Building clean, healthy cities for clean, healthy seas.
There are 150 million tons of plastic already in the ocean, and 8 million tons are added each year. That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic entering the ocean every minute. While plastic pollution costs an estimated US$2.5 trillion to the global economy annually, the issue has serious impacts on human health and safety as well as the environment.
This plastic comes primarily from mismanaged waste streams – a result of economic and population growth outpacing infrastructure development. This is a major concern especially in low-income countries, where over 90 percent of waste is openly dumped or burned, with consequences not only for the environment but for public health and economic development as well.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the scourge of plastic pollution and has both worsened existing vulnerabilities within our waste management systems and exposed new ones. In addition, plummeting oil prices globally have led to a dramatic decrease in the value of plastics forcing companies to make tough decisions about whether recycling is still an economically viable option.
The goal of the Urban Ocean program is to work with city leaders to bring new ideas, partners and resources together to solve interrelated problems around waste management. It provides the opportunity for ocean advocates and city leaders to join forces with other allies to develop comprehensive solutions that meet the needs and priorities of communities and other actors, to create real and lasting impact.
The program will demonstrate how actions to improve waste management and recycling can provide resilient and sustainable solutions that not only reduce ocean plastic pollution but also address key city priorities such as improving public health, supporting economic development, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Urban Ocean will provide a platform for cities to showcase leadership and share knowledge and experiences across the Resilient Cities Network community and beyond.
Urban Ocean is a capacity-building and accelerator program for cities that will champion circular economy principles, build awareness of ocean plastic pollution, and assess waste management systems. It supports cities to develop strategies and projects designed to address the interrelated challenges of ocean plastics and community resilience and has four areas of action:
- Build a coalition of cities that works on solving interrelated problems around waste management and promotes circular economy solutions and approaches in municipal waste management.
- Establish a peer network and exchange through a Community of Practice that enables collaboration, sharing of best-practices and capacity development.
- Assess critical gaps, risks and vulnerabilities and map waste management challenges.
- Jointly develop financeable resilience project proposals for presentation to potential partners and funders.
Urban Ocean works closely with cities in Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Europe to demonstrate tangible solutions and progress. The first cohort of cities comprises 4 cities that are leading the way in the fight against river and ocean plastic pollution and/or in implementing circular economy approaches (mentor cities), and 5 cities located in geographies with high waste leakage rates that are committed to improving waste management as part of resilience-building efforts (learning cities). The second cohort adds another 3 cities from the South Asia region to the program.
Urban Ocean works with leading cities and offers an opportunity to develop and deliver solutions where the action is most needed – at the local level. It enables and empowers cities in South and Southeast Asia and Latin America to develop circular economies, reduce plastic waste and build cleaner, healthier and more resilient communities for the long term, particularly as they weather the impacts of the current COVID-19 crisis.
News and Blogs
Co-creating a resilient future 2020-2021
Serie de Conversatorios #1 – La economía circular y el impacto de la contaminación urbana
Moving From Strategy to Action – Urban Ocean Cities Project Statements
Approaching Urban Waste Management Through a Resilience Lens
Cities are home to over half of the global population and account for nearly three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, which means no climate target can be met without a deep transformation of urban centers across the globe towards a more inclusive, sustainable and, ultimately, resilient path.
City Opportunity Booklet
The following opportunities have been identified by city stakeholders, in close collaboration with the Urban Ocean program, as high-impact solutions for multiple challenges. These opportunities have been carefully analyzed and prioritized to address the ocean plastic waste issue while building equitable, sustainable, and resilient cities.
Enhancing Can Tho’s River Waste Management and Recycling Facilities, focuses on creating an enabling environment for recycling businesses to prosper while demonstrating how a well-managed waste cycle in urban areas can enhance tourism, economic activity and equity and support the cleaning of the city’s rivers.
Creating Clear River and Coastal Areas and Enhancing the City’s Recycling Infrastructure, focuses on creating a more efficient waste management system that will strengthen the circular economy, create job opportunities by encouraging community involvement as the key enabler to avoid waste leakages, reduce GHG emissions and create a strong tourism sector in Melaka.
Enhance the Recovery of Recyclable Material in Panama City, focuses on balancing short-term actions that demonstrate the value of recycled material with longer-term structural solutions to strengthen the recycling industry in the city and promote green jobs and equity, decreasing the amount of waste generated.
