Partner Insight: Implementing circular economy principles, lessons from businesses in Wales
The project, funded by the Wales Innovation Network, identified businesses in Wales that have successfully implemented circular economy principles and content that can help businesses and public services develop their CE knowledge and skills.
The Circular Economy concept requires a new way of thinking, away from the traditional linear economy thinking, where products are bought, used, and thrown away. Put simply, the circular economy is a system in which resources such as materials and equipment are used, reused, and repurposed as effectively as possible, for as long as possible.
The WIN project, which ran from July to October 2022, was a joint project between Cardiff Metropolitan University, Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Swansea University, Cwmpas and Cynnal Cymru.
Partners have researched and written a report that outlines 21 case studies of Welsh businesses that have successfully implemented circular economy principles, including inspirational video clips, such as Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire or Celsa Steel UK in Cardiff.
Marten Lewis Head of Corporate Responsibility at Bluestone National Park Resort states “The circular economy programmes we have embedded in our operations have been very impactful, supporting need in the local community, creating positive engagement with staff, reducing our waste streams, and providing evidence of our lived brand values”.
Adele Williams founder of Green Wave Hair Workshop gathers hair donations and sews them into an absorbent mat which can be used to soak up oil spills in the ocean and on land commented on how circular economy practices have helped her business:
“Implementing circular economy practices within my business has attracted many more customers and helped to create goals, inspire, and create a sense of fulfilment for myself and Green Wave’s customers.”
Suzanne Wardell, CEO of Circular Economy Mid Wales, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to save waste from landfill explains
“Implementing circular economy principles is at the heart of what Circular Economy Mid Wales not only does, but it is what and who we are! Every aspect of our business is driven by recycle, reuse, repair – from the core business of reducing landfill to our partnerships with other social enterprises. Our aim is to turn a linear economy into a more circular one.”
The case studies provide ‘how to’ examples for practitioners to better understand circular economy principles and their implementation. The case studies also aim to encourage public service organisations and businesses to begin implementation of CE principles. The report disseminates some of the magnificent work ongoing in Wales and supports organisations to reduce their carbon footprint whilst moving to a CE business model.
A capability development matrix provides a ‘road map’ which organises available resources into levels to enable organisations to develop appropriate knowledge and skills of individuals and groups. The level 1 content provides short videos and briefing notes that develop CE understanding, whereas level 7 content features intensive programmes that develop the knowledge and skills of practitioners to implement CE principles within their organisations.
A successful hybrid conference allowed partners from across Wales to participate, soft-launched the resources and findings in October 2022.
The WIN project follows the successful Cardiff Circular Economy Network Project, a pilot project working with businesses and schools in the Cardiff Council boundary which facilitated a series of workshops for practitioners and educators to come together, network and to develop a fuller understanding of circular economy principles.
Project Director Dr Gary Walpole commented on the importance of the research:
“The funding from WIN allowed us to develop a report and resources that will enable practitioners to fully understand the principles of the circular economy and embed them within their organisations. Implementing CE principles will enable clean growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).”
Nick Clifton, Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Development at Cardiff Metropolitan University explained:
“We need to transform our innovation ecosystems to deliver truly sustainable societal outcomes that go beyond narrowly defined measures of growth and development. Projects like WIN which brings together private, public and third sector actors to implement real-world solutions and share best practice, are vital to achieving this goal.”