How Green Is Berlin ? Circular Economy Solutions To Make Berlin Sustainable

More than 800,000 people become ill in Germany every year because of NO2 emissions. 

Berlin has the 4th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP with strongest sectors in construction, electrical industry and engineering. The city is a major centre for international business founders, research and tourism. It is also a part of the Eurozone and European Union.



  •  Berlin, best known world city of politics, culture, science and media has a ‘poor but sexy charm’ in its unclean parks with cigarette butts strewn around, but not so appealing is its air quality.
  • Berlin’s air has been violating European Union  laws and killing people.The law has introduced a threshold for nitrogen dioxide to  40 micrograms. Currently the city is battling dangerous air pollutants which are invisible and odorless, like Nitrogen oxides (NOx) which come from more than 80% from diesel-powered cars.
  • The issue with air pollution has been a part of Berlin’s environmental concerns since the 1970s , however the recent cause for these dangerous air pollutants is due to the Dieselgate scandal, in which car makers from Germany and other countries manipulated the engines of their vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. This scandal broke out in September 2015 reverberating throughout Germany, Europe and the world politically to this day.

An average diesel car in Berlin, emits 6 times the permitted limit of Nitrogen oxides (NOx).

  • Increase in concentration of NO2 in the air causes cardiovascular and respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis, as long-established by WHO. Illness due to air pollution has led to 12,800 premature deaths in Germany as per EEA.
  • Apart from human health, nitrogen oxides harm animals and the environment by acidifying soils and water bodies.
  • Besides NO2 , fine particulates pollution leads to about 400,000 people dying prematurely.


  • Berlin is situated in a valley landscaped during the Ice Age, having an abundance of natural lakes and running water. As the lakes are shallow and rivers run slow with little water, the metro city suffers from water shortage.
  • As 65% of the fresh water is extracted from ground, there have been some concerns regarding its replenishment due to longer droughts experienced in the last couple of years.
  • Rising global temperatures have led to a decrease in precious water resources. According to Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, the groundwater level has shown a decrease by 1.5 to 2 centimeters annually.
  • With this, the high levels of discharge from sewage pipelines is polluting the water. The major eight sewage plants are damaging the oxygen balance in the water leading to intense eutrophication (the dense growth of life due to the excessive nutrients from the run-off from land).
  • It is estimated that 40% of groundwater reserves are vulnerable to contamination, due to 5,500 polluted sites and improper sewage systems.


  • A rise in the temperatures has been observed in recent years. By 2050, the warmest month in Berlin will experience an increase by 6.1C .
  • As the temperatures increase, Berlin will have considerably less snow and the precipitation levels will increase to 18% in spring and winter months.
  • Heat waves will be a part of extreme weather changes and it will affect children and adults alike.
  • As 44% of the city is covered by forests, lakes, parks, and agricultural land, the green Berlin has positive effects on climate change.
  • But, the soil which is required to maintain the greenery of the city has been negatively affected by the long dry summers.



Berlin Energy and Climate Protection Programme 2030 – roadmap towards carbon neutrality. (Polidia GmbH) 

Berlin is one of the leading cities in Europe for combating air pollution, having cut its greenhouse emissions by a third since 1990.

  • As per the benchmark set during the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 2015 , the city of Berlin has taken actions to tackle climate change.
  • Compared to the year 1990, the greenhouse gas emissions have been cut by one-third. The emissions per capita are below the national average of 9.6 tonnes.
  • The Act to Implement the Energy Turnaround and the Climate Protection in Berlin sets the framework for energy policy and climate conservation. The act stipulates that CO2 emissions will be reduced by 85 percent in 2050.
  • As a further focus, the Senate of Berlin is working towards phasing out coal – based power and heat generation by the year 2030. The act has also developed a roadmap to ensure carbon neutrality by underpinning it with specific strategies and measures.
  • Berliner Stadtwerke was founded in 2014. This public utility plans, builds and maintains operations for local renewable energy systems and supplies heat and electric power in the city. The objective of this public energy utility is to support the goal of supplying Berlin with 100% renewable energy in the future years.


  • Organizations such as Friends of the Earth Germany is a federation of existing regional groups with more than 480,000 members and supporters. They work effectively in local and district gatherings to conserve nature. The group networks with international level organizations to debate on environmental issues and runs “Phase-out nuclear energy yourself campaign” to spread awareness about renewable energy towards a coal exit by 2030.
  • CSCP emerged in 2005 with a focus on promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production. This organization was developed from collaboration between UNEP and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.  Academy of Change workshop held by CSCP helps in recognizing and designing for behaviour change interventions  for a more sustainable local lifestyle and behaviour.


ITB Berlin conducts charitable activities on a regular basis to provide aid and to support social projects ensuring diversity and social tolerance. ITB Berlin offers support to projects which have significant contribution to environment protection and human rights advocacy.

  • Fundraisers for reconstruction post-earthquake
  • Support for student -founded education relief project 
  • Support to develop funds to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem


eMo provides Berlin with electric mobile e-car 

fLotte offers free cargo bikes within districts to save space while transporting goods

pFand system helps in recycling everyday plastic bottles

Original Unverpackt is a supermarket dedicated to zero waste packaging

WindNODE promotes intelligent energy like wind and solar power plants

GreenPack enables storing green energy into batteries

  • Environment stimulus for growth : Scientific reasons showcase the need for dogs to have sufficient activity with the environment, hence German’s dog owners will be ordered by law to walk their pets twice a day. 


circular economy is an economic system of closed loops in which raw materials, components and products lose their value as little as possible. Renewable energy sources are used and systems thinking is at the core.



Berlin’s Circular Construction Ecosystem project was carried out by Climate-KIC Germany to leverage points in Berlin’s construction sector, which stakeholders could use to enable a circular economy. The following areas were defined as key levers:

  • Extensive knowledge in the market regarding circular construction methods
  • A clear definition for circular construction which is accepted and recognized
  • Relaxing norms of building and providing enhanced support for innovative work in construction that can minimize the impact of new construction materials
  • Provide education to professionals regarding renewable, reusable and recyclability factors of materials.


Circular environmental solutions to solve human-made environmental problems

  • Green City Solution – Urban City Tree combines moss air purifying factor to increase air flow between trees hence purifies more air than normal
  • Kalundborg Symbiosis – Industrial symbiosis where a residual product of one enterprise is used as a resource by another thus gaining mutual environmental and economic aids.
  • Re:box – Design store allowing innovators to reuse and rent materials used for prototyping
  • GKR – Modular plant arrangements for green building aesthetic features


Collaboration With Local Recyclers at Dharavi Recycling Centre 

The Earth5R team visited the Dharavi Recycling Centers in order to partner with them on their team’s endeavour to make a zero waste economy and increase job opportunities for the recyclers. Ravi Bhanushali, a partner of Earth5R, gave the team a tour through the entire center. 

During this visit, the team was able to set up recycling networks and bring more local recyclers under the “ACT Powai” program. The team talked to them about how they could be a major stakeholder in ACT Powai and how they could recycle all the dry waste in the area. 

Each day, these individuals at Dharavi segregate and process 1 tonne of waste. They are extremely hard working and a very important part of making a sustainable society, making it crucial for Earth5R to partner with them, because what is not local, is not sustainable.

Reach out to Earth5R to know more about solving environmental issues by creating circular economy based sustainability projects.


Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy-based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long-term environmental courses

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Radhika Mehta , edited by Ankita Nambiar