Like an economy, a city is more or less a human body: it has inputs, outputs, and a central, circular flow. Its metabolism is measured by whether it processes its resources in a linear or circular manner. This is how Anna Leidreiter (Policy Officer for Climate and Energy at the World Future Council Foundation in Hamburg) envisions the world as she explains how a self-sustaining and wasteless city works.
A linear metabolism means the resources are used and simply discarded: food and goods turn to landfill, energy turns into pollution. A circular metabolism minimizes both sides of this equation by recycling both organic and synthetic waste.
For example, Oakland is embracing a circular metabolism and implementing a Zero Waste program. Leidreiter breaks down its approaches into three categories: “improving downstream reuse of end-of-life products,” “pursuing upstream re-design strategies to reduce the volume of discarded materials,” and “support the use of discarded products to stimulate local economic development.” By tackling all three stages of the product cycle, Oakland is creating an environment where responsible consumption is encouraged and rewarded.
The city also sources its own water treatment with its East Bay Municipal Utility District, which locally distributes and recycles drinking water for half a million Northern Californians. As an added benefit, waste from the center can then be used for manure in nearby farms.
In four years, Oakland landfill tonnage has decreased from 400,000 tons to 291,000. By 2020, that number is supposed to reach zero. Building a Circular metabolism will be part of these efforts, even if Leidreiter cautions that “no single strategy can achieve zero waste.” Oakland needs in particular to better integrate horizontal coordination in execution and vertical coordination in policy making: the legal framework for the Zero Waste goal is still incomplete.
But ultimately, in order to create a truly sustainable, livable city, “regenerative urban systems” need to adopt a natural circular metabolism.
Read here the full article (source):
"Circular metabolism: turning regenerative cities into reality"
Published on Globalurbanist.com by Anna Leidreiter - April 24, 2012