Plan unveiled for London to become a world-leading circular economy

A plan to turn London into one of the world’s most resource efficient cities has been launched today (19 June), calling on stakeholders from local government to community groups to carry out a range of actions targeting five key areas including food waste and plastics.

Plan unveiled for London to become a world-leading circular economyThe London Waste and Recycling Board’s (LWARB) route map to stimulate London’s transition to a circular city sets out more than 100 practical actions that a range of stakeholders across the capital can take to make themselves and the city more resource resilient.

The need for cities to embrace the circular economy and find new, more efficient pathways for resources is becoming more and more pressing: half of the world’s population lives in cities today, a figure that is set to rise to 60 per cent by 2030, according to the United Nations. 

This rapid clustering of people is putting pressure on resources, air quality, the living environment and public health. Indeed, cities occupy just three per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions.

Growth in London is making these pressures more and more urgent, with the capital’s population expected to surpass 11 million by 2050. With this in mind, LWARB states that developing a more flexible and sustainable approach to products, housing, office space and critical infrastructure is ‘crucial to London’s ability to adapt and grow’.

Route map

The route map follows on from an opportunities document published by LWARB in December 2015, ‘Towards a Circular Economy’, which identified five focus areas on which London should build a more resource efficient way of life: the built environment, food, textiles, electricals and plastics.

Plan unveiled for London to become a world-leading circular economyBy 2036 the organisation predicts that the circular economy could provide London with net benefits of at least £7 billion every year in these sectors, as well as 12,000 net new jobs in the areas of re-use, remanufacturing and materials innovation.

It sets out over 100 actions that target a range of stakeholders within the city, all of which cover at least one of the eight cross-cutting themes identified by LWARB as key to creating the right conditions for a circular economy: communications, collaboration, policy, procurement and market development, finance, business support, demonstration and innovation.

Stakeholders targeted by the route map’s actions include the city’s businesses, social enterprises and the huge financial industry, as well as less obvious players in the circular economy game like the higher education, digital and community sectors.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, LWARB’s circular economy lead, who launched the route map at an event this morning, says that anyone can get involved in the move to a circular economy: “Whatever sector you work in, this circular economy route map represents a huge opportunity.”

Among the many actions included in the route map are:

Built environment

  • Promote novel technologies that enable circular economy within the built environment;
  • Work towards setting a re-use target for construction projects in London; and
  • Pilot new circular economy business models in the operation of buildings.


  • Use edible food surplus as a way of contributing to the alleviation of food poverty;
  • Achieve maximum tonnage of food waste collected through local authority and business waste collection services; and
  • Support public authorities and private companies to procure catering contracts that promote the food waste hierarchy.


  • Invest in circular economy textile SMEs and in technologies that allow for more sustainable textile manufacture;
  • Assess how collections and infrastructure for textile re-use could be improved; and
  • Encourage large textile brands and manufacturers to use more circular business models, as well as lobbying for extended producer responsibility for textiles, as happens in France.


  • Use the joint procurement power of cities to influence the design of office equipment so as to embrace circular economy principles;
  • Support local authorities, other public sector organisations and businesses to track and trace their electrical assets and use an online platform to enable re-use of items within their organisation and beyond; and
  • Bring together producer compliance schemes to consider service packages to local authorities.


  • Support London boroughs to harmonise collection systems across the capital, in line with emerging national and/or international standards and so that all residents can recycle plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays – and, in the near future, plastic film such as carrier bags;
  • Collate procurement needs across public organisations, private organisations and other cities to drive change by retailers and manufacturers; and
  • Work with the New Plastics Economy to develop collaborative ways of working to drive change within the global plastics supply chain.

Collaboration hub launched to aid creation of ‘vital’ partnerships

Despite the broad targets for the route map, LWARB says that collaboration is ‘vital’ for the circular economy to succeed and has today also announced a new circular economy collaboration hub that will bring together circular economy innovators from the public, private and third sector to help them develop new opportunities in London.

Mahfouz added: “So many organisations – public or private – can use the principles in this route map to work out how to make circular economy work for them; and LWARB’s new collaboration hub will bring all sorts of organisations together, providing a space for dialogue and partnership and helping us achieve shared success right across the capital.”

Plan unveiled for London to become a world-leading circular economy
The route map sets out plans to support community projects like The Restart Project, as well as targeting producers themselves to increase reusability
“The size of the circular economy prize for London is huge,” said Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, the new Chair of LWARB. “Cities are the engine room of the circular economy. London could receive a net benefit of up to £7 billion a year by 2036 if we accelerate our transition, £2.8 billion of which can be achieved by delivering the actions in this document.

“This route map is a major milestone and I would encourage all organisations in London to think about how they can benefit from a transition to a circular economy.”

LWARB is working closely with the Greater London Assembly and will also partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to spread the word about London’s actions, and take best practice from other work in cities and regions around the world to expand knowledge about the circular economy.

‘London’s Circular Economy Route Map’ can be read and downloaded on LWARB’s website, as can an executive summary of the plan.

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