Launched at IFAT : CALC Handbook on Assessing Circularity in Cities

Aufmacher CALCC
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On 14 May, members of the Circular and Low Carbon Cities (CALC) project team pre-launched the final CALC publication, Assessing Circularity in Cities, A Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities on Tracking Progress Towards City Circularity. After some additional edits and work on the design, this Handbook will be launched at the ISWA World Congress in Capetown. At the World Congress, copies of the 60-page Handbook with detailed instructions and case examples will be available to attendees. There will also be a curated session on the Handbook, where attendees can raise their questions, problems or issues with circularity in their service areas, and three of the five authors will explain how to use the Handbook to track the progress of your city towards becoming more circular.

What makes this Handbook unique?

The Handbook focuses on physical circularity and cascade processes in cities and in waste management service areas, and provides the reader with practical approaches and tools to benchmark their effectiveness and model their impacts on avoiding climate change. Many of these cascade processes are already operating in cities, but because they are private sector activities, city and national authorities often don’t know what they are doing or how this contributes to circularity in their service areas. The Handbook provides a method and practical instructions for how to contact mobile phone refurbishers, auto parts dealers, shoemakers, second-hand shops and other circular enterprises, and to work with them to model their materials flows and understand how their activities contribute to avoiding GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.

In this regard, the Handbook breaks with much of the circular economy discourse, which is focused on creating new links between (avoiding) waste management and city public sector processes.

Readers and users of the Handbook will be able to calculate indicators of circularity in their cities or service areas, which the authors define as follows:

  • choosing a market basket of typical products that are important in the service area and for which there are indications that current capture for waste prevention or recycling is lower than it could be, and modelling their characteristics and normal useful life;
  • using MFA, materials flow analysis, to benchmark the relationship between such products and measuring and modelling the typical processes they pass through in the focus city or service area;
  • calculating the availability indicator: GIS mapping and benchmarking the presence and location of typical circular processes in relation to demographic and commercial characteristics of the city or service area, and assessing whether there is enough present and future capacity to maintain robust levels of circular activity, or increase them over time.
  • calculating the intensity indicator: assessing and calculating the level of use of these circular processes, and their effect in terms of maintaining numbers or tonnes of products in use for a longer time and at a higher level of quality
  • impact: modelling the GHG impact of the extension or preservation of useful life, based on avoiding the climate impacts and GHG emisssions associated with extraction and production

The Handbook is not perfect, and the work of assessing city circularity in measurable climate terms is still in a relatively early stage of development. Still, the authors believe that the practical approach of the Handbook meets their criteria of circularity indicators that are evidence-based, measurable and actionable.

Copies of the Handbook will be available starting 15 August on the ISWA New Releases page.

Term Definitions
Evidence-based indicators Indicators that track the operations of processes that can be witnessed, counted and measured in real-time and physical space. Alternatively, drawn from documents such as reports that are supported by previous measurements.
Measureable indicators Indicators that can be counted or documented as to the quantity, type and number of materials or products that pass through cascade processes, by preference based on a MFA.
Measurable process or intervention Specific, operating cascade processes in the study area, that can be observed, and for which it is possible to determine the number of tonnes or items passing through them daily, weekly or annually, the materials balance of the process, and to make an MA as a baseline for future years.
Actionable indicators Indicators that can plausibly be expected to change as a result of public institutions taking policy, programmatic or practical actions that change the nature of the impact of the circular process, or that increase its positive or decrease its negative impacts.

Case example: Certification of ELV

Parts by Jane Gilbert, Carbon Clarity, UK.

An example of actionable is a certification scheme for reclaimed parts from end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) in the UK, developed by the British consultancy Carbon Clarity and launched in mid-2020.

The scheme consists of a standard specifying the identification, recording, testing and grading of parts by vehicle recyclers. Third-party independent conformation assessment of the recycler offers a path to certification of the enterprise which may be renewed annually. Vehicle body (repair) shops and garages can procure so-called 'green' reclaimed parts for insurance-covered repairs from certified vehicle recyclers via a dedicated online marketplace. Non-certified recyclers are excluded from this marketplace.

The action was developing a quality standard and accompanying certification scheme. Commercially, the initiative is successful because every vehicle part offered for sale must be graded using standardised quality criteria, so that all parts are consistently described and have full traceability. This means that a buyer can order a reclaimed vehicle part for a specific make and model and be confident that the correct part will be delivered and be of the desired quality. This is only possible because specific, measurable and evidence-based criteria are used for parts grading.

ELV recycling CALCC handbook
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