Supporting Transformation of Energy and Recovery Materials Initiative, focuses on leading the circular economy transformation in Pune by formalizing recycling jobs and enterprises, empowering women in the sector, , supporting innovation in materials recovery, leveraging partnerships along material and value chains and mitigating GHG emissions from waste management.
Adaptation Waste Management Models and Inclusive Waste Governance, focuses on leading the circular economy transformation in Semarang, by increasing the waste service coverage, the amount of waste managed and recycling rates in the city through an inclusive model.
The Con Son isle is embracing its potential as the ecotourism destination of Can Tho while addressing a major challenge that often goes hand in hand with tourism: increased waste production. In order to reduce plastic consumption and help maintain the growing ecotourism, the island implemented a multi-stakeholder program to reintroduce natural products as packaging materials was.
In response to growing health inequalities and climate change, Milan has rethought its local food system, setting out a comprehensive approach to reduce food waste while achieving multiple co-benefits.
Panama City has a high ratio of incorrectly disposed waste, reaching its rivers and the sea. To prevent solid waste further polluting its water bodies, the City partnered with a not-for-profit to install waste containment barriers, preventing waste dumped in the rivers from reaching the ocean where it would be harder to intercept.
Like in many cities, Pune’s informal waste-pickers form a significant part of the waste management system. What is different to other cities is the way they collaborate with the city government through SWaCH, Pune’s pro-poor public private partnership wholly owned by self-employed waste workers.
Rotterdam is a dense urban environment with households producing a significant amount of waste. The city took on the challenge of addressing multiple concerns with municipal waste, including: inefficient collections, unsanitary conditions, garbage occupying valuable public space, and waste worker safety.
Community waste banks are a widespread phenomenon in Indonesia, providing small scale waste reduction whilst creating financial value for the community. Semarang has over 200 community waste banks. This case study describes its challenges and opportunities, using different examples that demonstrate how to create co-benefits from waste banks.
Recognizing the importance of strong community ties and the involvement of citizens in waste management, Toyama City has promoted a holistic approach to innovation in the waste sector that brings along its people. Focused on involving stakeholders from school children to local businesses, the city demonstrates how there is no one silver bullet to resilient waste management, but instead requires an integrated plan and vision that bridges sectors.
Developed by the Circularity Informatics Lab at the University of Georgia (UGA), the Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP) is a standardized assessment protocol to inform decision-makers through collecting community-level data on plastic usage and management. Grounded in materials flow and systems thinking concepts, the CAP uses a hub-and-spoke model to holistically characterize how consumer plastic flows into a community, is consumed, and flows out, either through waste management systems or leakage into the environment. The model, shown below, consists of seven spokes: input, community, material and product design, use, collection, end of cycle, and leakage. At the center, the system is driven by policy, economics, and governance with key influencers including non-governmental organizations, industry, and government.
Between September 2021 and December 2021, a team from Okapi Advisory Services (Okapi), with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Chennai, India. The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, the Chief Resilience Officer (a top-level advisor in the city that is responsible for leading, coordinating and developing a city’s resilience strategy and policy), and the larger Urban Ocean Team.
Can Tho, Vietnam
Between October 2020 and January 2021, a team from the DRAGON Institute at Can Tho University, with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Can Tho, Vietnam. The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, Resilience Officers, and the larger Urban Ocean team.
Between October 2020 and March 2021, a team from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in Melaka, Malaysia. The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, the Chief Resilience Officer (a top-level advisor in the city that is responsible for leading, coordinating and developing a city’s resilience strategy and policy), and the larger Urban Ocean team.
Panama City, Panama
Between October 2020 and March 2021, a team from Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Panama City, Panama.The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, Resilience Officers, and the larger Urban Ocean team.
Between October 2020 and March 2021, a team from The Centre for Environment Education (CEE), with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Pune, India. The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, the Chief Resilience Officer (a top-level advisor in the city that is responsible for leading, coordinating, and developing a city’s resilience strategy and policy), and the larger Urban Ocean team.
Between October and November 2020, a team from the Initiatives for Regional Development and Environmental Management (IRDEM) at Diponegoro University, with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Semarang, Indonesia. The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, Resilience Officers, and the larger Urban Ocean team.
For more information on our programs