If someone says “circular economy” to you, what images are conjured up in your head? Tom and Barbara enjoying The Good Life in their garden? Guardian readers sitting by a campfire singing ‘Kum ba yah’. The Wombles creatively recycling things that every day folks leave behind?
Whatever your preconceptions or misconceptions, the circular economy concept is coming of age, and represents tremendous business opportunities whilst at the same time addressing climate change. The circular economy concept was first introduced to the mainstream by environmental economists David Pearce and Kerry Turner in their 1989 publication “Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment”. In more recent years it has built momentum championed by the likes of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey & Company and the European Commission.
Take two things that absolutely dominate our lives. Food and oil. In a recent study, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, it has been estimated that between 30% and 40% of food produced around the world is never eaten. Food production accounts for more than 20% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, so this waste is a major contributor to climate change that we could do without. Through the economic chain from farmers to our plates to the landfill, there are commercial opportunities in fixing this global megatrend addressing poverty, health and the environment. This requires applying circular economy philosophies and practices.
Oil dominates our lives from the cars we drive, to the cleaning products we use in our homes, to the cosmetics we use and to the medicines we take. We are addicted to and dependent on oil. As North Sea assets come to the end of their current life, there is a tremendous challenge and opportunity to responsibly decommission them and reuse the valuable waste. Oil & Gas UK forecast that £16.9 billion will be spent on decommissioning assets from the UK continental shelf between 2015 and 2024. Again with circular economy philosophies and practices this represents a very explicit commercial opportunity for entrepreneurs in Scotland. Followed by an even bigger global opportunity exporting skills, expertise, products and services in decommissioning.
So where could you start in taking a circular economy idea from the back of a napkin to a globally successful and scaleable company?
ClimateLaunchpad of course. ClimateLaunchpad could give your idea a €105,000 boost via cash awards and a structured accelerator programme. Applications in Scotland are open until Monday 9th May 2016:
Another funding opportunity is the Circular Economy Investment Fund, launched on 1st April 2016 by Zero Waste Scotland. Between 2016 and 2018, Zero Waste Scotland is making funding and support available through structured grant calls and procurements. These will focus on priority commercial and industrial sectors which are:
- the bio economy (food and drink);
- built environment (construction and demolition); and
- energy infrastructure (oil and gas decommissioning, renewables, transmission).
For more information visit their announcement at:
Slides: “A circular future for Scotland?” by Louise McGregor, Head of Circular Economy at Zero Waste Scotland.