Scotland a '˜world leader' in circular economy

Scotland's efforts to keep resources in use longer are recognised across the world, says Zero Waste Scotland

Keeping resources circulating. Picture: submitted
Keeping resources circulating. Picture: submitted

Concern for the environment has never been greater and the way we use our natural resources is firmly in the public spotlight.

The concept of a circular economy is one way we can help eradicate waste by keeping resources and products in use for as long as possible. And Scotland is leading the way in developing a more circular economy.

Our 5p carrier bag charge cut single-use bags by 80 per cent. We have reduced household food waste, dramatically improved domestic recycling and second-hand shops have never been so popular. Plastic waste has become a social embarrassment.

Energy and water efficiency schemes are enthusiastically used in both homes and offices across the country.

All around Scotland, green ideas are being taken up by entrepreneurs, collaborations between business and academia - through the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture – are flourishing and reuse hubs – in Bute, Edinburgh and Dingwall – are transforming economies of scale in reuse and repair.

Underpinning all this is the fact that the Scottish Government has placed the circular economy at the core of its Economic Strategy and Manufacturing Action Plan.

Our circular initiatives are helping to stimulate progress internationally and as a result Scotland has been chosen to host this year’s Circular Economy Hotspot, a major international trade mission from 30 October to 1 November.

Last year, there was recognition at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Scotland received the award for Circular Economy Nations and Regions in the Circulars Awards.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham says: “Scotland is right at the forefront of exciting circular economy developments, from our intention to introduce a deposit return scheme to our transformative investment in innovative circular economy businesses.

“We also have some of the most ambitious targets in Europe driving circularity, with a vision to reduce food waste by 33 per cent by 2025, and for 70 per cent of waste to be recycled by the same year.

“Hosting the Circular Economy Hotspot represents a unique forum for us to showcase all we have achieved so far as a nation.”

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, adds: “Not only will the hotspot offer an unrivalled opportunity to share experiences with world-leading experts across a variety of sectors, it also demonstrates to those early-adopters of the circular economy in Scotland that their efforts are contributing to a truly revolutionary shared goal.

“Hosting the Circular Economy Hotspot allows us to demonstrate that Scotland is a circular economy hotspot in itself, by showcasing all we have achieved so far.

“We know that across Europe, shifting towards a more circular economy could generate £1.4 trillion of annual benefits by 2030 – that’s a huge scale of opportunity.

“The Scottish Government and key partners, including Zero Waste Scotland, are working to ensure Scotland achieves the maximum environmental, social and economic benefits of a more circular economy.”

One of the initiatives that will help make that critical impact has just been expanded by Zero Waste Scotland, which exists to create a society where resources are valued and nothing is wasted and is funded to support delivery of the circular economy strategy.

At the end of last year, Circular Glasgow was the first project in a joint initiative delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and local Chambers of Commerce to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) identify and capitalise on circular economy opportunities.

Edinburgh, Tayside and the North-east joined Glasgow in the initiative this spring.

The Circular Cities and Regions approach marks a new departure in the way Zero Waste Scotland approaches its business engagement.

“It was in 2015 that I was chatting with Guido Braam, then of Netherlands-based Circle Economy,” says Gulland.

“Up until that moment we, at Zero Waste Scotland, had relied on the sectoral approach for our more well-known resource efficiency work.

“Guido however, encouraged me to test the regional approach that he was driving in the Netherlands.

“Taking a cities and regions approach when it comes to accelerating the transition towards a circular economy and a zero waste society has many benefits in terms of impact.

“It allows a focus on regional specialism – whether that be events or digital technology, maximising the opportunities in areas of strength and potential – which aren’t the same all over Scotland.

“Concentrating on smaller geographic areas provides a great testing ground for zero waste initiatives and circular business models.

“It also allows us to work with long-established regional partners who know their city inside-out – its needs, its potential, and who to talk to,” adds Gulland.

“Circular Glasgow has already worked some magic turning leftover bread into beer by bringing bakeries and brewers together.

“Just last month, the Environment Secretary marked the opening of the new Glasgow store of Locavore.

“Its ‘fill-your-own’ plastic-free shopping experience seems to fit the mood of Scotland so well just now.

“While packaging has a role to play in ensuring food and other products reach consumers in good condition, businesses such as Locavore show that it can be reduced.”

