- Charlotte, North Carolina has launched Circular Charlotte, a new circular economy model designed to produce "zero waste" and boost economic development. A Circular Charlotte report estimates the program could capture up to $111 million in value by recovering materials instead of sending them to landfill, and it has the potential to create up to 2,000 jobs.
- The strategy involves five case studies, including one that involves giving about 50,000 tons of food waste to black soldier fly larvae for conversion to pellets that can be used as poultry farm feed. Another case study aims to transform concrete from demolition sites and powder created from discarded glass into new concrete.
- Program implementation will start next year with an innovation lab funded by public-private organization Envision Charlotte. When the lab first launches it will tackle small projects to determine which products in Charlotte's waste stream have the most value and how they can be used.
The Circular Charlotte report notes the $111 million market value of recovering materials is only the scrap value of selling recyclable materials. It has the potential to realize even greater value through the implementation of circular business strategies, such as electronic device repair and refurbishment.
The report says only 11.5% of the materials entering Charlotte's waste stream each year are currently being recycled or composted. In order to boost that number, the city will have to find ways to make those services more convenient. A curbside organics collection pilot launched by the city's Solid Waste Services Department over the summer is a start. Food waste accounts for an estimated 16% of the city's material going to landfill.
Though in addition, the city must develop products and markets that can accept and/or process recyclable materials once collected. Programs such as the black solider fly larvae concept, which is projected to create 300 jobs, is seen as a way to help create those markets.
The innovation lab will be "ground zero for our circular economy," Envision Charlotte Executive Director Amy Aussieker told Waste Dive. "Entrepreneurs will be given space and materials and guidance to start their business and help it grow." She said Charlotte also wants other cities to be able to replicate the innovation lab and the overall program. "We don't just want one-offs," Aussieker said.
Aussieker explained that the concept for Circular Charlotte has been in the works for years and involved touring cities in the Netherlands to learn about some circular economy concepts, especially related to waste management and energy. The city also cited the Reimagine Phoenix initiative an example. While the heart of Charlotte's program is waste reduction, it also has a heavy focus on job creation, training workers for higher-skilled jobs and providing a framework for economic mobility.
The Circular Charlotte report does state a number of barriers exist and that the strategy's success will require coordination from both public and private sectors, as well as from residents, over a number of years.