Mayan Grace: Looking at it in the round, the circular economy makes sense for business

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As Scotland’s capital, ­Edinburgh has a key role in driving forward our circular economy – which aims to replace the current model of make, use and discard in favour of reusing materials and products, with financial and environmental benefits.

For the past year, Circular Edinburgh has been driving a whole host of activities to encourage the city’s small and medium-sized enterprises to look at circular economic thinking, and to better appreciate the benefits and opportunities it presents.

Circular Edinburgh is a joint ­initiative delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and the Edinburgh ­Chamber of Commerce, supported by funding from both the ­Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the £73million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.

Circular Edinburgh delivers a programme of knowledge-sharing events, workshops and roundtable discussions to promote the circular economy to local businesses.

That has seen 12 workshops and events held, attended by hundreds of delegates, while Circular Edinburgh has held more than 80 meetings with local businesses.

Several companies are now working with Zero Waste Scotland through the CE Business Support Service to help them further develop their ideas and take steps to launch a new circular product or service. In addition, circular economy assessments have been carried out for local companies, and we have now seen the first-ever winner of a new category at the Edinburgh Chamber of ­Commerce Business Awards – for Innovation in the Circular Economy.

The award was won by Cirkel, a new company which provides high-quality bedlinen and also “trades-in” old sheets to create new pet beds.

A report on the potential for a circular economy in Edinburgh has been compiled by Zero Waste Scotland, which identifies opportunities which are of particular relevance to the Capital, based on the existing economy, skills, and strategic vision for the city.

The report was produced in collaboration with a number of local stakeholders including the Chamber and City of Edinburgh Council. The five most beneficial opportunities were selected for further investigation to determine the potential benefits for the Edinburgh region.

These include a significant opportunity to leverage the world class ­tertiary education ­institutions of Edinburgh to create a Circular Economy Knowledge Hub which would be a focal point for providing solutions to many of the material flows currently deemed to be ‘waste’.

Another area is ICT refurbishment and remanufacture – the ICT sector is expanding and, through the use of refurbished components, this ­sector can benefit economically and reduce the environmental impact of the industry. Reclaiming precious metals and materials from obsolete stock can also be achieved through the use of cutting edge technology and processes.

Edinburgh is also home to many breweries and distilleries. Through the production of alcoholic drinks, a number of by-products can be used in other ways, for example, using spent brewers grain in breads or cereal bars.

There are also opportunities to ­integrate circular economy approaches to the 12 festivals held annually in Edinburgh, from reducing single use cups and containers to identifying opportunities for surplus food as well as reuse of stage props and costumes.

Finally, there are significant opportunities to incorporate circular economy into the running and management of buildings, which will bring benefits to users, managers and ­owners and influence a circular ­supply chain with improved economic performance.

The report states: “The Edinburgh region has a diverse economy which could benefit economically, socially and environmentally from incorporating circular economy principles and practices.

“Traditional business models have failed to derive maximum benefits from the materials used and by-products produced, which has led to many tonnes of potential feedstocks being landfilled. This practice is not only environmentally unsustainable, it reduces the economic performance of Edinburgh’s economy.”

In other words, a circular economy will be better for the environment, better for businesses, and better for the city’s residents and visitors. Much work done, much still to do.

For more information please visit www.edinburghchamber.co.uk/circular-edinburgh/ or contact Mayan Grace or Aileen Boyle on 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or email circulareconomy@edinburghchamber.co.uk

Mayan Grace, head of projects, ­Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.