Urban Metabolism is a multi-disciplinary and integrated platform that examines material and energy flows in cities as complex systems as various social, economic and environmental forces shape them. Even though the concept of urban metabolism is nothing new in the academic world, its implementation and its conversion in practical strategies and techniques are still quite front running. The quantification of urban metabolism has in fact been conducted for hundreds of cities with few practical applications and not even once in the field of tourism.
URBAN-WASTE not only applies the urban metabolism approach to quantify the impact of tourism on metabolic costs of tourist cities, but also concretely uses it for the development of waste prevention and management strategies. Tourism waste is generally overlooked in local/regional strategies since it is considered together with municipal waste (household and industrial or commercial waste in general). Composition analysis do not generally address this issue either. “What is not measured is not managed”, so in general no overall strategic actions solely focusing on tourism waste is drafted at local/regional level due to the fact the actual arising and composition of tourism waste and the consumption and waste production patterns in tourist cities are also not well known.
Providing a consistent method to assess the arising of touristic waste based on several parameters reflecting the touristic activities, the local specificities and the general organisation of waste management will allow local authorities to draft dedicated strategies for touristic waste prevention and management and thus improving their urban waste management policies. Developing an urban metabolism approach will allow to consider the issue not only from the scope of waste, but also by considering production and consumption pattern. This will contribute to develop a circular economy approach that will also address important issues linked with local development: local production, local employment, service-oriented activities preferred to one-way products. In this regard and given the forecast on the increase of tourist flows, the impact of tourism on waste production in tourist cities is a research priority. The specific focus on tourism within urban metabolism studies, entails three other major advancements in this field:
- The incorporation of considerations of ecosystem services, developing indicators and metrics supporting, regulating and provisioning ecosystem services to include those in the urban metabolism framework. Ecosystem services are a dramatically important asset in tourist urban areas and are more at risk precisely because of non-sustainable tourism practices.
- The inclusion of behaviour and life-style as variable to assess metabolic flows and associated costs. In particular the inclusion of tourists as an object of this assessment represents an innovation in terms both of the definition of the problem and in the application of the urban metabolism approach
- The analysis of the gender dimensions of waste production and management and the assessment of the impact of gendered preferences and differences in metabolic flows, and in particular in waste generation. At best, gender is currently included as an additional rather than an integrated aspect of understanding urban metabolism, and at worst is not considered to be at all relevant. Centralising a gender analysis in URBAN-WASTE represents an innovative departure for ecosystem services and will contribute to more robust conclusions and policy recommendations.
With respect to stakeholders in general, an innovative approach is proposed which foresees the involvement of the stakeholders along the whole waste “value chain” from manufacturing, to retail and services, to consumers and tourists, to waste collectors, sorters and recyclers/reprocessors. All the stakeholders will be equally involved the whole “policy making” value chain: the design of the policies, their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This is in fact critical for developing a comprehensive pool of information that is accessible to various users and end types as needed in the circular economy approach.
The project will in fact develop participated and inclusive waste prevention and management strategies centered on the Waste Hierarchy principle in which prevention, reuse and recycling are preferred options. The implementation of these strategies will create a concrete improvement in the complex mechanism of waste prevention and management in tourist cities (characterized by peaks of waste production, special geographical and environmental conditions). The knowledge generated through the urban metabolism approach will serve for the purpose of policy-making – considering that this aim is already taken into consideration in the planning of the research – and tested directly into 11 pilot cases thus making the case for a concrete operationalisation of the urban metabolism approach.
Urban metabolism literature review
This report gives a comprehensive review on previous urban metabolism studies in order to identify and compare methodologies, and provide knowledge on which indicator sets and background data are suitable for linking tourism activities with waste and use of resources. In most of the reviewed literature on urban metabolism, waste is included as an indicator in various ways. However, it has proven complicated to estimate material flows from tourism separately.
It is recommended, that a selection of complementary approaches is applied in order to meet the different objectives of the project. A combination of MFA and LCA can provide a descriptive approach to map the current state and also to enable scenario analysis for future planning and policy making and allows an environmental assessment of the current systems and future scenarios.
The results of waste as a function of tourism shows, that a top-down approach in the data collection is proposed.
Methodology Framework Document as Guidance for Accompanying Assessment
This report gives a comprehensive overview of commonly used methodologies for a sustainability assessment which were reviewed and evaluated based on certain criteria in order to identify a suitable methodology for the subsequent accompanying sustainability assessments of waste prevention and management activities within the URBAN-WASTE project.
Ecosystem services and tourism in the URBAN WASTE pilot cities
This publication deals with the connection of ecosystem services and tourism. Understanding how ecosystem services contribute to touristic experiences fosters engaging in practices related to sustainable tourism, which plays an important role for waste production and management in the 11 pilot cities. The current version of the deliverable reviews relevant literature and summarizes results from a survey on tourists’ and tourist staff’s perceptions of ecosystems services in the cities, conducted in URBAN WASTE’s surveys.