13 June 2023

Waste is a resource across the entire production chain

Sustainable waste management begins even before the waste is created. The choices made before the design and consumption of a product that reduce waste are key to creating a sustainable, circular economy that sees waste as a resource. It is not enough to just recycle and reuse waste correctly.

These were the main messages ICLEI presented throughout the Waste Management Europe Conference (WME 2023) from 18-20 April in Bergamo (Italy). ICLEI was a key partner in this annual conference, which brings together key stakeholders from the waste management sector, including government and policymaking representatives, industry leaders, and others working on making the waste sector in Europe more sustainable and circular. Through panel discussions, networking stands and interactive sessions, the event highlighted the latest innovations and best practices in waste management and the circular economy.

ICLEI believes that a sustainable society requires an economic model that separates economic growth from resource depletion and environmental degradation. This requires a circular economy that replaces the linear take-make-waste model. Accomplishing this paradigm shift requires tackling challenges across production, consumption, and waste prevention, all from multiple perspectives: from enabling technological innovation in waste management, to fostering and raising citizen engagement and awareness. As a network of cities and towns, ICLEI also focuses on supporting local governments take the lead in the transition to a circular economy, for example through the European Circular Cities Declaration (CCD), which aims to provide a shared, common vision of a circular city, enabling communities to act as a joined force in harnessing their circular potential.

At WME 2023, ICLEI presented the CCD, alongside projects such as CityLoops, SYMSITES, CIRCULAR BIOCARBON, CircularInvest, Definite-CCRI, Big Buyers Working Together, and Bus-GoCircular. Two panel discussions also also provided the ooportunity to further articulate the organisation’s circular vision. The first panel focused on how to turn e-waste, Europe’s largest growing waste stream, into a resource; while the second highlighted upcoming challenges, opportunities, developments and regulations related to plastic and paper waste.

These two panel discussions showed the importance of sharing knowledge to realise the true value of waste, especially in the context of e-waste. They furthermore demonstrated that it is not only everyday people who lack knowledge. Large governing bodies like the European Union itself often set targets for waste reduction and recycling without clear understandings of what is possible on-the-ground in local contexts.

There must be more dialogue with and among local authorities, to develop better understandings of the needs of communities in various EU countries. Capacity building and knowledge exchange is key here, including through webinars, such as those available to CCD Signatories.

For more information on ICLEI’s work building a circular economy, visit: