and waste treatment technologies bear, social aspects are often left unaddressed or are only partly covered, particularly in circular economy frameworks. Many questions then arise. What does social inclusion mean in a circular economy and how does it translate in the context of urban waste management? How does it relate to area-based development and infrastructure management, and how does it manifest in different cities and countries?
In 2020, a Sino-Dutch project was set up with the goal to give answer to these questions. Inclusive Wise Waste Cities (IWWCs) is one of the research projects of the Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity, and is funded by the Dutch Research Council and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. The project started its work on October 2020 by bringing together scientists from its six consortium partners:
Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Netherlands)
Peking University (China)
City University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen Research Institute, China)
Tongji University (China)
Both the Netherlands and China are frontrunners in the transition to a circular economy. China adopted the Circular Economy Promotion Law already in 2009 whereas the Netherlands launched multiple circularity initiatives and scored the highest circularity rate amongst all Member States in the European Union over the past decade.
In April 2020, the research team held its first online kick-off meeting. The two parties discussed the work plan for all eight work packages, along with a timeline for deliverables, personnel recruitment, and project dissemination. On the Dutch side, the first physical meeting took place at the Upcycling Center of Almere on the 12th of August 2021. Besides discussing ongoing research activities and operational matters, the team engaged with local stakeholders from different levels of governance and the private sector to exchange views on circular economy, inclusion, and resilience in the context of urban waste management. The meeting also fostered the ground for potential future joint research endeavors. Furthermore, MSc students from Delft University of Technology were assigned the task to develop a board game to raise awareness about the use of circular economy principles in the management of construction waste, particularly because the latter has the lion’s share of the overall waste generation with substantial environmental impacts. On the other side of the world, members of the Chinese team from Peking University have started to collaborate with the local administration and CanFit Resource Technologies, a social enterprise on solid waste management, with the goal to launch food waste bio-converters working with black soldier flies. This project has been nearly completed, as well as the compost garden which is the result of a series of community events between local residents and students from Peking University. In a next step, Peking University will work on testing artificial intelligence to guide the on-site garbage sorting for local residents.
Despite the Covid-19 challenges, the IWWCs team engaged in various activities successfully. Presentations were given at high level meetings (including the 8th World Sustainability Forum and the “Construction & Demolition Waste Recycling” organized by the Dutch Consulate-General in Shanghai), at webinars (such as the “Waste Management in the Shadows of China” organized by China Environment Forum of Wilson Center), and at hybrid symposia (including the 16th International Conference on Waste Management & Technology initiated by the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific and the Sustainable Island Futures at the University of Aruba and the Metabolism of Islands).
In terms of deliverables and research output, the team finalized its communication plan and its website, it fine-tuned its outreach via social media (i.e. LinkedIn and ResearchGate), and it already published its first findings in prestigious scientific journals including Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Journal of Cleaner Production, Cities, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, Circular Economy and Sustainability, and Sustainability. The published research topics include (but are not limited to):
- exploring social inclusion in terms of exclusion grounds,
- developing multidimensional frameworks for the evaluation of inclusive development,
- systematically deconstructing the inclusive city concept,
- studying the relationships between urban development and branding strategies adopted by several Chinese cities,
- qualitatively evaluating the links between circular economy principles and the Sustainable Development Goals,
- identifying conceptual associations of distinct city labels through bibliometrics,
- providing general guidelines for building wise-waste city infrastructure via an entropy-based metric,
- the exploration of ecological methods for assessing the robustness of material and energy flow networks of EU Member States and their relevance for the development of circular and inclusive urban waste management systems,
- developing integrated methods for the evaluation of the recyclability of municipal solid waste under the transition plan of the recycling sector in China by accounting for the regional disparity in transportation accessibility, in regional recycling capacity as well as in material composition.
Looking forward in 2022, the team already set sail for exploring further the concepts of social inclusion, circularity, and resilience in the context of urban waste management in both countries and has the ambition to organize more physical meetings to bring together various stakeholders who are active in the waste management sector either directly or indirectly.
Publications (Updated until Nov. 29, 2021)
- Anttiroiko, A.-V., & de Jong, M. (2020). The Inclusive City: The Theory and Practice of Creating Shared Urban Prosperity. Palgrave Pivot, Cham. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61365-5
- Dong, L., Liu, Z., & Bian, Y. (2021). Match Circular Economy and Urban Sustainability: Re-investigating Circular Economy Under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Circular Economy and Sustainability, 1-14. https://doi-org.tudelft.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s43615-021-00032-1
- Liang, D., Jong, M. de, Schraven, D., & Wang, L. (2021). Mapping key features and dimensions of the inclusive city: A systematic bibliometric analysis and literature study. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 00(00), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2021.1911873
- Liu, Z., Jong, M. de, Li, F., Brand, N., Hertogh, M., & Dong, L. (2020). Towards developing a new model for inclusive cities in China-The case of Xiong’an New Area. Sustainability (Switzerland), 12(15). https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156195
- Ma, W., de Jong, M., Hoppe, T., & de Bruijne, M. (2021). From city promotion via city marketing to city branding: Examining urban strategies in 23 Chinese cities. Cities, 116(August 2020), 103269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2021.103269
- Schraven, D., Joss, S., & de Jong, M. (2021). Past, present, future: Engagement with sustainable urban development through 35 city labels in the scientific literature 1990–2019. Journal of Cleaner Production, 292, 125924. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.125924
- Tong, X., Yu, H., & Liu, T. (2021). Using weighted entropy to measure the recyclability of municipal solid waste in China: Exploring the geographical disparity for circular economy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 312(April), 127719. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.127719
- Zisopoulos, F. K., Schraven, D. F. J., & de Jong, M. (2021). How robust is the circular economy in Europe? An ascendency analysis with Eurostat data between 2010 and 2018 (Accepted). Resources, Conservation & Recycling, xxxx(xx), xxx.