Circular Berlin
Organisation : Berlin , Germany

Circular Berlin is an open initiative promoting a collaborative environment to unlock the potential of cross-sectorial connectivity and to accelerate Berlin's transition to a circular city. Current objectives are:

  • Connect Berlin local initiatives operating in the area of Circular Economy 
  • Identify cross-sectorial potentials for knowledge creation and exchange
  • Search for projects ready for replication and launch new pilots at the district and city level

The focus is on construction and the built environment, food and agriculture, and textile and fashion, as well as on eco-design, material, and recycling.

The ultimate goal to identify best practices for and in Berlin!

Agendas addressed
Water resources and air qualityHousingLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Support open data standards

Berlin is a growing capital with a population of around 3.5 million. In the last 20 years it witnessed an enormous increase in population, which resulted in increased demand for affordable housing and boosting the construction sector. 85 % of the available accommodation are rental flats, thus the construction and infrastructure sectors remain crucial for the transformation towards a circular economy.

With a growth in population, there are also increased demands for water, energy, and food. The current agenda in the city is the transformation towards social and cultural inclusion, promotion of the smart city concept and innovation sector and pushing the green agenda, which is summarised briefly through the zero-waste strategy. (link)

Berlin is NOT a productive city, importing most of its products. The incorporation of circular economy transformation could contribute to the future generation, especially in the  construction and agriculture sectors because they are already localized.

In Action

The work with initiatives started in November 2017. By February 2018 we identified around 100 different initiatives operating directly or indirectly in the area of circular economy in Berlin. Initiatives were mapped from research, business, NGO and supportive sectors, such as consulting or investment.

Food and agriculture - 41 initiatives
City and infrastructure - 35 initiatives
Textile and fashion - 31 initiatives
Consumer goods - 30 initiatives
Manufacture - 22 initiatives
In the event, in February we had around 40 professionals, representing different groups.

Starting from May 2018, EIT-Climate KIC provided support for the next project stage.

Among the selected areas, numerous interviews were conducted with the representatives of business and NGOs (at least 30 interviews). The main objective was to identify the needs of local initiatives to be able to act more actively on the city level.

The stakeholder groups were narrowed down:

1. Business and industries as innovation runner

2. Research and institutions as innovation and solution developer

3. Recycling sector as the sector mostly allocated for material streams

4. Process organizations, such as political scene, local networking organizations

What is very important is to identify in the physical spaces for transformation practices. Currently, we identified 5 potential spots, but there was no communication with them about it, except one space.

The significant part of our work is to bring the level of visibility for grassroots initiatives. Thus Circular Berlin organized several events one of the Open Source Circular Economy days, and Panel discussion on how to make Berlin a Circular City. (link)

Two main outcomes were:

1 - the visibility for policymakers is important that circular economy movement does not stay in a heterogeneous system; 

2 - cross-sectorial collaboration is important as this is the only way to work with localized effective material streams.



1. Developed a platform to increase the visibility of local initiatives:

It remains the first tool for the communication with the Berlin scene. It provides visibility for the local actors, as they are part of the circular economy movement in Berlin. Also, it plays a role of single entry point into the Berlin - city and circular economy.

2. Collection of Berlin best practices. 

This is still a work in progress. 

The best practices are collected by the project type and by the circular value chain, identifying where their main potential. Such an approach helps not only identify current know-how in the circular economy but also to see how to build an ecosystem which is possible across the value chain.


The topic drivers are the architects and planning agency. However, the demand comes from the Immobilien owners, who are not really aware of the circular economy agenda. This is the problem of ownership. In the case of public land ownership, it has the opportunities for the construction sector to develop long-term solutions for the built environment.


In Berlin where identified several projects for water recycling system. The request for the future construction projects is clear, to enable it, the two-pipeline network is required. It will help to recycle greywater and recover the heat for the building. This ideas still require the push for the construction sector.

Textile and Fashion:

Local topic acknowledgment is there, but it is on a very small scale. The approach would be to foster collective public procurement in the city which helps the individual initiatives to establish a circular ecosystem


We are a young initiative, with the current objective to bring visibility to, and understand the needs of circular economy in Berlin. 

A circular Economy is a complex approach, which requires time to understand how it can function in order not to become another economic buzzword. 

Our objectives:

1. To gain Pilot Projects in the city to demonstrate the topic of circular economy, where the local initiatives could work together (e.g. Fairs and Exhibitions) 

2. Develop cross-university curriculum for students to understand the system approach of circular economy

3. Develop effective resource use system in City, meaning identify material stream leakage and see how new circular solutions could be developed out of it. It will promote both environmental and economic benefits in terms of job creation and decrease in resource consumption.

4. Sharping definitions and notions of a circular economy on the city level, because it remains very misleading.

Currently, it is a soft approach, so it is possible to measure in the number of projects conducted, the number of collaborative engagement developed.

In the future, the calculation of the amount of high resources saved, reused, or high value recycled should be indicated.

Challenges and lessons learned


  • Berlin is NOT a productive city, importing most of its products.
  • The circular economy as the topic is decoupled by Berlin authorities from the economy and industries
  • Berlin is very decentralized, with no local driving force for this topic in the city


  • Two sectors such built environment and Food and Agriculture could be localized with the circular economy specifics
  • Textile and fashion have a high acceptance rate for circular (sustainable) development, incl. local production. Mainly it evolves via fashion sustainability movement and sustainable lifestyle
  • There is knowledge around circular process partly developed in the universities in Berlin
initiative overview
next steps - work


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