Circular Initiatives in Action

Silhouettes against a window graphic from Ellen MacArthur Foundation circular economy page

Discover examples of circular initiatives already in action in Alberta and across the world. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has led the way with a powerful online suite of resources, including fact sheets, policy levers, networks and case studios, videos, project guides and graphics. Alberta communities have followed suit with similar circular initiatives.


What is the Circular Economy? | Why Circular Communities?

PHASE ONE | Banff Roadmap | Calgary Roadmap | Edmonton Roadmap | Lethbridge Roadmap | Strathcona Roadmap


Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Leading the way

Ideas & Best Practices

In consultation with Alberta communities, the RCA has drawn on the following examples from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to jumpstart conversations about developing a circular economy.

City of Austin

Materials Marketplace


The City of Austin developed a Materials Marketplace, an online materials exchange platform that is part of an overarching initiative to reach zero waste by 2040.

  • Over 500 businesses, institutions and not-for-profit organizations participate in the Materials Marketplace.
  • The platform includes materials from construction and demolition along with plastics, packaging and organics.

Best Practice Example | Basel, Switzerland

  • The state of Basel-Stadt introduced financial tools such as tax levies and incentives to encourage clean energy production and energy-efficient projects in the area.
  • The action is part of an overall national energy plan, Energy Strategy 2050.
  • The City of Basel has partnered with a publicly-owned energy company to provide 100% renewable energy to residents and businesses.
  • Much of the city’s electricity is generated from hydropower, with about ten percent coming from solar, wind and biomass sources.

City of Amsterdam

Sharing Economy Action Plan



The City of Amsterdam uses a “living” Sharing Economy Action Plan to encourage this concept throughout the city. Using existing city budgets to provide funding, it targets multiple opportunities including housing, office space, product sharing opportunities and integrated sharing-mobility modes, such as cars, bikes and scooters. The initiatives include:

  • Peerby | This mobile app that connects people to each other for the benefits of borrowing and/or renting items.
  • Motoshare | A mobile app that connects people to a sharing platform for motorbikes and vehicles for temporary use.
  • LENA | This subscription service offers high-end fashion items for rent.

Best Practice Example | France

  • In February 2016, France became the first country to prohibit grocery stores from throwing away unused food.
  • Grocery stores of a certain size are required to donate all unused food, rather than throwing it away.
  • Other supporting policies requires schools to educate students on food sustainability, food waste statistics must be reported, and restaurants must make take-out containers available to customers.
  • As a result, the amount of food being donated to schools and organizations has increased, and the quality of that food has improved.

City of Glasgow

A Circular Cities Showcase

Circular graphic illustrating case study of Glasgow as a showcase for a circular economy.


The City of Glasgow has the goal of becoming the world’s first circular city. As part of this initiative, Glasgow is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to deliver a program that will inspire businesses of all sizes to adopt these strategies.

Best Practice Example | Rotterdam

  • As part of developing a Circular Economic Action Plan, Rotterdam has set aggressive targets for circular economy-based producrement, operations, waste reduction and job growth.
  • This includes reaching zero waste within the city by 2030.
  • Other spaces and platforms serve to promote circular initiatives through networking and learning avenues.
  • An incubator hub and “Street Lab” were developed to provide space for small businesses and start-ups to experiment with circular concepts and innovations.



Circular strategies close to home

Freecycle (Alberta-wide) | The sharing of materials for free in the community, reusing and keeping materials out of the landfill.
Banff Food Rescue (Banff) | Picks up and receives food from grocery and retail stores that would normally be sent to landfill, allowing residents in need to access it.
Fire Department Water Reuse Project (Calgary) | A first-of-its-kind system that uses water from a manmade wetland for firefighting training exercises, then recaptures and treats it for reuse.
Leftovers (Calgary and area) | A program that accepts food donations from businesses and grocery stores and redistributes the food to social service organizations for people in need.
Sustainable Building Policy (Calgary) | The City has committed to sustainable building principles in all new and existing buildings, including the procurement of materials that contain recycled content, are regionally available, are reused, or meet certification standards.
Edmonton Tool Library | Provides affordable access to hand, power and garden tools for members.
Find Edmonton | Carries pre-loved furnishings and other items that locals no longer need.
Environmental Deconstruction Initiative (Lethbridge) | Giving materials a new life after a building is deconstructed.
Lethbridge Biogas | Capturing heat from organics through anaerobic digestion to use as renewable energy, either in combined heat and power units and added back to the grid.
Full Circle Plastics (Lethbridge) | Uses locally sourced 100% post-consumer plastic to make a variety of products including fence posts and boards.
Shoe Recycling (Strathcona County)| Soles4Souls keeps old shoes out of the landfill by donating them to local people who need them, or sending shoes in need or repair to developing countries where they can be mended and resold.
Community Energy Centre (Strathcona County) | The community energy system delivers hot water from a central source through insulated underground pipes to heat buildings.

Access the roadmaps for more details on circular initiatives from around Alberta.


RCA’s Circular Cities Project | Circular Cities Initiatives | Banff Roadmap | Calgary Roadmap | Edmonton Roadmap | Lethbridge Roadmap | Strathcona County Roadmap

Alberta Government logo

We thank Alberta EcoTrust and The Alberta Government’s Community Environment Action Grant for your support of this project.

The Circular Cities project supports the RCA’s primary mission to promote, facilitate and advocate for a Circular Economy in Alberta through waste reduction and resource conservation. For more information contact us or call 403.843.6563.

UNSPLASH IMAGES | Louis Paulin (Banff report) • Kyler Nixon (Calgary report) • Alex Pugliese (Edmonton report) • Graham Rutton (Lethbridge report) •