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Exploring challenges and opportunities for a circular economy in Sesvete


About the pilot area


Sesvete, Zagreb's most extensive district in terms of area, is primarily a residential neighborhood characterized by a population density of 3,368 people per square kilometer and a mere 3.1% greenspace share. The area faces a set of distinct challenges, including problems related to illegal waste dumping, the presence of asbestos in old factories, and a shortage of green spaces, despite numerous vacant factory buildings.


In Sesvete lies Sljeme, an abandoned former meat factory and once a thriving pig farm that played a significant role in the Balkans' meat industry for over a century. However, in just under a decade, what took more than a century to build was largely 



dismantled, primarily due to the turbulent transition from a socialist system to a market economy in the mid-'90s. Irregular privatization, mismanagement, private interests, and corruption ultimately led to bankruptcy in 2006. Since 2017, the Sljeme complex has been under the ownership of the Zagreb municipality.


Within the Zagreb municipality, urbanization prompted the abandonment of historical industrial, infrastructural, and similar sites initially situated on the city's outskirts but later integrated into the urbanized area. These brownfield locations encompass former industrial, military, traffic, residential, social, public, agricultural, and mining sites and structures. How can a former meat factory become a case study to teach and inspire the local community about the potentials of a circular economy? The pilot team, consisting of members of the Faculty of Architecture and Fab Lab Zagreb, have mapped the reusable resources within one of Zagreb’s abundant brownfields awaiting their demolition. Following Zagreb’s mapping story, we can learn how we can map resources at a micro-scale of one building.


Zagreb's key urban challenges

  • Water quality - poor water quality in Sava river due to mercury pollution

  • Water risk -  flood risk

  • Waste generation - high waste generation & poor waste management

  • Biodiversity leadership - missing ambitions to protect local biodiversity

Which insights have been gathered by our local context detectives?

Read through our gallery of local anecdotes, research findings and in-depth analysis 

Geospatial Analysis


Mapping existing brownfields across the city

What was this map about?

While the Sjleme Factory is the center of our pilot’s activities, the true potential of urban brownfields and old industrial buildings as an urban mine require a better understanding of city-wide brownfields. To obtain a first overview of all existing brownfields, we have firstly mapped the location and size of all currently listed brownfields

How did it support building a circular community?

This map gave us a high-level understanding of scaling opportunities for reusing materials from urban mines in Zagreb. We used the data later on to create a model for procpecting the urban mine of resoruces within these buildings.

Which data sources were used?

Brownfield Atlas, City of Zagreb

Parallel to Zagreb’s efforts to understand city and neighbourhood-wide urban challenges, the team has embarked on a journey to get to know the local maker community, their resources and concerns

Who was mapped

Educational institutions

Fab Labs & maker spaces

Recycling companies

Circular businesses


The Fab Lab Zagreb works on building an active community center in the old Sljeme Factory and partnering maker spaces in which students and community members learn how to creatively use digital fabrication methods. A core focus is placed on teaching innovative design methods to reuse locally available waste streams into value-added products (for example from demolition concrete or plastic waste).  To build such a learning community around local waste recovery, the pilot has started mapping potential stakeholders with the right skills, facilities and experience around reuse of local materials.

How was it useful for the Zagreb pilot team?

  • Getting an overview who is already active around the neighbourhood

  • Having a map to engage people and other stakeholders with

The mapping of makers in Zagreb was done by a dedicated team member who used an interview guide in informal conversations with makers.

What local resources were mapped?

Waste streams from the Sljeme Factory

Knowledge & expertise in waste reuse, digital fabrication and design skills

How was data collected?

  • Networking & stakeholder engagement in roundtables and local events

  • Online research

Lessons learned

  • The Cartography simplifies the process of mapping stakeholders and information, offering a clear spatial perspective

  • While there may be a learning curve to master the Cartography toolkit, its value and applicability across different scales and locations become evident in the mapping process

Which circular opportunities did Zagreb identify or explore for the future?

Circular Concrete


Developing a learning network around the innovative reuse of local demolition waste, starting with concrete

Concrete is only one of many demolition waste streams available in Zagreb's urban mine. But given the significant carbon footprint of concrete and its high availability, the pilot decided to use concrete as a case study for circular innovation. Connecting existing universities, Fab Labs and educational programs, the pilot has identified and mapped many possible synergies for collaboration within their community.

Have a look at the map below! Maybe it can help inspire your own Fab City?


Neighbourhood types
Business waste by neighbourhood
Location and density of illegal waste dumping sites
Industrial zones across Zagreb
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