The Almaty Circular Economy assessment is an urban metabolism-based research, to explore new potential sustainable development opportunities for the economy of Kazakhstan. Almaty is an important station on the Road and Belt’s cargo routes connecting China with Europe, two regions with high circular economy ambitions. By investing in circular products and services, Almaty could accelerate its sustainable growth. For better understanding of the metabolism of Almaty, the research has been approached from three different angles: agriculture and food processing, construction and industry.

The county’s largest city is experiencing impressive economic growth and is re-establishing its position as an exporter of agricultural commodities. The agricultural sector possesses the most promising circular economy opportunities, oriented at diverting organic residues away from landfills and processing them into soil enhancers or organic fertilizers. Local industries are already collecting and recycling a significant share of the mineral and metal residues. The improved connectivity to foreign markets through the Belt and Road Initiative can support the extension of manufacturing capacity with remanufacturing, whereby used products or components are refurbished.

In terms of industry, designers and fabricators can tap into secondary products to repair, repurpose and redesign them into fashionable new products. Circular economy concepts can help keep small assembly, design and repair activities within the city, avoiding that new urban developments become ‘sleeping districts’ and avoiding that citizens need to travel far to access certain services, products, or simply get a satisfying job.

Circular strategies in the construction sector are based on passive design and adjusting the design to replace new, carbon-intensive construction materials with materials of secondary or renewable origin. This starts with design. Merely considering energy and resource use in the design phase of a building can reduce energy use by half. Design can also open opportunities for the use of secondary and renewable construction materials, potentially turning the construction sector into a net sink of CO2.

Location: Almaty, Kazakhstan

Program: Circular Economy Assessment

Year: 2019

Commissioner: Emerging Markets Sustainability Dialogue Challenge Fund

Partners: Shifting Paradigms, Circle Economy, Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption in Kazakhstan

Design Directors: Eric Frijters, Olv Klijn

Project Leader: Duong Bui

Team: Katja Banovic, Vanessa Sokic

Agriculture and Food processing:
Almaty is characterized by a high amount of agricultural activities, ranging from pastures, orchards and intensively cultivated agricultural land. These activities show the potential to facilitate new recreational functions.

Combining agricultural activities with recreation:
The name of the city Almaty stems from the old name ‘Alma-Ata’ which means ‘father of apples’ in Kazakh. The symbolic value of bringing the apple trees back into the city can help to create a deeper awareness of the intrinsic value of agricultural production and organic residues.

Construction Flow:
Besides using low-carbon construction materials, improving the energy infrastructure can lower the losses attributable to distribution, which are about 22% at the moment. Furthermore, retrofitting and improving building insulation can reduce the heat demand of residential buildings by 35% to 45%.

Construction – Spatial Strategy:
One of the solutions is to increase awareness of the tangible and intangible value of the architectural heritage of the city of Almaty. This will help people and the municipal authority to make choices of what can be maintained and what can be replaced.

Construction – Existing buildings:
Although preservation efforts typically focus on the Golder Quarter, a quadrant in the center of the city, other parts of the city consist of buildings from the tsarist period and collective farms and factories from Soviet Union.


Industry – Circular future:
In a circular future, small industries and workshops have a place in Almaty, providing vibrance and life to residential areas.


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