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


About the Guest Editors


Usha Iyer-Raniga is Professor, Sustainable Built Environment, RMIT University and Co-lead of the UN One Planet Network’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme. She has close to 30 years’ experience across academia and research, industry and government in sustainability issues in the built environment.

Usha has extensive experience in providing grounded solutions for sustainability using applied research. Her current role with the UN One Planet Network is on delivering the UN 2030 agenda, arising from SDG 12. Her work focuses on accelerating sustainability in the built environment through networked policy and programmes. Usha has been invited as key note speaker and invited speaker at national and international conferences, seminars and workshops. Her teaching portfolio extends to Asian countries. She has provided expertise to international organisations such as the UN and APEC, nationally to organisations such as Study Australia and Austrade, and also state and local governments. She is reviewer and scientific committee member for national and international referred journals and refereed conferences. Usha is on the editorial board for refereed journals and has worked on Special Issues. She has authored books and also aided as book editor. Usha has served and is currently serving on the Boards of various not for profit organisations and has also helped as panel judge for a number of local and international awards such as the Premiers Sustainability Award in Victoria and the International Green Gown Awards.


Dr. Jacqueline Cramer is professor of sustainable innovation at Utrecht University. She combines academic work with active engagement in circular economy practices. Some of her current roles include chair of the Dutch Concrete Agreement, the Dutch Building Agreement Steel and the Dutch Circular Textile Valley. She is also supervisory Board chair of Holland Circular Hotspot. From 2007 to 2010, she was the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment for the Dutch Labour Party. Since 1990, Jacqueline has been a consultant, advising over 200 companies and many partners cooperating in product chains and at a regional level on implementation of sustainable entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and the circular economy. To this day, she is a member of various governmental, industry and non-profit advisory boards. In recent years, Jacqueline Cramer has advised various governments and organisations worldwide on circular economy implementation.