Biomethane plant in Bottrop, Germany. Photo: Hans Peter / Wikimedia.

There are many direct and indirect benefits of improved natural resource management in urban areas, benefits that may substantially contribute to human wellbeing. Unfortunately, most cities are missing out on these opportunities.

Instead, inadequate waste management, like open dumping of solid waste or poorly functioning sanitation, are common around the world. Wasteful resource management causes pollution and environmental degradation, affecting our health. It is also a missed economic opportunity: safe reuse of valuable nutrients and organic matter in waste streams can boost food production, generate renewable energy, and offer many business opportunities. Sustainable waste management can help to deliver on climate mitigation, reduce eutrophication as well as make cities more self-sufficient.

UrbanCircle will improve understanding of co-benefits and trade-offs between the flows of natural resources in cities, an area which has not received enough investigation, mainly due to complex cross-sectoral interdependencies. This process will include governance analysis and model development, drawing on empirical studies, co-designed with local stakeholders in Sweden, Colombia and Kenya.

The project work also involves piloting the Resource Value Mapping (REVAMP) tool. This tool enables cities to estimate their resource recovery potential basing on inputs of the quantities of organic waste streams they have, including wastewater and faecal sludge. Depending on local priorities, the tool also makes it possible to compare various resource recovery options on the basis of energy and nutrient outputs as well as potential revenues using a co-development process, as a novel platform for participatory planning and multi-actor engagement.

The outcomes will contribute to a more integrated urban policy making, facilitating identification of cross-sectoral synergies and trade-offs framed within the 2030 Agenda, contributing to the long-term sustainability of resources and the resilience of urban centres.