CCRI 1st General Conference: Cities and regions drive forward Europe’s circular transition!

The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) General Conference, organised by the European Commission, took place on November 8th, 2023, bringing together a multitude of stakeholders committed to advancing circular solutions at the local and regional scale.

Attendees had the opportunity to explore concrete ways of translating circular visions into reality in cities and regions, drawing inspiration from EU cities and regions that are making strides in this direction.

Key Themes and Sessions

The conference explored themes such as coupling circularity with climate and environmental challenges, financing the circular economy, engaging with stakeholders, and understanding how the CCRI can collaborate with its projects and associated partners to support circular initiatives. The event provided a valuable platform for policymakers, business leaders, and circular economy experts from across Europe to engage in meaningful discussions and share insights on various aspects of the circular economy.

Noteworthy Speakers and Insights

During the opening session, Pavel Misiga, Head of Unit at DG R&I, emphasized the initiative’s aim to assist local authorities in understanding the opportunities presented by the circular and green transition. Janez Potočnik provided historical context, noting that the circular economy concept, introduced in EU policies in 2014, has deep roots in the history of nature and humans.

Speakers like Lamia Kamal-Chaoui from OECD and Philipp Horn from the European Investment Bank highlighted the importance of prioritizing cities in circular economy strategies and the recognition by companies of the competitive advantages of circular practices.

Driving Change and Innovative Solutions

The sessions delved into driving change and the benefits of the circular economy. Jocelyn Bleriot from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation stressed the need for dialogue between jurisdictions, cities, and national governments, while Ioannis Bakas of the European Environment Agency discussed the benefits of monitoring progress towards a circular economy.

Innovative projects, such as Circular Foam (CCRI Project) and Agro2Circular (CCRI Project), showcased technological steps required for circularity in plastics and upcycling of agri-food wastes, respectively. The conference also highlighted success stories of CCRI Pilots, such as Oostende’s initiatives to become more circular, potentially serving as a reference point for other cities; the city is in the Pilot Region of Flanders. The emphasis on reusable packaging in Aarhus and challenges discussed by Igor Kos from Podrajve Maribor added practical perspectives, furthermore Kos stressed that more training and more skills development are needed within the administration and policymaker settings as well.