This section provides a snapshot of the process of utilizing the toolkit towards urban collaborative governance. Here we present some of the key activities of Vejle, codified as interventions in one of the three infrastructuring dimensions – strategic, operational and relational – that continuously interact with each other and help unlock collaborative capacities between different stakeholders, forming the actual shape of the social, cultural and economic fabric of the cities.

Key infrastructuring actions

Vejle has built its activities around a narrative of “Circular Plastic City”, with focus on supermarkets and healthcare, and a strategy aiming at testing in multiple micro-sites. This is squarely based within the Danish Government’s “Strategy for Circular Economy”, as articulated in the (clear, yet flexible) “Action Plan for Circular Economy”, and more particularly the National Plastics Action Plan “Plastics without waste”. Focusing on a single supermarket chain (REMA 1000) has a clear potential of scaling up the envisioned plastic sorting system to all affiliated stores in Denmark, then across other food retailers in the country. These activities are also connected to the development of the Municipality of Vejle’s Local Climate Plan for 2020 to 2050 – Vejle Klimaplan, that highlights circular/green procurement policies.

An initial baseline assessment was necessary in order to assess plastic streams. Moreover, an analysis of REMA 1000 plastic waste allowed the pilot to identify “critical products” and causes of lack of recycling, while research on bio-materials identified potentially suitable alternatives. Actions related to a better understanding of technological capabilities included the development of recycling bin packages, an experiment with a better sorting system for small apartments, and the testing of an optimized sorting system for food retailers that reduces plastic use. In addition, a series of workshops focused on the development of biomaterial (bio-plastic), while a new business case was developed for food packaging at REMA1000 stores. In cooperation with the Purchasing Department in Vejle Municipality, the pilot is currently working on developing circular tenders, as well as integrating new methods and tools to ensure more circular purchases.

Communication and awareness activities have been a cornerstone of Vejle’s approach. Especially, the two exhibitions in Spinderihallerne as well as several workshops organized there have contributed to the involvement of local stakeholders and citizens as well as to an increased awareness for the participants of the exhibitions and workshops. Furthermore the Wild Studio was devoted to making decorative consumer goods out of recycled plastic, while the development of a “Value Chain Mapping Game”, a physical tool linked with ReflowOS, showcases value chain plastic flows in retail. Further capacity building actions included the development of education materials for primary schools ( Moreover, there were efforts to unleash collective action through the Mobile Sorting Unit at the public elderly home Sofiegården, an action with clear links to business cases.

Vejle Circular Portfolio Canvas "snapshot"

The canvas shows some of the key actions that helped “unlock” collaboration dynamics. Activities are conceived and visualized as small-scale “portfolio” experiments that leverage circular possibilities in one or more sectors, and can be further scaled up at subsequent iterations of the process.

Public stakeholders include the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Waste and Environmental departments of the Municipality of Vejle, as well as Sofiegården – an elderly care center. Moreover the local politicians have been involved in the project – both in a local steering group committee as well as the supportive political committee KNMU (Climate, Nature and Environment Committee). The supermarket chain REMA1000 is the main actor on behalf of the industry, also represented by ‘Aage Vestergaard Larsen’ recycling company and ‘AAB’ housing association. Moreover, there is strong involvement by community actors, such as residents of the public housing block Den Gamle Gård, and the local citizen committee of West of Vejle, and civil society more generally, through the “Danish Design Centre”, and the fablab in the innovation house: Spinderihall

The Vejle pilot has based their work on a series of well-grounded long-term targets for circular plastics. It is fortunate to be guided by an engaged municipality that focuses on advancing regulatory measures towards circularity, as well as on promoting and strengthening citizen awareness. There is potential to further advance an effective utilization of technological capabilities, and can further capitalize from the formation of multi-level partnerships. An example of such a strategic partnership is the eventual sharing of a protocol between REMA 1000 stores in collaboration with Municipalities for plastic waste management that, once successful, has the potential to be scaled up to all food retailers in Denmark.

Vejle can use the current momentum that has been created by a series of regulations at the EU level, in combination with a favorable local administration and increasing public awareness, to further advance circular procurement policies for the city. One way to achieve this is through a collaborative effort between procurement departments for an open innovation challenge to replace products that will run out in a few years and should be replaced.

In circular procurement, procurement staff will look for ways to manage the lifetime extension and reuse of the product, and to manage closing the cycle when the product has reached the end-of-life stage, by applying ‘product-as-a-service’, leasing, or buy-back agreements. Essentially all these models encourage alternative revenue/business models for suppliers, by basing the call for tenders on functionality, and re-inventing the concept of ‘ownership’ towards more distributed forms where assets are shared rather than owned. In such a model, products after use are not considered waste but instead represent a certain (residual) value either through reuse or recycling. This value should be reflected as an explicit part of the revenue model and the quoted price.

Finally, stronger links can be made for utilising tech solutions, such as prototypes for sorting of waste and producing bio-plastic materials, as well as a procurement software with integrated scoring system that can enable municipal and regional departments to select best packaging options. All in all, many small scale experiments have been performed, shifting the future challenge in finding creative ways of systematizing generated knowledge for scaling up the performed experiments, in direct collaboration with the municipality.