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To accelerate a successful transition to a circular society, a focus on circular solutions for urban and rural areas is essential. The challenge is to close cycles regionally, connecting cities and rural areas. To stimulate new research initiatives in this area, a seed call was issued by the Circular Society programme earlier this year.

As a result of this call, four promising research projects, led by a total of 19 researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, and Utrecht University Medical Centre, have been granted seed funding to investigate circular advancements in urban and rural areas.

Continuous Collaborative Circular Residency Network (C3RN) at DE PROEF campus 

What if circular design expanded its scope beyond solutions exclusively tailored for human use and embraced the concept of considering nature’s use as well (more-than-human design)?

Supported by funding from the alliance, the Collaborative Circular Residency Network (C3RN) is conducting research into sustainable circular systems. They place a specific focus on the symbiosis between nature and culture in both urban and rural contexts. C3RN carries out this project within a newly established association at a unique location: THE PROEF campus, in Frederiksoord, Drenthe.

The project brings together designers, researchers and artists who will take the first steps in developing and implementing innovative circular solutions. The aim is to make ‘Living lab’ DE PROEF a unique circular innovation hub in which various interdisciplinary projects, such as a residency program and workshops, are facilitated.

This project is carried out by: Oscar Tomico – TU/e, Doenja Oogjes, TU/e, Ineke Nel TU/e, Clemens Driessen WUR, Sietze Norder UU

CE-Food Planner: A Regional Planning Support System for a Circular Equitable Food System in Eindhoven Metropolitan Region

Growing disruptions caused by financial, climate, and pandemic-related factors present significant challenges in our food systems. To address these challenges, research is needed that focuses on improving the alignment between consumption (demand) and production (supply). Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that access to nutritious food is available to everyone, particularly to vulnerable populations residing in low socioeconomic status (SES) neighbourhoods. A desirable goal is to establish a food system that is both circular and equitable.

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, and Utrecht University are actively engaged in research within the Metropolitan Region Eindhoven (MRE). The primary objective of their research is to actualize a food system that is both circular and equitable. To achieve this goal, they are specifically focusing on the development of a specialized ‘planning support system’ (PSS) called the ‘Circular Equitable Food Planner’ (CE-Food Planner).

This project is carried out by: Dena Kasraian – TU/e, Theo Arentze – TU/e, Pieter van Wesemael – TU/e, Sol Maria Halleck Vega – WUR, Eveline van Leeuwen – WUR, Laura Piscicelli – UU

Re-inventing wastewater for rural-urban circularity: co-creating pathways for the water, energy and food nexus in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

After being discontinued in the 1920s due to concerns regarding hygiene and the environment, the practice of utilizing urban wastewater for food production has recently regained attention. Following that trend, this project focuses on the reintroduction of wastewater recycling. It explores the interconnections among energy, water, and food systems, with a focus on closing the cycles between cities and their surrounding suburban and rural areas.

The research primarily looks at the Amsterdam metropolitan region, where a revised approach to wastewater management is being implemented. Amsterdam is collaborating with utility companies to ensure that urban nutrients and surplus water derived from recycled wastewater are accessible for regional agricultural initiatives. Additionally, wastewater is harnessed to produce heat and biogas. By focusing on this specific region, the research aims to refine existing research hypotheses and applied methodologies while expanding the network of stakeholders in the Netherlands..

The project produces three master’s theses by student assistants, which serve as the basis for scientific publications. In addition, the research team will write a joint paper to reflect on the research approach.

This project is carried out by: Jonas van der Straeten – TU/e, Bas J.M. van Vliet – WUR, Jochen Monstadt – UU, Katharina Hölscher – UU

Using landscape-thinking to close loops regionally: the potential for healthy people and a healthy planet

In light of the depletion of our planet’s resources caused by current food systems and the low quality of our diets, the concept of the ‘Planetary Health Diet’ (PHD) has emerged. This diet has been developed for promoting healthy eating while also considering environmental factors. Its objective is to find a balance between human health and the sustainable use of our planet’s resources.

A collaborative team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, and Utrecht University Medical Centre is currently conducting an investigation into circular, nature-based solutions that can support the implementation of the Planetary Health Diet (PHD). Their research aims to identify the specific characteristics and requirements of such solutions and explore how they can be effectively implemented to promote sustainable and healthy eating patterns.

The project consists of three main steps:

  • Developing visions of what circular food systems could look like in 2050.
  • Conducting a quantitative analysis of potential solutions, and related regional land-use changes, needed to realise the 2050 visions.
  • A reflection on the developed visions regarding circular food systems and identification of barriers and opportunities to realise these visions, including the PHD.

This project is carried out by: Ilse Voskamp – WUR, Martijn Kuller – UU, Yvonne van der Schouw – UMC Utrecht, Annemieke Kok – UMC Utrecht