Going Circular: cities and regions in the circular economy transition

Going Circular

Going Circular: unlocking the potential of regions and cities to drive the circular economy transition

Marcin Dąbrowski, together with a team of co-applicants including Karel van den BergheEllen van Bueren (MBE, BK, TUD), and Joanna Williams (UCL), won a Policy Expo grant from the Regional Studies Association. The project is entitled “Going circular: unlocking the potential of regions and cities to drive the circular economy transition”. The project will focus producing a policy-oriented book that will explore the role of policy for circular economy (CE) transition and its implications for cities and regions.

The central tenet of the book will be the emphasis on the spatial changes and conditions that CE transitions imply and the dilemmas and challenges that this brings concerning governance, societal shifts, geopolitics, etc. Our focus on space is not only innovative but also very timely: in most current policies and strategies put forward by cities and regions as well as in the widely used conceptual frameworks, the focus is on closing the material loops in industrial processes and economic activities, while neglecting the spatial implications of those changes (for instance the need for suitable spaces in cities and regions to host circular activities  and accommodate their externalities). Existing policies and strategies on CE also tend to neglect important (societal) questions on where do material flows come from and go to, who drivers circular processes and for whom, what does it take to steer the transition towards positive outcomes in terms of social, economic and environmental sustainability. By ignoring those questions, we risk that CE fails to bring us closer to a sustainable future for our regions and cities. Indeed, next to the lack of attention paid to the spatial dimension of CE, an increasing critique is that the proponents of CE tend to avoid discussion and foremost taking important choices; choices to go beyond the business-as-usual that could alter the predominantly linear economy of today. Moreover, while CE is becoming ‘mainstream’, in some cases even used to perpetuate unsustainable processes (‘circular washing’), while the huge potential that CE brings to drive social, economic, and environmental sustainability remains overlooked. Thus, we urgently need insight into those aspects of CE transition and their implications for regions and cities.


This book will bridge that gap by proposing a holistic perspective on CE using a spatial lens. This allows for

       (i) exploring what ‘going circular’ will entail for regions and cities in terms of decision-making, socio-economic, or environmental challenges; and

       (ii) shedding light on the socio-economic, environmental and regenerative potentials that CE transitions offer.

The book will offer critical perspectives on CE implications for regions and cities, while formulating clear policy recommendations and setting an agenda for future research.  Apart from the book, we will produce academic papers and organise events to trigger discussion on the socio-spatial implications of CE, including sessions at RSA conferences and a book launch symposium.