Mayan Grace: Squaring the circle of creating jobs while cutting waste

Mayan Grace, Head of Projects, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
Mayan Grace, Head of Projects, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
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Does the prospect of a stronger, more resilient economy in Edinburgh sound appealing, offering more opportunities for job creation?

Or should we be focused more on reducing the scourge of waste – after all, according to Scottish Government statistics, 20 per cent of all the materials that flow through Scotland is waste?

Perhaps we need to focus on building stronger communities, locally controlled, with greater local opportunities for social enterprises that provide real local benefits?

Which sounds most pressing? The answer, of course, is that they all are – and they can all be delivered through the Scottish Government’s A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland. A ­circular economy seeks to move away from the traditional linear economy which makes, uses and disposes, creating waste on the way. It looks to keep the flow of materials and ­products within the economy for as long as possible, extracting the ­maximum value from them whilst in use. It’s where businesses, ­industry and consumers work together to make things last.

It offers opportunities to Scottish business to develop new products and services which promote repeated use, not single-use – for example, leasing, repair, or take-back services, or designing new products from another industry’s ‘waste’ through effective collaboration.

As identified in the national ­strategy, a circular economy will bring huge benefits. Examples include food and drink and the broader bio-economy – food waste is a significant source of carbon emissions and a more ­circular approach to the beer, whisky and fish sectors could lead to potential savings of half a billion pounds per year.

Other areas include remanufacture, which is already contributing £1.1 billion per year to Scotland’s economy with potential to grow by a further £620 million by 2020, ­construction and the built environment, which accounts for about half of all waste in Scotland and is a major influence on efficient use of resources, and energy infrastructure – there are considerable opportunities such as the reuse of equipment from wind turbines and decommissioned oil and gas platforms. The Edinburgh Chamber of ­Commerce and Zero Waste Scotland are delivering a joint initiative, Circular Edinburgh, which will see the chamber deliver a range of local activities to help identify opportunities for local business, and direct them towards available support and funding. The initiative is backed by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

This is a terrific opportunity for us to help local organisations in making the transition to a circular economy, that has the potential to create jobs, support sustainable business ­models and help the environment and the economy. Across Scotland, a circular economy could generate £3billion of annual benefits. ­Businesses are already capitalising on the vast benefits of being circular and, through new business models, are finding untapped opportunities for innovation and increased profitability, whilst addressing the issue of resource pressures.

There are a number of great local examples including Vegware, ­Indinature and Celtic Renewables who are already leading the way in circular economy in Edinburgh.

As a testament to the innovative work taking place throughout the country, Scotland was selected as this year’s host nation for the Circular Economy Hotspot, a major international event to showcase our nation’s progressive approach.

This conference ­welcomed the world’s leading decision-makers, trade representatives, investors and circular economy entrepreneurs, where Circular Edinburgh facilitated an interactive workshop showcasing the city’s key sectors and the opportunities for a circular economy.

As Edinburgh is a major festival city hosting a number of the largest ­in the world including the International Festival, The Fringe and The Book Festival, delegates participated in interactive discussions and pinpointed solutions to circular challenges in the festivals and events sector.

If you would like to get involved or learn more, please visit or contact Mayan Grace or Aileen Boyle on 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or email

For information on the Circular Economy Hotspot, please visit

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