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Cities and Circular Economy

for Food

The linear food system is ripe for disruption. For every dollar spent on food, society pays two dollars in health, environmental, and economic costs. With 80% of all food expected to be consumed in cities by 2050, businesses, public bodies, organisations, institutions, and the people located within them hold the power to revolutionise our food system.

Cities can transform from black holes sucking in food, energy, and other resources to engines of a regenerative food system and bioeconomy. The transition to a circular economy will see production which regenerates rather than harms the natural systems upon which it relies, food waste designed out, and food by-products used at their highest values.

About the report

The challenges and limitations lie in the complexity of our linear food systems and the urgency we face. During the development of the report, we consulted a consortium of 100+ organisations and actors along the food value chain. City authorities, NGOs, academics, and policymakers were brought together to craft a vision of a healthy and resilient future using restorative measures to design out waste and pollution.

The report is produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with analytical support from SYSTEMIQ and supported by Intesa Sanpaolo and Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center as Lead Partner; Danone, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Suez, Tetra Pak, and Veolia as Core Partners; and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, players of People’s Postcode Lottery(GB), and Porticus as Philanthropic Partners.

Achieving these three ambitions in cities could generate annual benefits worth USD 2.7 trillion by 2050

Cceff Report Graphic

1. Source food grown regeneratively, and locally where appropriate

Food comes from natural systems which are inherently regenerative. Replicating these practices will improve the overall health of local ecosystems, diversify the food supply to increase resilience, reduce packaging needs, and shorten supply chains. Urban and peri-urban farming will see connections strengthened with food and the farmers who grow it.

2. Make the most of food

Cities play a crucial role in keeping food at its highest value and eliminating waste. They can become hubs for the redistribution of surplus foods and a thriving bioeconomy where food by-products are transformed into organic fertilisers, biomaterials, medicines, and bioenergy.

3. Design and market healthier food products

There are no healthy food choices in an unhealthy food system. We can change food design and marketing to reshape our preferences and habits. This will ensure that healthy products become easily accessible, while valuable nutrients circulate back to the soil safely.


Full report

Cities and Circular Economy For Food



Summary of findings

Executive Summary


Technical appendix



Cities and Circular Economy for Food is an affiliate project of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE). The report has been written as part of Project Mainstream, a CEO-led global initiative created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, which helps to scale business driven circular economy innovations.

To get in touch with the Cities and Circular Economy for Food team, please contact: citiesandfood@ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

With the support of:

Lead Partner

Core Partners

Philanthropic Partners

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works in Education & Training, Business & Government, Insight & Analysis, Systemic Initiatives and Communications to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.