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Cities Implementation of Circular Economy Model: Sharing Best Practices

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have decided to be vigilant and help flatten the curve by social distancing and staying inside. IUC Asia saw this as a great opportunity to facilitate cities from different parts of the world to connect and conduct peer-to-peer learning from the comfort of our own home. Collaborating with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), IUC Asia held an online discussion on the topic of Circular Economy to explore possibilities of urban practices in implementing this economy model. On 2 April 2020, this event was attended by 58 participants, all coming from different regions.

The team firstly introduced the basic concept of circular economy, an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design, which answers to the complication created by the linear economy. This model designs out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use to its maximum capacity as long as possible, and regenerates natural systems. Its implementation materialized in various steps constituting a whole cycle of production and consumption, including through recycling, remanufacturing, redistributing, sharing, and repairing. On this chance, cities in Malaysia and Italy shared their best practices on circular economy activities, elaborating on the challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations with participants in the online discussion.


Adrian Lasimbang, a senator from the Malaysian Parliament shared an effort in providing alternative energy through Centre for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE) at Penampang Sabah. By empowering local expertise and enterprise, Malaysia discovered home-brewed technologies to address the indigenous community’s need for energy access, sourced from living waste around us. The products are including, but not limited to, low-cost concrete turbines, recycled-aluminum turbines, and solar-hydro hybrid-powered social enterprise centres. He emphasized the aspect of community empowerment to successfully integrate circular economy into the community and maintain sustainability.

On the other side, Muar Municipal Council, represented by Muhammad Ali Tukiman, explores the waste management issue through Smart Bin Community that circulates domestic waste in Muar. This initiative was born from the community’s lack of bins that provide separation facilities. A similar idea of implementation was also noted in Freddy Ekol’s presentation, particularly regarding the recycling initiatives in Penampang. He highlighted endeavors to utilize any kind of waste as resources that can produce different forms of useful products.

Loon Wai Chau from UTM-Low Carbon Asia Research Centre elaborated on the case of Pengerang that adopted circular economy as a framework for low carbon industrial port city. It envisions being the Clean, Grean, and Smart Pengerang in 2030 through three pillars, social, environment, and economy. The bigger portion of efforts is focused in decarbonizing industries through sustainable resource management and integration, industrial waste management and recovery, as well as sustainable industrial management and practice. He noted that there is a need to find a way to operationalize the concept of circular economy, especially in the realm of urban policies. Therefore, it is important to make sure of a city’s human capital readiness along with sufficient access to technology and finance in order to make a city more circular.

Iskandar City in Malaysia, through a presentation from Boyd Dionysius Jouman at Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), showcased its Low Carbon Society Blueprint for Iskandar Malaysia 2025 as its implementation of circular economy model. They envisioned industrial development that is sustainable and inclusive, incorporating eco-industrial park and eco-town model as a concept of Industrial Symbiosis that drives industrial cooperation and synergies – which transforms waste into energy in a cyclical process. Of course, with this ambitious plan comes challenging obstacles too, such as limited access to capital, lack of information sharing, and the absence of environmental regulation regarding Industrial Symbiosis. IRDA proposed recommendations that collaborations, both within private and public sectors, on local, national, and international level are important to realize this circular model of economy.

Finally, Marino Cavallo presented the circular economy activities of the Metropolitan City of Bologna which was designed in the Bologna Metropolitan Strategic Plan. To pursue sustainable development, Bologna government launched key projects applying circular economy model, such as Circular Economy for SMEs (CESME), SMEs Circular Economy in the Agri-Food sector (SinCE AFC), Green Start-up Support (GRESS), and many more. These are efforts to enable and empower stakeholders to shift towards a more circular business model, either through raising awareness, fund and technical assistance, transfer of knowledge, capacity building, or policy improvement.

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Related Links

Files of presentations

Streaming recording link of the online discussion

Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change by Ellen Macarthur Foundation

European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform

Circular Economy Club

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