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Towards circular food systems in Bonn

The recently published report Towards Circular Food Systems in Bonn shows that transitioning to a circular food system offers Bonn a way to achieve substantial waste prevention and to fulfill its long-term strategies of becoming a zero-waste city while also contributing to its aim to become climate-neutral by 2035.

As part of its waste prevention ambition, the City of Bonn is focusing on food waste mitigation and packaging reduction initiatives, as well as campaigns to encourage sustainable consumption that contribute to zero waste. The circular economy offers practical tools to achieve this goal.

Locally, food systems proved to be a relevant entry point to the circular economy as the city´s hinterland is known for its fertile grounds and organic waste accounts  for 55.600 of the 138.000 tons of waste collected each year (opens in a new tab). Applying a circular economy lens to food systems means looking at the full value chain to decrease resource consumption and waste production in a holistic manner.  Circular food systems (opens in a new tab) prioritize regenerative production, favor reuse and sharing practices of food items and packaging, reduce resource inputs and pollution and ensure resource recovery for future uses. As such, they close resource loops and enable cross-sectoral synergies (e.g. with water and energy systems) that contribute to fairer and more resilient food access and support the local food economy. 

The City of Bonn worked with ICLEI to explore the potential of circular food systems in the city. The publication  Towards Circular Food Systems in Bonn (opens in a new tab) presents how more circularity in the city´s food system can contribute to the climate neutrality and zero waste ambitions of the city while supporting the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Bonn has already taken steps to reduce the climate impacts of its food system by joining the network of  Organic Cities (opens in a new tab) (Netzwerk der deutschen Bio-Städte, - Gemeinden und -Landkreise) in 2019. In connection with its membership, the city is increasing the share of organic food in kindergartens, schools and public institutions and is working towards a gradual conversion of the city's agricultural land to organic farming. Together with other networking partners the city is organizing events to inform about locally produced organic food and sustainable consumption, the largest one being the annual “All about sustainability” festival at the central square of the city. The city is also rich in community initiatives that support circularity in food systems from farm to fork, from zero waste shops to farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs. 

The publication explores best practices of circular food systems in Bonn along the 5 Rs of the  Circular City Actions Framework (opens in a new tab), developed by ICLEI, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circle Economy and Metabolic. For instance, the “Bonn goes reusable” ( “Bonn geht den Mehrweg” (opens in a new tab)) campaign is an example of how cities can support a shift away from disposables through reuse strategies. Since July 2019, the municipal waste management service BonnOrange is working together with representatives from the gastronomy association and deposit system providers to prevent waste from disposable coffee cups, which add up to 40,000 wasted paper cups in Bonn daily, as well as from disposable food containers. Around 153 participating cafés and restaurants offer customers to bring their own refillable cup for their beverages, sometimes with the reward of a discount.

The publication also presents how best practices from cities of the ICLEI Network could be replicated in Bonn to complete the picture. At the same time, Bonn´s circular food systems initiatives offer learnings for other local governments. The city is a member of  Waste Wise Cities (opens in a new tab), an initiative launched by UN Habitat, which supports cities in better understanding how to turn their waste into resources, and of  ICLEI Circulars (opens in a new tab), a platform connecting cities worldwide on the topic of the circular economy.  Through these initiatives, the city of Bonn is exchanging on local circular economy practices with cities across the world.

Internationally, circular food systems are also gaining momentum. One of the objectives of the European Commission´s Farm to Fork strategy, which is at the heart of the European Green Deal, is to support the transition to a circular economy. In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General also convened a  Food Systems Summit (opens in a new tab) as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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