Initiating a circular economic system in cities can bring a wealth of economic, social, and environmental gains. A circular model reduces costs and eliminates waste while fostering economic productivity and green, local jobs. In this course, learn how your city can benefit from moving away from the “take-make-waste” economic system and implementing circular strategies.

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Cities consume more than two thirds of global energy, emit around 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, and produce half of the world’s waste. They are also home to more than half of the global population. By 2050, approximately 68% of people are expected to live in cities.

The circular economy offers cities a way to relinquish outdated economic systems – incompatible with current ecological and social contexts – and augment their economic outputs in a sustainable and equitable manner.

The transition towards a circular economy promises greater energy & resource efficiency, sustainable economic growth, reduced emissions, and numerous benefits to biodiversity and human health, helping cities gain ground on their Sustainable Development Goals.

Aimed at local government practitioners, this course gives learners a clear overview of key circular economy concepts, outlines how and where circular measures can be implemented in cities, and provides an array of diverse case studies as best practice examples.

Learning Objectives

Linear and Circular Economy Models

Explore the linear economy’s "take-make-waste" model and its impacts on resource extraction and waste generation. Familiarize yourself with the circular economy, an alternative concept which looks to rethink production and consumption systems by closing material loops.

Circular Economy Benefits for Cities

Learn about the different economic, social and environmental benefits that the circular economy can bring to your city, and how to take a holistic perspective to circular interventions.

The 5Rs: Complementary Circular Strategies

Discover how the five R strategies – Rethink, Regenerate, Reduce, Reuse and Recover – can help create interventions for your city that go beyond narrow “end-of-pipe" solutions.

Cityscape Assessment

Learn to assess your city’s capabilities for circular action and identify which work areas can help you deliver the greatest impact.

Circular Economy Journey

Follow the circular economy development journey five steps and receive insights and guidance on how to ensure successful implementation.

Integrating Circular Economy into Government Policy

Acquire knowledge on the different policy instruments accessible to local governments for a circular transition and gain experience designing a policy mix for circularity.

Course at a glance


6 hours


English (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian Bahasa and Mandarin Chinese available soon)


Personalized certificate provided upon course completion

Course Outline

1.1. What is the Circular Economy?

A closer look at the linear vs. circular economy concept and an overview of its benefits and critiques.

1.2. Five strategies to achieve successful sustainable development

A deep dive into the Actions Framework, its five strategies, and 15 actions for circular economy development.

2.1. Assessing the circularity of your city – An exploration of city assessment tools and how to identify high-impact work areas for your city.

3.1. Designing a circular economy policy mix for a priority area

An examination of the different roles local government actors can play in a circular transition, including collaborating with important stakeholder groups, and an overview of the policy tools that can be employed to support circular interventions.

Course Authors

Dr. Ying-Chih Deng
Dr. Ying-Chih DengSustainable Built Environment Officer, Circular Development, ICLEI
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Dr. Ying-Chih's work focuses on circular development and a sustainable urban transition. At ICLEI, he facilitates industrial legacy cities toward a just transition. His previous experience includes urban research and public service design.
Dr. Magash Naidoo
Dr. Magash NaidooHead of Circular Development, ICLEI
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Dr. Naidoo oversees the strategic direction of ICLEI’s Circular Development team to foster sustainable systemic change. Previously, he spent 14 years with the eThekwini Municipality in South Africa, where he worked on the Green Economy, among other thematic areas.
Braoin MacLauchlan
Braoin MacLauchlanSustainable Built Environment Assistant, Circular Development, ICLEI
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Braoin focuses on the built environment and supports the creation of circular economy educational materials. Her work explores the nexus and alignment between social, economic, and ecological systems within urban settings.

Featured Resources


A sustainable future depends on whether cities can become more prosperous, more equal, and low-carbon at the same time. This synthesis report produced by WRI offering a roadmap for how to unleash transformative change in cities.


By looking at cities from a systems perspective, this UNEP report identifies pathways to resource efficiency and waste management for cities transitioning from a linear to a circular economy, outlining inspiring examples to initiate change in the way urban areas are planned and managed.


Cities are finding innovative ways to finance and implement projects with a focus on inclusion, equity, and a green and just recovery. This C40 report provides case studies from nine cities around the world, sharing actionable lessons for city officials and other stakeholders about how to access finance.



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