Urban Regions Shifting to Circular Economy: Understanding Challenges for New Ways of Governance

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Urban Regions Shifting to Circular Economy: Understanding Challenges for New Ways of Governance


  • Andreas Obersteg HafenCity, University Hamburg, Germany
  • Alessandro Arlati HafenCity, University Hamburg, Germany
  • Arianne Acke OVAM—Public Waste Agency of Flanders, Belgium
  • Gilda Berruti Department of Architecture, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
  • Konrad Czapiewski IGPZ PAN—Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Poland
  • Marcin Dąbrowski Departments of Urbanism and Management in the Built Environment, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft, The Netherlands
  • Erwin Heurkens Departments of Urbanism and Management in the Built Environment, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft, The Netherlands
  • Cecília Mezei MTA KRTK—Institute for Regional Studies, Hungaryu
  • Maria Federica Palestino Department of Architecture, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
  • Viktor Varjú MTA KRTK—Institute for Regional Studies, Hungary
  • Marcin Wójcik Faculty of Geographical Sciences, University of Łódź, Poland
  • Jörg Knieling HafenCity, University Hamburg, Germany


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Abstract:  Urban areas account for around 50% of global solid waste generation. In the last decade, the European Union has supported numerous initiatives aiming at reducing waste generation by promoting shifts towards Circular Economy (CE) approaches. Governing this process has become imperative. This article focuses on the results of a governance analysis of six urban regions in Europe involved in the Horizon 2020 project REPAiR. By means of semi-structured interviews, document analysis and workshops with local stakeholders, for each urban area a list of governance challenges which hinder the necessary shift to circularity was drafted. In order to compare the six cases, the various challenges have been categorized using the PESTEL-O method. Results highlight a significant variation in policy contexts and the need for these to evolve by adapting stakeholders’ and policy-makers’ engagement and diffusing knowledge on CE. Common challenges among the six regions include a lack of an integrated guiding framework (both political and legal), limited awareness among citizens, and technological barriers. All these elements call for a multi-faceted governance approach able to embrace the complexity of the process and comprehensively address the various challenges to completing the shift towards circularity in cities.

Keywords:  challenges; circular economy; governance; peri-urban areas; urban region

Published:   27 September 2019


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v4i3.2158


© Andreas Obersteg, Alessandro Arlati, Arianne Acke, Gilda Berruti, Konrad Czapiewski, Marcin Dąbrowski, Erwin Heurkens, Cecília Mezei, Maria Federica Palestino, Viktor Varjú, Marcin Wójcik, Jörg Knieling. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.