Circular economy in urban environments: responding to the New Urban Agenda

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect on Jan 1, 2016. Guided by 17 goals, 169 targets and over 240 indicators, the intent of the goals is to respond to and support the regeneration of the planet by engaging all people through peace, prosperity, and partnerships. While the SDGs do not explicitly mention circular economy, they are well aligned with the underlying definitions of circular economy, being the regeneration of the planet while optimizing the reuse of resources, increased valorization of waste across all scales from micro, meso and macro; all while recognizing the biophysical limits of the planet while supporting local jobs and economies.

The transition to a circular economy cannot be achieved without alignment between the traditional boundaries of the technical, social, economic, behavioral, educational, regulatory and governance. This alignment needs to occur across individual consumers, manufacturing and business firms, across industrial parks, and broader into precincts, cities, countries and regions, all while recognizing the systemic interconnections between them.

Our urban centers have been subjected to more changes than usual due to the pandemic. More people have worked from home and recreational travel was arrested during this period which in turn, impacted attendant emissions. Global supply chains were also affected for various reasons leading to a fall back on the local scale for production and consumption. These changes have called for more agile approaches to live and ways of work and play in urban centers. Hybrid ways of working are now emerging as a result of the pandemic calling for businesses to be more conscious of social repercussions than they have ever been before. The changing nature of our urban environments as a result of the pandemic offers untapped opportunities. These include exploring opportunities of new governance, the increased role of communities, changes in behavior at individual and community levels, regulation and the role of policy, changes in formal and informal education and exploring new business models.

This special issue will focus on place-based responses to support knowledge on circular solutions across the various spatial and temporal scales. It will seek input from scholars on theory and discourse, while also seeking input from practitioners on their approaches to presenting grounded solutions. Debates across different paradigms for circular solutions are encouraged across various scales, as also how these solutions link to the SDGs.

The topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Different places: developing and developed countries, Global South, Global North and North-South comparisons, etc.
  • Different spatial and organizational scales – micro, meso and macro
  • Different temporal scales – learning from the past and applying into the future
  • Different paradigms/schools of thought – theoretical discourses
  • Different aspects of systems – discursive, governance, regulatory, technical, behavioral and educational
  • Different SDGs and other objectives
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Circular economy


All articles have undergone npj Urban Sustainability's standard peer review process and have been subject to all of the journal’s standard policies. This includes the journal’s policy on competing interests. The Editors declare no competing interests with the submissions which they have handled through the peer review process. The peer review of any submissions for which the Editors have competing interests is handled by another Editorial Board Member who has no competing interests.

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