Transition towards a circular economy at a regional level: A case study on closing biological loops

Authors: S. Vanhamäki, M. Virtanen, S. Luste, K. Manskinen.

Type of publication: Article peer review.

The transition towards a circular economy requires a systemic change, where regions play a vital role. In Finland’s Päijät-Häme region, European and national targets for a circular economy were implemented on a regional level. The regional development programme and strategy of the area emphasises a circular economy as a key feature. In practice, a circular economy strategy was set up through a road map process involving stakeholders from local government, industry and academia. The strategy aims to strengthen circular economy implementation in real-world systems through five identified goals. The goals focus on closing both technical and biological loops, as well as promoting sustainable energy technologies, new consumption models and demonstration sites. This paper illustrates how a move towards a circular economy is supported through regional strategy implementation. Furthermore, opportunities and challenges related to the transition towards the circular economy are presented via a case analysis of a local bio-based industrial symbiosis where biogas and fertiliser are produced from biowaste streams and sewage sludge. New technologies such as these create more business opportunities at the interface of material and energy cycles even where their implementation faces financing challenges. Regulations need to support the implementation of effective symbioses emerging from new solutions, but are also needed to safeguard the environment and human health when closing biological loops. The regional circular economy strategy described and the case of bio-based industrial symbiosis are both recognised as transferable good practices at the European level. A stakeholder-based approach is shown to be crucial to continuous development towards a circular economy society.

Vanhamäki, S., Virtanen, M., Luste, S. and Manskinen, K. 2020. Transition towards a circular economy at a regional level: A case study on closing biological loops. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Vol.156.
DOI 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104716