Could a whole city go waste free, have clean air, and be prepared for extreme weather? That’s the dream of campaigners in Greece.

With huge numbers of the world’s population now living in urban areas, where deadly air pollution, high levels of waste, and extreme weather are rife, experts around the world are looking for new solutions to these problems.

And campaigners at the Greek NGO ‘Ecocity’ are calling for the ‘smart cities’ of the future to be designed using circular economy principles where waste is prevented and materials recycled.

While many cities across Europe have already embraced more sustainable practices, the World Economic Forum estimates that 75% of infrastructure required by 2050 is not yet in place today.

The group are organising the first ever ‘Ecocity Forum‘ in Thessaloniki, Greece, this October to raise awareness about the role that the circular economy can play in building the cities of tomorrow. The event is funded by the Greek government and will gather academics, representatives from business, NGOs and public authorities from across Europe to debate the various aspects of what a circular economy involves.

The event will explore how a circular economy, where the value of the goods is maintained, waste is prevented and materials are recycled, can support our transition to better cities.

Reuse, repair and recycling have long been part of our society, but cities have only recently vowed to fully close the loop of their economies. Many municipalities across Europe have stepped up efforts to avoid waste generation and improve the separate collection of different waste streams in order to facilitate recycling and avoid leakages in the environment.

Figures from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) show that waste prevention and better recycling can create over 800,000 new jobs, with one in ten coming from reuse.

After the event, Ecocity will provide national and local authorities with a guidebook, a comprehensive tool for the design and implementation of circular economy practices and policies.

George Konstantinopoulos Senior Legal Expert in European Commission Conformity Studies and Head of Ecocity Legal Department explains:

“The Guidebook will be a handy tool for all local communities all over the world, helping them to gain insight in to the circular economy model.”

The talk will also focus on the role of EU authorities.

Klea Katsouyianni, Professor at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School and King’s College London added:

“The European Union’s role towards boosting the transition of European cities on becoming “smart” is catalytic.”

Carsten Wachholz, the EEB expert on product policy and circular economy, commented:

“Digitalisation can help us facilitating the transition to a circular economy, in particular through intelligent sharing of information. By using smarter products, we can improve the knowledge of their location, condition and availability, thus prolonging their lifetime and increase their usage before refurbishing or recycling them according the higher quality standards.”

Another issue is the digital divide, Nicolas Moussiopoulos, Professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,  said:

“A key challenge for modern cities in their race towards becoming smart is bridging the “digital divide”.

Ecocity Forum will take place from 3-5 October 2018