Societal Innovation
Societal Innovation
Arrow Socio-technical Innovation
Socio-technical Innovation
Arrow Circular Business Models Innovation
Circular Business Models Innovation
Arrow Product & Tech Innovation
Product & Tech Innovation
Arrow Material Innovation
Material Innovation
Data & Tech Innovative Partnerships Baseline assessment Awareness raising

Seizing opportunities and overcoming barriers to unlock practical entries into a circular economy

Seizing opportunities and overcoming barriers to unlock practical entries into a circular economy

Paris is one of the world’s most attractive destinations for both tourists and international professional meetings. As a consequence, a high number of temporary events are held each year which leads to the production of a large amount of wood waste, as many materials are used only for a short period of time and then discarded. With the selection of Paris to host the next Olympic Games in 2024, the city expects to have a further increase in events and trade fairs. This reinforces the need for extending the life cycle of materials involved in the sector through appropriate resource management

An efficient management of these resources implies not only an improvement in logistics, but also the development of technological solutions, circular business models, as well as the creation of a common narrative that supports appropriate regulations towards a circular transition. The REFLOW Paris pilot works in this direction. 

The Paris pilot has been closely exploring relations to the city-wide strategy, testing solutions for the management of wood waste produced from events and temporary construction taking place in the city. It’s main objectives are, in the short-term, to develop technological solutions and new business models to meet the demands and needs of the event industry sector; and in the long-term, to scale up its outcomes by influencing policy making at the EU level, and ultimately contributing to a new and improved waste regulatory framework.

Multidisciplinary collaboration to bridge gaps and strengthen implementation of technical solutions 

The city and wider region of Paris have an incredibly dynamic scene of urban innovators and changemakers, as well as a long tradition of local production and urban artisanship. Together with solid support from political institutions fostering digital innovation and the maker movement, the city has an enormous potential to effectively implement the vision proposed by the REFLOW Project. The pilot is composed by a multidisciplinary team that includes the City of Paris, the association Fab City Grand Paris (check the Fab City Global Initiative story here), the creative and productive hub Volumes, and the associative design agency Ars Longa. Among other actors directly involved in the different pilot scenarios, the pilot members have been engaging with events and temporary architecture actors, fab labs and maker spaces, wood workshops and designers, incubated companies, and reuse resource centers. 

Combining innovative solutions with local plans to boost sustainability

 The city of Paris has been developing its strategy towards a circular economy, focusing on the production of a “sustainable, cohesive, responsible and resilient city (Paris City Council, 2020). The initiatives already undertaken by the city include plans for climate and energy, local urban planning, urban agriculture development, local waste prevention, sustainable food, and various circular economy practices (Paris City Council, 2017). The Circular Economy Plan, developed by the City of Paris and regional authorities, reveals the most pressing circular economy challenges for the city and focuses on the territorial innovation approach in order to improve well-being and promote sustainable local development. Among the forms of leverage to develop circular economy strategies in Paris, the plan includes the establishment of open and partnership-based systems of governance, the deployment of cross-cutting organisations, and the support on developing service innovations in collaboration with users.

Fostering a collaborative urban model with a culture of circular and responsible events as well as sustainable temporary constructions is a shared objective between de REFLOW Paris pilot and the municipality. This common objective has been explored in a focus group facilitated by the municipality, that focused on identifying key challenges and potential solutions to implement circular actions in the cultural sector.

Within REFLOW, Paris’ approach sets out to assess the waste material flows generated from events and temporary structures through the development of new models and digital tools to facilitate the reuse of wood materials and products. In order to accelerate the transition towards circular models in the sector, the local pilot has been working on developing four main business solutions:

1) Dimension-use, a semi-automated scanner for different materials (timber and wood in Paris) aimed at creating new standards and make it easier for existing databases to get more material into the systems;

2) REFLOW Paris SAS, an umbrella company which offers a holistic product-service system that allows for events to increase the reuse and recycling of their waste wood;

3) Re-label, a platform that offers tools and services to local makers to better valorize their work, reduce the generation of waste and increase the reuse of wood scraps, as well as support its sales by offering a certificate for the products; 

4) The Driven Start-up Studio, which ideates, validates, and develops technological innovations for the construction sector through a new approach to impactful start-up creation and acceleration. 

Value creation from a governance perspective 

Paris seeks to build a circular economy approach to event waste management by creating a tracking system to coordinate the use and reuse of materials involved in the trade fair sector and temporary structures. Once the material flows are identified and quantified, the reuse actors and social innovators can test the incorporation of that waste into sustainable and circular supply chains. Other beneficiaries that have been engaged in the Paris pilot’s solutions are the event and temporary structures actors (or “waste generators”), the innovative project developers (viewed as “waste users”), and the logistical actors and coordinators, that link the previous two.

The Paris pilot team is currently the main connection between the different actors regarding the circularity projects in which they are involved. However, as a result of the effective collaboration and awareness raising created, the event organisers, the waste collectors and the reuse actors have started to explore collaborative actions, without the pilot team being a necessary 3rd party.  

Overall, the pilot strategy began by exploring the stakeholder connections with a diverse network of actors in the temporary and construction sector. Once the big players were on board, the pilot was able to reach many smaller actors across the whole logistical chain, and apply a systemic approach to testing and implementing the technologies under development. 

Resilience to overcome local challenges 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many events and temporary construction interventions have been cancelled during 2020 and 2021. Considering the challenges encountered by key stakeholders of the industry, the Paris Pilot team further adapted its activities on the development of technical solutions supporting the reuse of materials by different local actors, and the eco-conception of products used in the events. The Paris pilot journey is a clear example that an increased use of circular technological solutions is crucial to shifting waste management towards more sustainable materials management. Such technologies improve recycling, facilitating the use of materials by makers and producers, enabling better purchasing and sorting decisions by consumers, and improving waste sourcing options for innovative project developers. The REFLOW Paris pilot shows that the alignment of the waste management digital transformation with strategic plans can drive greater use of digital technologies in the development of a circular economy.