Locavore’s new store at Victoria Road in Glasgow’s Southside benefited from £100,000 funding from Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), supported by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Circular Glasgow is an initiative of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce delivered in partnership between ZWS, Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde University and Circle Economy in the Netherlands.

Its ambition is to generate a movement that inspires businesses of all sizes to innovate, create a sustainable economy and an enviable quality of life for the city.

To do this, Circular Glasgow did a “scan”, looking at all the materials going into and out of the city to identify where there were the biggest areas of opportunity. Food and drink was chosen as an area of focus for action to start off the conversation.

Now businesses from all sectors are offered Circle Assessments and there are workshops and showcase events to help them look at how they can be more circular in the way they operate.

Circular Glasgow has also been focussing on the events industry and is reviewing ways to help businesses to innovate around the city’s events and conference activity.

Alison McRae, senior director at the Glasgow chamber, explains: “We used Circle Lab, a digital platform developed by Circle Economy and funded by the eBay Foundation, to ask the global crowd to address a specific challenge.

“We focused on one of our biggest assets as a city which is our ability to deliver high-level and quality events and conferences.

“We have a huge pedigree of events so we asked on Circle Lab ‘how can businesses behave in a more circular way around major cities, events and conferences?’.

“People from literally all over the world contributed content to solutions, so we are now in the process of working with businesses to make some of them become live.

“The SEC has offered to incubate some of those ideas and roll them out in its own venue, which is tremendous.

“To be clear, it could be anything from a hotel behaving in a more circular way to the delivery and reuse of carpets for an exhibition.

“It’s the first time that a city has used the Circle Lab platform to problem solve, so by the time the Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland starts in Glasgow we hope to be able to tell many more stories like the Jaw Brew-Aulds the Bakers collaboration as the momentum is building.

“We would like to inspire action by sharing our model for delivery, tools, examples and the importance of our collaborative effort with the international policy and decision makers who are attending the hotspot. We are also keen to learn from other cities.”

McRae adds: “The whole ambition behind this is fuelled by our belief that urban economies are where the big change can happen because they have the critical mass of consumers and businesses.

“To make a real difference across the globe, we need to create an environment to enable cities to get it right.”

The low down

Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland 2018

The Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland:

- In Glasgow, 30 October to 1 November.

- Delivered by Zero Waste Scotland.

- Expected to attract 400 of the world’s leading decision-makers, trade representatives, investors and circular economy entrepreneurs.

- Visits to pioneering Scottish businesses.

- Workshops and talks led by experts in circular economy policy and innovation.

- Unique networking opportunities for delegates.

For more information, to register to attend or to take part, visit

Making the world greener

Ambition is to keep resources circulating

The concept of a circular economy is one way we can help eradicate waste by keeping resources and products in use for as long as possible.

The circular economy is a key part of Scotland’s Economic Strategy, and Manufacturing Action Plan and is supported by £70 million of investment, £30m of which is EU funding.

Making Things Last is the Scottish Government’s circular economy strategy. Published in 2016, it sets out Scotland’s ambitions and priorities to keep products and materials in high value use for as long as possible. It will also help protect the environment and deliver social and economic benefits to Scottish communities.

There are four priorities, where we can make the biggest impact:

- food and drink/bioeconomy

- construction

- remanufacture

- energy infrastructure.

The support on offer includes:

- The £18m Circular Economy Investment Fund (CEIF) administered by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) offers grant funding to support work that will help deliver circular economy growth in line with Making Things Last.

The CEIF invites proposals from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)and social enterprise organisations interested in exploring new markets for circular economy products and services, developing and adopting innovative business models or developing innovative technologies to support a circular economy. It is supported by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

- The Circular Economy Business Support Service delivers tailored, expert, one-to-one consultancy to SMEs. It is designed to help companies explore more circular ways of doing business which can result in resource efficiencies, improved profitability, higher quality products, increased customer base and alternative supply chains. Actions recommended to businesses by the support service may be eligible for funding.

- The Scottish Circular Economy Business Network (SCEBN) provides opportunities for businesses to come together in a productive forum to focus on collaborative action and working together as dynamic and engaged business ambassadors for the circular economy.

Founded by ZWS in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the SCEBN also provides the space and opportunity to help build responsive and networked supply chains.

For more information see Zero Waste Scotland.