This post on Resilient Cities and the Circular Economy is the third in my series on the Resilient Cities 2018 conference.
I participated in a discussion about Resilient Cities and the Circular Economy at Resilient Cities 2018 – Cities in transition: From waste management to circular city economies.
My presentation focused on circular economy activities in the city of Bloomington, Indiana.
Where is Bloomington?
Facts about Bloomington
There appears to be a lot of circular economy activity going on in cities, but it may under reported. How and where the waste data is reported depends a great deal on a city’s waste management system. Waste collection can be done by a private contractor or a public utility or a combination. This is the case in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, which is home to Indiana University. The city’s population is 85,000 people; half of these residents are students. The university, the city, and private collection companies collect waste. The city and the university track recycling. At present, private collectors track by regions not by cities.
Are there other waste disposal options in Bloomington?
There are several NGOs involved with the circular economy that report annually on their work. For example, the Monroe County Habitat for Humanity Restore collects donated used building materials and appliances to resell to the public at discounted prices. In 2017, 1.1 million pounds were diverted from the landfill. This does not include all the construction waste from the demolition of buildings. Collection of this data would be a complex endeavor, but lessons could be learned from the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It has plans to create a circular city that in part organizes the building chain to incorporate the reuse of building materials in new construction. It is a new program that will require considerable coordination from setting up a storage facility to measuring and monitoring the materials. It will involve a multi-year effort, but Amsterdam is on the cutting edge of becoming a circular city.
Another example of the circular economy in Bloomington is a local NGO foodbank, Hoosier Hills Foodbank (HHFB). HHFB coordinates food collection with local grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants. It in turn makes food donations available to over 100 nonprofit organizations including emergency food pantries, daycare centers serving low-income children, youth programs, shelters, residential homes and soup kitchens.
Hoosier to Hoosier (H2H), an annual event that diverts reusable items from the landfill during Indiana University’s student move-out at the end of each spring semester, illustrates the reuse of post consumer goods. This program prevents new resource consumption by selling collected items to students and community members at the beginning of each fall semester. The funds raised are donated to local charities and other organizations. H2H is a partnership between the city of Bloomington Sustainability, Indiana University Office of Sustainability, and Cutters Soccer Club. In 2016, it successfully diverted 60 tons and collected $45,000 from its sales.
Yard waste collection in Bloomington is another example of the circular economy. Each fall the city collects residential yard leaves with trucks equipped with vacuum hoses. The leaves are delivered to Green Earth Recycling and Compost, a private company, which charges the city a dumping fee per load. The company processes the leaves into compost for sale to the public.
There may be many more examples that are not widely publicized so an assessment of progress in Bloomington is incomplete. Collecting data on other examples needs to be made a priority if we are to assess progress and make decisions about new initiatives for the city. One issue for better assessment of progress is getting all the information together in one place. This could be accomplished on the city government website. Having the information in a central location could provide more opportunities for partnerships across the city.