Building a Circular Cleveland

Our current economy is based on a take-make-waste model. In this linear model, raw materials are collected, transformed into products and ultimately discarded as waste, mainly ending up in a landfill once they have been used by the consumer. 


According to the EPA, in 2018, about 146.2 million tons of municipal 

solid waste was sent to the landfill. Food was the largest component of this waste at about 24 percent. Plastics accounted for over 18 percent, paper and paperboard made up about 12 percent, and rubber, leather and textiles comprised over 11 percent. Other materials accounted for less than 10 percent each.


In order to reduce the waste created from our current model, a circular economy approach is being adopted by many cities. If you’re new to the circular economy concept, here is a helpful video. In essence, most everything we use in our daily life is created from non-renewable resources. Examples include oil to make gasoline and plastics, natural gas for cooking, and metals for aluminum or copper products. Since we will run out of these finite resources one day, moving from a linear to a circular economy is the clear next step to a functioning economy in the not-so-distant future.


A leading expert on the topic, Ellen MacArthur explains circular economy based on the butterfly diagram pictured below, emphasizing three core principles that are vital to the circular model: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.


Systems of the circular economy can be technical or biological. Technical systems (i.e. metals) may reuse, repair, remanufacture or recycle, and biological systems (i.e. food) may compost or digest anaerobically (break down organic matter by bacteria). 


We’re pleased to announce that Cleveland will be one of the cities adopting the circular economy model. Over the next 30 months, the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress will launch Circular Cleveland, an initiative, funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, that will build on collaborations to create circular economy strategies in Cleveland. Through innovation incentives and joint efforts, the project hopes to advance better environmental and community health outcomes. Learn more about the grant in the press release.


Other North American cities creating a circular economy are Charlotte, Toronto, Phoenix, Austin and New York City. To learn more about cities and the circular economy visit this learning hub.


We have several examples of the circular economy here in the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about them below:



Cafilia is a subscription coffee service being offered locally.


Better World Refill Shop

Refill your plastic bottles with a wide array of bath and body, cleaning, kitchen, and laundry products.


Rust Belt Riders

Offers composting services for residents and organizations.


Rid-All Green Partnership

An urban farm in the Kinsman neighborhood creating “black gold” or nutritious soil for sale and for partners.


Simple Recycling

Curbside clothing collections.


Great Lakes Brewing Company Fatty Wagon

Eco-friendly shuttle that runs on a 20% blend of biodiesel (called B20) processed with used cooking oil from their Brewpub.



Converts food waste into a clean, renewable source of energy.


Upcycle Parts Shop

A sustainable art and craft supplies shop in Cleveland.


Rebuilders Xchange

Buy and sell construction material


Rust Belt Reclamation

Build custom furniture from local sources including abandoned buildings, materials, and tools.



Full-service collection, reuse, and refurbishment of computer equipment and e-waste.


Ohio City Bicycle Co-op

A riding and repair center dedicated to helping people use bikes.


Ohio Materials Marketplace

A free, online platform for businesses and organizations to find reuse and recycle solutions for waste and by-product materials.


National and International Examples:


LOOP – reusable packaging delivered to your home with partners like: Tide, Pantene, Glad, Crest, Clorox, and many more.


Ikea – have committed to designing all their products to be 100% circular from the beginning, using only renewable or recycled materials, and developing circular capabilities in their supply chain



Watch the Recording: Circular Economy in Cleveland Meeting!

Showing 5 reactions

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  • Cathi Lehn
  • Mary Musson
    With such great concern, when is the city going to continue recycling? Also is the city going to require new construction to include electric car charging capability?
  • Allison Klucaric
    I own a local natural, zero waste cleaning supply store in Lake Country OH called Greener Clean Designs. I offer local pick up for my products and refills are also available at Refill Goodness in Lakewood OH. There are many wonderful resources popping up in the Cleveland area and I am so happy it is becoming easier to buy items locally from small businesses!
  • Cathi Lehn
  • Elza Ter-Arutyunov