We accelerate Berlin’s transition towards becoming a Circular City
Organisation : Circular City - Zirkuläre Stadt e.V. , Germany

We are reshaping Berlin’s metabolism by applying circular principles in the fields of strategy & urban planning, product & material design, food & biomass, and textile & fashion. Having a strong focus on community, we offer platforms for engagement and knowledge exchange and support local actors through collaboration.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Clean energyPublic spaceBuilding and renovating
Sustainable industry
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Support open data standards
WS: Berlin Circular Fashion, p. Rie Sawara-Cermann

Circular Economy (Kreislaufwirtschaft) in Berlin evolves as a bottom-up heterogeneous system and as a topic remains part of the waste industry, due to regulation specifics it is decoupled from the economy. Based on the existing city strategies, the main priorities identified for a CE transformation in Berlin are: product reuse, waste prevention, improvement of eco-procurement including material use, the link between CE and energy efficiency, eco-construction, food and bio waste, and place-based actions. Indirectly, CE points could be identified in the Berlin Urban development strategy 2030. For more details, see the report, Circular Berlin conducted on the staus for Berlin (report). To conclude by the statement of Mr. Schwilling, Kreislaufwirtschat-Senats­verwaltung für Umwelt, Verkehr und Klima­schutz: We need impactful projects to showcase that Circular Economy is economically viable.

In Action
WS: Berlin Circular Food and Biomass, p. Rie Sawara-Cermann

Circular Berlin took the following steps to push Circular Economy in the city forward:

  • 1. A desk research exploring Berlin’s CE actor landscape including the analysis of existing city strategies, in which CE could potentially be incorporated as well as identifying the main CE drivers and relevant city needs. to identify local projects that could become part of the Berlin CE network. Initiatives were selected in order to validate their maturity level of CE: design, processes, business model, waste as resource and product life extension.
  • 2. In-depth interviews and surveys with identified actors to determine the degree of collaboration readiness and vision for a Berlin-wide CE strategy.  22 Interviews were conducted and an online survey was filled in by 28 different local actors including district authorities. The main outcomes of the interviews were the desire for intensified collaboration among the CE stakeholders and an improved visibility and representation in the city. The main topics' interest was on understanding city material flows that go beyond waste flows, understanding cross-industry practices, a platform within the city to promote the topic, and increased information and knowledge sharing. The outcome was the limited knowledge about the implementation of CE concepts remained the biggest challenge that also prevents innovation development in the field. The most selected answer on how to raise awareness about CE concepts was to create a demonstrator project to showcase the potentials and practical advantages of the functionality of CE.
  • 3. Initiation of a workshop series to bring the CE topic to specific sectors including food, fashion, secondary materials, and construction. These workshops aimed to identify current gaps for implementing CE by bringing together local stakeholders. They had the opportunity for discussion and co-created potential next steps to advance CE in each sector. Three significant points were addressed in this phase:
    • Envisioning Berlin-specific industrial CE loops and identifying the necessary contribution of the stakeholders
    • Identifying gaps in the current CE industry loops and defining the areas of future work for the administrative bodies and local partners
    • Identifying local strategic partners and front runners who are ready to act ‘now’ to support the CE development.

The key outcomes of each workshop varied by sector, and gave the basis for the next transformational steps.

The built environment and construction workshop brought the following results:

  • Need for the development of a model to start using buildings more flexibly via participatory approaches
  • Need for involvement of future tenants in the planning process
  • Business models need to be based on life cycle analysis and life cycle modelsHigh demand for educational training for municipalities
  • A city material database and a catalogue of secondary materials should be established using an appropriate central space

The key results for materials and products workshop:

  • Strong interest to focus on reuse /remanufacture of wood, textile, and fair-waste.
  • Recycling centres should additionally generate knowledge about materials but also serve as a multiplier for CE in the city
  • Proposition of a physical warehouse with pick-up area for companies for material bundling, sorting and creating an inventor

The challenges of food waste, unsustainable agriculture and alternative ways of using biomass had the following results:

  • Many initiatives identified regarding food waste prevention but no substantial improvement
  • Potential to explore the nexus of biomass and agricultureLack of connectivity between food producers and consumers identified

The last workshop on textile and fashion came to the following conclusions:

  • Challenges to access sustainable and circular materials
  • No advanced practices on collection and separation in Berlin
  • Overproduction and overstock of the global industry leading to local waste problems
  • Lack of economic incentives to start production locally

The workshops attracted altogether around 150 different stakeholders including local NGOs, initiatives involved in CE industry work, open workshop spaces, academic partners, design and funding institutions, and municipality representatives. The strategic partners that helped to design the workshops were public private partnership organisations that aim to bring together the city needs and local industry development. During all three phases of the development of Circular Berlin, close interaction and communication with the Berlin CE community was established. In less than 10months, Circular Berlin reached more than 450 followers via Facebook, more than 300 subscribers via LinkedIn and more than 30 Berlin projects applied to be listed on the platform with the request for collaboration. After eight months, the website had reached 13.000 unique visitors globally.We initiated and took part in 3 projects creating extra 5 job positions. One of the projects is on the topic of Circular Construction Ecosystem another is in the area of Plastic Packaging waste prevention, together with other international partners. Also local projects were launched, like a project on the topic of Berlin Circular School. Through the monthly collaborative meetings we reach out to more than 540 people and projects.

Challenges and lessons learned

The challenge remains still in the explanation what is circular economy and how the city might profit from this topic. A lot explanatory work has to be conducted.  One of the important lessons is crucial to understand in the first place the local specifics, knowledge and stakeholders operating in this field. Knowledge exchange, and facilitation of the knowledge exchange is very important, having organisation or entity that might take this role is needed.

The future is circular!


ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19



Legal Notice / Impressum


Data Protection Policy / Datenschutzerklärung