Conference report: A clean break with the past

Helen Lavery of Zero Waste Scotland urges circular thinking

In the last decade, there has been a global shift towards clean energy. And Scotland is well positioned, thanks to its natural resources and offshore industries.

Zero Waste Scotland was a proud sponsor of Wednesday’s event and saw it as a great opportunity to highlight more sustainable ways of operating in the country’s energy sector.

We contributed to infrastructure panel session, which made for an insightful conversation, with our emphasis being on the environmental impact of consumption and the circular economy.

Helen Lavery

The circular economy is all about keeping existing materials and resources in circulation.

Moving to a world powered by clean technologies will result in a greater demand for finite natural materials.

From rare earth elements employed in wind turbine generators and critical raw materials in lithium-ion batteries, the demand for metals will increase as we transition to green energy.

This is where the circular economy comes in. We could see the adoption of new business models and the design of products with their whole lifecycle in mind, including modular building for deconstruction, remanufacturing, and reprocessing.

To achieve this, we need to make sure that a fully circular approach is embedded in the planning and development stages.

Taking a circular approach within the renewable energy sector should see designers and architects consider what happens to infrastructure at the end of its life.

We know that employing a circular approach to energy infrastructure not only safeguards against future resource shortages, but also helps with job creation and supply chain opportunities.

Some of the current issues around the lack of skills, capacity, and commercial development space in the region, can be alleviated through cross-sector

collaboration and more holistic approaches.

Our partnerships with local economic development bodies are progressing well towards a circular approach.

We have demonstrated that reducing waste and investing in keeping materials in circulation for as long as possible can release billions of pounds of economic opportunities for Scotland.

As mentioned during the session, our Circular Economy Accelerator programme aims to increase the resource efficiency of Scottish SMEs, further develop and strengthen Scotland’s circular economy, and support community-based organisations to build on existing local resources.

We understand that working together across all industries and sectors, we will be able to make a smooth transition to a circular economy in Scotland.

- Helen Lavery is Regional Engagement Partner at Zero Waste Scotland