JPI Urban Europe SUGI - Waste Food-Energy-Water Urban Living Labs - Mapping and Reducing Waste in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus (WASTE FEW ULL)

Lead Research Organisation: Coventry University
Department Name: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resili


The aim of the WASTE FEW ULL project is to develop and test internationally applicable methods of identifying inefficiencies in a city-region's food-energy-water nexus. We will undertake this through an international network of industry/civic society-led Urban Living Labs (ULL) in four urban regions - UK (Bristol), Netherlands (Rotterdam), South Africa (Western Cape) and Brazil (Campinas). Partners in Norway and the USA will provide economic valuations of potential impact, and impact-led public education, outreach and dissemination.
Waste occurs across food, energy and water systems; at the interface of these systems, waste increases significantly the over-consumption of our limited resources (FAO, 2017): food (e.g. energy lost in food storage), energy (e.g. used to clean water) and water (e.g. nutrients lost in sewage). Resource scarcity is not only a matter of efficiency, but of access, distribution and equality (Exner et al, 2013). Each urban context has different pressures and opportunities (Ravetz, 2000). The focus of the WASTE FEW ULL project is therefore not so much on the specific downstream challenges, but on upstream processes by which cities can identify, test and scale viable and feasible solutions that reduce the most pressing inefficiencies in each context.

Planned Impact

Our international partnership has impact at the core of its mission; it is led as a partnership between academics and industry-researchers in urban planning, who will coordinate the close interaction of researchers and consultancies with public and private industry and a dedicated platform for effective and transferable education and outreach activities to maximise real world impact and research excellence.
It is not possible to estimate what the potential market might be for the project results given that the focus areas of each of the ULLs has yet to be identified by the stakeholders who will be involved, but we can say that economic valuation is core to the project, which will focus attention on economic and commercial impact, and we can illustrate the type of market potential by considering the focus area that has been already discussed in the UK ULL: the dysfunctional linear waste of phosphorous from the food chain through water-based sewage disposal to the sea. At the moment, it is uneconomic to extract the phosphorous, but by looking at the system as a whole and considering how the price of phosphorous might change over time, it seems likely that risk-adjusted decision-making backed up by economic evidence could have major implications for city-regions worldwide.
We know that knowledge brokerage taking place where real world problems are identified, and in partnership with both practitioners and researchers, is critical to achieving impact. ULLs therefore provide a very useful conceptual framework; an opportunity for bridging academic and real world practice and hence enabling such knowledge exchange. This project is fully focused not only on research excellence, but on real world solutions, that will be co-developed and co-designed in the ULLs by bringing together urban entrepreneurs, city managers, urban planners and other stakeholders to connect the flows and identify opportunities and leverage points for the FEW nexus in every city. This co-development and co-production of results will support local ownership and hopefully uptake of proposed solutions, and therefore increase the direct impact of the project at the four different ULL sites. This emphasises the intrinsic importance of stakeholder dialogue and the significant role of economic valuation and risk management as well as outreach and communication relevant to key stakeholders and the general public for the project's long-term impact. Beyond the ULLs, we will link value impact and risk to real world practitioners and disseminate the results, enhance public literacy and investigate the application of the project outcomes to other cities worldwide.
The case studies in our project will generate high-level models reflective of commonalities found in the FWE nexus across these different ULL locations in the 4 cities worldwide. We anticipate the application of some proposed real-world strategies and all the tools to close identified loops across ULLs. Some ULLs will have demonstration capabilities. For example, UoCT's Water Hub at Franschoek ( where end-users will be able to see at the small scale how a sustainable surface water management train (Charlesworth and Booth, 2017) can treat storm-water at the end of which are ponds to farm fish, extract phosphorus and produce biofuels. Using social media and video, as well as programs for increasing public literacy, will be key for dissemination and knowledge brokerage in our project.


10 25 50