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Fact sheet

The circular economy and municipalities: Ideas for an effective integration

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Resource waste and waste management are increasingly important issues, particularly because of their associated environmental impacts. The circular economy can help solve some of the problems associated with these impacts, particularly for municipal governments.

The circular economy can help cities

What exactly is the circular economy? According to Québec circulaire, it's a business model based on two key principles, whereby we:

1) Rethink our production and consumption patterns in order to consume fewer resources and protect the ecosystems that generate them;

2) Optimize the use of resources already in circulation.

It is with this in mind that Équiterre has identified a number of recommendations that could enable municipalities to limit the environmental impact of residual waste management within their borders. These recommendations were developed for the City of Montreal, and were submitted through its 2023 consultations on Montreal's Roadmap for a circular economy project. They can, however, be adapted and applied to other municipalities in Quebec.

Here are some of the ways in which cities can adopt the principles of a circular economy.

Household appliances and electronics, furniture and textiles

Vast quantities of natural resources, including certain critical minerals, are required to manufacture household appliances and electronics, and producing these items generates large quantities of GHGs. Optimizing their use, by encouraging repair or rental, could help reduce the overflow on landfill sites. Cities can play an important role, and the following measures could help them to do so:

  • Introduce a repair subsidy, to encourage owners to extend the life of their goods;
  • Set up a municipal network of certified repair professionals;
  • Support repair cafés, venues and events with adequate financial assistance, logistical support and visibility;
  • Help develop libraries for objects through the municipal library network;
  • Support the development of tool libraries with recurrent funding or a dedicated fund.

What about plastic?

Because cities have the responsibility for managing waste, they must shoulder the costs and logistics of managing vast amounts of plastic waste. In 2021, Quebec municipalities had to deal with a total of 248 kilotonnes of plastic waste - the equivalent of approximately 25 Eiffel Towers in weight! The following measures are just some of the ways that cities can help reduce plastic waste at the source:

  • Adopt targets and timetables to reduce the use of single-use items, containers and packaging;

  • Ban certain single-use plastic items, or, for cities that already have such bans, reinforce existing regulations;

  • Impose fees on the purchase of single-use plastic items and packaging;

  • Promote bulk purchasing and reduced packaging by imposing obligations and bans on food retailers. Some examples:
    • Require food retail stores to accept any type of clean, hermetically sealed personal reusable container;

    • Prohibit the distribution of single-use bags in the fruit and vegetable sections of food retailers;

    • Prohibit on-site packaging of fruit and vegetables by food retailers;

    • Require retailers to offer certain products in bulk if they sell a packaged version.

  • Support reuse initiatives in the food service sector through adequate funding as well as information, awareness and education campaigns.

The dream of a circular city

If, like us, you find yourself dreaming of a world in which these principles are the norm, know that anything is possible if the political will is there. Share your ideas and demands with your elected municipal officials and, you'll see, the dream can eventually become reality!

All of Équiterre's recommendations stem from key circular economy strategies:

✅ Reduction at the source

✅ A collaborative economy

✅ Repair

✅ Reuse

To better understand the circular economy and the recommendations that Équiterre made to the City of Montreal, have a look at our brief.

Recommendations to be used again and again!

Read our brief

We believe that municipalities have the power to promote the circular economy within their local areas. All they have to do is make use of the tools at their disposal to encourage behavioural change!

For more information, contact

Project manager, Source reduction
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