Sustainable Cleveland Presents: Circular Economy in Cleveland



Late last year, the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announced the launch of Circular Cleveland, a two-year initiative to develop and implement circular economy strategies and programs in Cleveland. The Circular Cleveland initiative is being funded by a $476,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of a $3 million program to address the intertwined issues of health, equity, and climate change.


What is a circular economy?

Our current economic model is linear and can be summarized as Take, Make, Waste. The circular economy is a comprehensive approach to provide community-wide benefits by designing waste and pollution out of our economic system, and keeping products and materials in use as long as possible through reuse and repair. It also protects and regenerates natural systems with programs like composting, no-till farming, and restoration, and creates local wealth and opportunities.


During our January meeting, we introduced the concept of a circular economy and provided details about the two phases of the grant to be implemented over the next two years. We also provided national and international examples of the circular economy, as well as examples here in Cleveland of the circular economy already in practice.


If you missed the meeting, you can find the recording here.


We've indicated the times below for each of the presenting sections:

1:00 Introduction by Cathi Lehn, Sustainable Cleveland

21:23 Details about the grant by Divya Sridhar, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

36:48 Presentations from local organizations incorporating circular economy initiatives

55:36 Closing comments



We invite you to fill out this Google form to let us know what you or your community is doing around circular economy.


Check out this quote from one of our presenters, Ohio City Bicycle Co-op Executive Director, Jim Sheehan:


Ohio City Bicycle Co-op (OCBC) is pleased to see Cleveland getting out ahead in embracing this radical, "new-but-old" concept, since Resourcefulness (doing the most with everything we are given) is one of the tenets that guide us at the bike co-op; our "three Rs". Recycling is the "circular" part of this concept for a new economic system, but Reduce and Re-use -- and Repair -- are all related, critical steps in healing our society's rampant consumerism. And so are OCBC's other two Rs: Respect, and Reciprocity; treating others kindly, and getting out what we put in. Circular systems in nature work when diverse organisms create a community where each benefits equally from the outputs of others, and when one consumes too much, natural limits re-balance the system. Hopefully, those necessary limits are something humans will begin to learn to include in the systems we create.


Resources from the meeting


Introduction to a Circular Economy




National Examples of circular economy practices in use


Technical Cycles

  • Rheaply - Rheaply works as an asset management company, introducing the circular economy, resource sharing, and waste diversion into business models. Read more here.


  • Ohio Materials Marketplace - The Ohio Materials Marketplace aims to create a closed-loop, collaborative network of businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs where one organization’s hard-to-recycle wastes and by-products becomes another organization’s raw material. 


  • #WearNext - Make Fashion Circular joins forces with City of New York and fashion industry to tackle clothing waste.


  • IKEA - IKEA is on an exciting and challenging journey to become 100% circular. Learn more about how they will achieve this.


Biological Cycles

  • Apeel - Apeel adds a layer of tasteless, odorless, plant-based protection on the surface of fruits and vegetables. This is a great example of using upstream innovation, which traces a problem back to its root cause and tackles it there.


  • Beer From Bread - 44% of all bread is wasted. This aids in reducing food waste, by using discarded bread to replace a third of the malted grain used in beer brewing. 


  • Rice Duck Farm - Learn more about this leading model for small-scale organic farming systems.


Local Examples


Biological Cycle

  • Rust Belt Riders - Clean, easy, affordable composting services for residents and organizations.


  • Tilth Soil - A product of Rust Belt Riders, the key ingredient in all Tilth Soil products is living compost made from local food scraps diverted from landfills.


Technical Cycle

  • Rebuilders Xchange - Salvaged and new building materials for contractors, interior designers and do-it-yourselfers (DIY) on consignment.


  • Cafilia - Cafilia is a subscription-based service to quality local coffee shops without the waste. 


  • Ohio City Bicycle Co-op - The Ohio City Bicycle Co-op is a riding and repair center dedicated to helping people use bikes.


We intend to hold additional monthly meetings in the near future to continue keeping Clevelanders informed on the progress of this exciting initiative, so stay tuned for what's to come!

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  • Cathi Lehn