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The need - Today, in the US, over 80% of carpets end up in landfills. In San Francisco the city government led an extensive investigation into the lifecycle health and environmental impact of carpet materials. The aim was to better understand how to reduce the amount of discarded carpets sent to landfill and ensure the well-being of visitors and staff in San Francisco City departments.
The solution - In spring 2018, San Francisco adopted a new regulation requiring that all carpets installed in city departments would be at least Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver or better, and must not contain antimicrobials, fluorinated compounds, flame retardant chemicals, or other chemicals of concern. The regulation also limits flooring purchases to carpet tiles given that they are easily replaceable and help minimise waste.
The outcomes - The regulation is still in its early days of implementation so economic, environmental, and social benefits are yet to be fully quantified. In 2019, the city will develop systems to capture purchasing data, for example, through its new financial and budgeting software system.
How does the initiative support the transition to a circular economy? - By focusing on the built environment supply chain, San Francisco was able to work towards meeting environmental and material health goals within city buildings. The regulations development has shown that more circular economy specifications are viable and can be used to develop the market and make material recycling and capture-for-reuse more common.
Explore more about Circular Economy in Cities
This case study belongs to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy in Cities suite of online resources, which acts as a reference point for urban policymakers on the circular economy. It draws out opportunities in three key urban systems - buildings, mobility, and products - and looks at how city governments can enable a circular economy transition.
Five modules aim to answer the critical questions on this topic:
- Vision: What will the implementation of circular economy principles in cities look like?
- Factsheets: What are the circular economy opportunities in key urban systems and what benefits can a circular economy transition bring?
- Policy levers: What can urban policymakers do to accelerate this transition?
- Case studies: What examples are there of urban policymakers already putting this into action?
- Other networks & resources: What are other organisations doing on the topic of circular economy and cities?