Circular economy for everyone
City/Region : City of Helsingborg , Sweden

In the city of Helsingborg we are aiming towards circular economy for everyone. Together with citizens, businesses and academia, the city has tested and implemented many different small- and large scale initiatives. Initiatives included in this transformative action are: A quality of life-program, waste collection on demand, an innovative industrial park, turning waste into resources (Vera Park), educating children in 3rd and 5th grade about how to manage a more sustainable lifestyle and a world unique three pipes circular sewer system.


Agendas addressed
Water resources and air qualityClimate change
Pathways followed
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement

Helsingborg is one of Sweden’s fastest growing cities. With 145 000 inhabitants, the population has increased 30% since 1985.

Quite a few years back Helsingborg considered itself to be quite happy the way it was - of course a dangerous perspective when at the same time being able to develop.  

And the city for sure wanted to develop. So, together with inhabitants, politicians, businesses, NGOs and academia, the City of Helsingborg put together the vision Helsingborg 2035 that says: “In 2035 Helsingborg will be the creative, united, global and balanced city pulsing with life for both people and businesses”.

In 2015 we also got a politically decided quality of life program that connects to the 2030 Agenda for Suatainable Development. One of our goals are to reach zero waste in 2030. Our actions so far have made us the most environmentally friendly municipality in Sweden in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In Action

In order to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12), circular economy is key. The quality of life – program in Helsingborg pinpoints, among other things, the importance of creating sustainable and circular systems for energy, water, waste and waste water. In order to do this we have implemented four major corner stones.

1. The city of Helsingborg and the municipality owned waste company NSR have for many years offered all children in the third and fifth grade an environmental education about how to manage a more sustainable lifestyle.

2. The municipality owned waste company NSR has totally changed the city of Helsingborg’s waste management service covering producers, distributors, inhabitants, landlords, companies and non-governmental organizations that sort and handle waste in various ways, creating an innovation-driven industrial park, called Vera Park, where waste is refined into new raw materials.

3. Waste collection on demand.

During 2018, NSR was part of the first innovative public-private partnerships in Sweden. Our challenge was that we emptied waste collection bins at the households when they were only half full. So, together with a private partner we developed and tested to empty bins on demand with the help of sensors connected to a LoRaWan-net on 250 hoseholds. When the citizens push the sensor, a signal is sent to NSR:s route optimization program and within 48 hours the waste is collected. Doing this, we also had to push the limits when it comes to public procurement.

4. A world-unique three pipes sewer system.
The City of Helsingborg and NSVA (municipality owned waste water company) are building a world-unique sewer system in a neighborhood in Helsingborg with about 350 homes and 30,000 sqm offices, the first ones being in use in 2020. One pipe will sort out black water (toilet), one will sort out food waste (trough a kitchen waste mill) and one pipe will sort out gray water (bath, shower, laundry). The heat from the gray water will be recycled and used to recover nutrients from wastewater. Food waste and black water are also recycled and turned into biogas.

“We love innovation and we love sustainability, but there is more to do, above all to try new things when taking care of the waste water, that we will do!” – Ulf Thysell, CEO NSVA (municipality owned waste water company)


1.       Today, about 3000 students per year in the third and fifth grade participate in a practical as well as theoretical session about recycling and waste prevention. In Helsingborg the amount of household waste has decreased during the last years.

2.       Vera Park and its about 20 companies managed to develop many new innovations, to mention a few:
- Chip boards with alternative fossil-free binders instead of formaldehyde has been developed.
- Household plastic is converted into railway slipers.
- Food waste is converted into biogas. When making biogas, sustainable fertilizer is extracted.

3.       We managed to reduce the emptying of waste bins by over 30% during the test period in 2018. During 2019 we are planning to scale up the test.

4.       In order to be innovative and brave enough to try new things many parts need to be involved. In order to make the three pipes sewer system happen the city of Helsingborg had to work closely with NSVA as well as all the landlords that are now building houses connected to the system. Our cooperation has never been as good as it is now.


1. As one of the first municipalities in Sweden, Helsingborg decided to implement mandatory sorting of organic food waste for biogas production. Today 100% of the households in Helsingborg have the possibility to sort out their food waste. This is made possible partly because of brave decisions and partly because the citizens don’t see it as a problem - they are used to it.

2. Because of the arena that Vera Park can offer, companies choose to relocate from lager cities to Helsingborg, which makes the city and Vera Park even stronger. 

3. The city of Helsingborg has showed that we cannot do everything on our own, however we like to cooperate with companies and academia that can help us find solutions to our challenges. In this particular case it also led to a local business being able to grow.

4. Approximately 10 percent of the nutrient nitrogen is recovered with today's sewage solutions. With this new system, almost 80 percent of the nitrogen is recycled, which is the nutrient that is imported most into today's agriculture. The recovered amount of nutrients increases by three times more phosphorus and seven times more nitrogen by one year compared to a household without the three pipe sewer system.

Challenges and lessons learned

Mainly, the challenges encountered have been to embrace a new management system for waste, water and energy; all of which have previously been management by separate entities. The new circular three pipe sewer system intersects waste, water and energy sectors and thus required increased co-operation between the city and its utilities. Another challenge is being in the forefront of utilizing EU End of waste criteria for recycled nutrient products and convincing a traditionally conservative water sector that circular wastewater systems might be an economic method to meet presently rising, and future, environmental challenges.

Verapark, Helsingborg


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