Lab Fellow Portraits #1 | Circular Berlin

From July to December 2019, six fellow teams will reside in the Urban Ideation Lab – the laboratory for the urban quarter of the future and the heart of B-Part Am Gleisdreieck. Consisting of regularly changing fellow teams, the lab opens up space for entrepreneurs who want to take off with their ideas in an inspiring exchange with others – including the Circular Berlin team, which is committed to the “Circular Economy” and pursues the vision of cities with a healthy and social circular economy.

The contribution of the “Circular Economy” to the resilient, climate-neutral city lies in the material circulation, in which all resources are produced and used locally in a kind of endless loop, without waste and pollution arising.

Since this may sound like a utopian perpetuum mobile transferred to the city, a simple example is given to demonstrate the impact of circularity: The district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is planning to eliminate waste and is looking for concepts and solutions for a zero waste strategy. Together with BUND and Grüne Liga, the team from Circular Berlin is working on a roadmap towards a waste-free district.

For example, the problem of littering public green spaces could be addressed in a new way. Here, the use of disposable barbecues generates considerable amounts of non-recyclable waste. Instead, what would it be like if the district had its own barbecue rental stations in the parks, making disposable equipment superfluous? This sounds unrealistic at first if you consider the effort and costs for the rental stations including personnel. These costs could be put into perspective if one takes stock of the burden that the use of disposable barbecues places on the general public. After all, barbecue waste must also be collected in a personnel-intensive manner and placed on landfills or disposed of in a way that is harmful to the environment.

The concrete solutions for the district are still at the beginning, so this approach only serves to illustrate how the “circular” principle can be thought of. The path to a complete zero waste city requires very different and in some cases much more complex solutions than just avoiding disposable barbecues.

But many NGOs and initiatives are already following this path, a busy scene is active in numerous cities around the world, as well as in Berlin. While the topic is not yet widely known to the public, the interest of local authorities and administrations has also been growing for a long time. After all, the transformation towards resilient, climate-neutral and sustainable cities is increasingly pushing its way onto the agenda.

In other words, this is not about classical urban planning, but about material cycles within regional spaces. The team works in areas such as the construction industry, materials and products, food and biomass, textiles and fashion.

“The deeper one gets into the various topics, the more it is about social aspects and insights despite our clear focus on materials,” says Dina Padalkina, the founder of Circular Berlin. “This also creates new approaches such as working with schools, for example our pilot program “Circular School” at a primary school in Berlin-Karlshorst.”

Together with the EIT Climate KIC, the European Institute for Innovation, Circular Berlin is currently working on the future project of resource-saving materials management in construction. The project focuses on the ecosystem and the players in the construction industry in Berlin. To initiate circular and local construction, the industry faces completely new challenges in large parts and most of the participants are breaking new ground here. Apart from technical challenges, new cooperative processes must also be considered. See also our report on the first Urban Ideation Talk, which Circular Berlin initiated on the topic of new concepts in dealing with spaces and buildings. More talks on exciting topics will follow. You can find the video of the event here:

© Ian Delu

Ultimately, it is a matter of a fundamental rethinking. After all, the Circular Economy has a much larger impact than conventional recycling, with which it should by no means be confused. The Circular Berlin team is working on a new operating system for sustainable and local material flows, including positive social implications for more livable cities.

We are happy about Circular Berlin as Fellows of the first hour and are looking forward to further results and events in the B-Part Am Gleisdreieck.

Portraits of the other five fellow teams in the Urban Ideation Lab will follow…