Key Insights and learnings for Cities from the WCEF 2023

June 26, 2023


Lumec intern, Semkelisiwe Ndlela, recently attended a number of virtual sessions at the World Circular Economy Forum 2023. The forum was held in Helsinki between the 30th May – 2 June 2023. She found the Forum, which was hosted and attended by circular forward thinkers and pioneers, an inspirational and educational experience. You can access the online recordings here.  

The sessions covered a range of issues ranging from ways of regenerating nature to reverse supply chains for the electronics sector, specifically looking at minerals in Africa. Acceleration sessions further discussed the transition for the built environment and circularity in cities. 

This blog provides Semke’s key takeaways from the sessions, and ideas around how South African cities can lead in the transition towards creating more circular economies.

Key Takeaways

The sessions highlighted various points that are important towards achieving a circular economy:

  1. Collaboration among stakeholders was a key sentiment that was repeatedly raised. All sectors must work together and drive collaboration to ensure a greater impact within the transition towards a circular economy. 
  2. Integrating the youth and harnessing their skills, innovative ideas and technologies can play a role in accelerating this transition. Their ideas and their innovative nature bring a much-needed, fresh perspective. 
  3. The importance of strong regulations to shift momentum towards the transition, and the role government and private sector can play in levelling the playing field while supported by these regulations. 
  4. Sharing information, capturing data and documenting metrics can help shape insights and influence future decisions. 
  5. Banks and the private sector are also crucial in providing support for small businesses and start-up projects through financial support and driving partnerships. The transition can be accelerated through supporting small projects and ideas to scale up and have more impact in this global fight. 
  6. Projects that address the root cause of current problems are important to drive progress – it is important to shift mindsets by raising awareness about the extent of environmental degradation currently occurring, and painting a picture of our bleak future if we do not make the much-needed transition.
  7. There should be a focus on innovative business models that view products and materials as a service (especially in the minerals sector) for efficient usage, and this needs planning from the onset.

Learnings for South African Cities

The sessions sparked conversations and insights into what we can enforce towards developing South African cities in line with sustainability and circularity, whilst also shifting away from linear economic practices across sectors. Cities are key towards this transition. Below are some of the points we must consider in driving the transition towards a circular economy in our cities:

  1. Capturing data, developing metrics and monitoring these are essential in creating a baseline to establish solutions for a circular economy and measure impact.
  2. Circular economy strategies, which are key to developing a clear transition path and are often developed at a national or provincial level, need to be regionalised and implemented at a city-level.
  3. Cities must invest in circular infrastructure to close material loops. Therefore, municipalities, government and the private sector must play a role in supporting capital-intensive infrastructure that drives circularity.
  4. Cities must ensure strong partnerships and collaborations with organisations and individuals that are leading the circular economy transition to leverage knowledge and advice.
  5. Cities must support establishment of productive recycling value chains and encourage design that eliminates waste. They should also promote reverse supply chains through public participation.
  6. Cities must make an effort for local food systems to be more regenerative through supporting community composting initiatives and sustainable agricultural practices.
  7. There needs to be a shift in mindset away from overproduction and unnecessary consumption, which requires solutions that address the root cause of such behaviour and influence systematic change.

Cities therefore should really focus on piloting small projects that all contribute to meeting circular economy strategy goals and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are eager to support the transition to a more circular economy through collaborating, supporting research processes and sharing insights. If you are interested and would like to engage with us around the transition towards a circular economy, please click here to contact us.

Paul Jones

Paul Jones