As we’re preparing to host a panel on cities and circular economy at World Circular Economy Forum, Senior Advisor Iina Oilinki answers frequently asked questions on the subject.
1. What kind of role can a city have in developing circular economy solutions and services?
A very diverse one. When it comes to developing sustainable solutions, a city can be, for example, a strategic leader, a financier, a supplier, or a spokesperson. At its best, a city enables action by providing testbeds, resources, and other necessary conditions for developing new business. It can develop circular economy criteria for procurement, for example. Cities also have an important role as educators and communicators who raise awareness and increase dialogue between city actors and dwellers. Many of these roles are represented at our WCEF panel.
2. Can you give an example of an impactful solution born in and/or enabled by a city?
One of Smart & Clean’s main efforts is to develop a closed plastic circle in the Helsinki region and Lahti. Cities – Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, and Lahti – and businesses work together to find solutions for reusing and reprocessing all plastic in the areas. Partners in the project offer different solutions relating to, for example, the overall life cycle of plastic, recycling processes, the different aspects of chemical and mechanical recycling, and the changes in markets and consumer behavior. Vast and pervasive, the process wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of all partners.
3. This year, Helsinki has been chosen to host WCEF. Why here, of all places? What are our main strengths in terms of circular economy?
Helsinki has an informal, even casual culture that enables different actors to develop solutions together. Hierarchies are low and it’s easy enough to gather the city, the government, companies, universities, and financiers around the same table. It’s quite unique. When it comes to sustainability and environmental thinking, Finns in general have a very close relationship with nature. We have no difficulty understanding the value of both nature and our natural resources, and what might cause them harm.
4. Helsinki isn’t a leading circular economy city, though – at least yet. How can it improve? And from whom could it learn?
Helsinki could learn a lot from Amsterdam, which was the pioneer in establishing a city wide strategy of circularity. The city continues to develop the different facets of circularity and its effects on social and economic aspects of city life. Amsterdam has also been in the forefront of increasing awareness of circular economy and communicated their position very clearly and efficiently.