How circular economy completely transformed Nice’s award-winning neighbourhood

Ever hoped there would be a place in your neighbourhood where you can finally take that ragged old sofa you’ve been looking to get rid of for ages? Thanks to an innovative circular economy project launched in the French city of Nice, that has now become a reality for the residents of the city’s Les Moulins district – but there’s much more to it. 

Launched in 2018, Recyclerie des Moulins has successfully transformed a whole district of the popular coastal city on the Cote d’ Azur. The initiative is largely based on recycling and breathing new life to old and faulty items. However, this ambitious initiative stretches much further and brilliantly combines the project’s three main pillars: waste reduction, social improvement and solidarity economy. 

Currently, our societies are dominated by the linear economy in which goods are extracted, produced, consumed and discarded. The circular economy offers a more sustainable model of production and consumption in which raw materials are retained in production cycles longer and can be reused multiple times. The concept is inspired by nature, where everything that has worth and is utilised, and waste is easily transformed into a new resource. 

The central space of the Recyclerie des Moulins covers the area of 194 square meters where residents are able to bring their defective items or anything they no longer wish to use. In a special workshop, these items are then recovered, repaired or restored. According to Eurocities, almost 16 tons of old items were restored and sold here while 190 that couldn’t serve their old purpose were turned into other objects. Recovered objects are sold at a special store located just next to the workshop. They are sold at very affordable prices and are mostly bought by the residents of Les Moulins. 

Les Moulins’ endeavours were officially recognized at this year’s Eurocities Awards held in Leipzig. Recyclerie des Moulins initiative won the award in the ‘zero pollution’ category. According to the panel of expert judges, Nice’s district deserved to take the trophy home for its extraordinary commitment to this year’s theme, ‘The power of cities – transforming society’. 

Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi stated: “This European recognition has consecrated a project that is emblematic of the success of our ambitious urban renewal policy, carried out as closely as possible to residents’ needs.” 

Recyclerie also serves as an educational space to enhance community awareness about the topics of environmental issues and sustainability. Various workshops are regularly attended by Les Moulins residents of all ages.

Furthermore, Recyclerie functions as a social aggregator in this neighbourhood. More than 2800 participants per year take part in various activities in relation to the project, according to the city of Nice officials. In addition to its core activities, Recyclerie offers people paid work and individual training in different circular economy sectors. It promotes the establishment of a new, more inventive, and competitive industrial model, as well as increased economic growth and employment. 

According to the 2021 Circularity Gap Report, the world economy is only 8.6% circular. An ambitious goal has been set to bring the percentage up to 17% by 2030, mostly by focusing on sectors with high change potential. With local governments becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability, it remains to be seen which other European cities will soon try out this revolutionary concept.


Photo credit: Pixabay