“The circular economy is a ‘hot topic’ in sustainability,” says Maureen O’Donnell of Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) who studies what a circular economy is and its potential to transform business and communities.
As O’Donnell points out, it’s estimated that 60 per cent of the global carbon emission reduction target could be met by transitioning from a linear economy – one which was dominated by a take, make, use and dispose model, to a circular one where the economic value of resources are fully realised.
It’s estimated that, at present, the world is “only 9 per cent circular”, that is to say, we are wasting far more than we should and need to be through our current models of production, consumption and waste management. Even accounting for principles such as the ‘3Rs’ (reduce, reuse, recycle) which have been in use, and in vogue, for years.
The core principles behind a circular economy, designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; regenerating natural systems are also instrumental to the government’s ambitious five-year plan on ‘Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy’, published in September.
So you can understand why the circular economy is a hot topic.
It’s also far more than a buzz word, and as BITCI has shown in a series of recent webinars to its members, which include Musgrave, Arup, Veolia and Irish Cement, aspects of the circular economy are embedded in consumer behaviour.
Circular economic practices encompass everything from buying second-hand (houses, cars, clothes) to renting (cars and bikes) over buying.
“The circular economy could provide progressive Irish businesses with significant opportunities for growth,” said O’Donnell.
“Consumers, investors and employees are actively demanding that companies be more sustainable and being circular is the ultimate route to that goal.”
At its core BITCI has been advising companies and businesses in Ireland for the past 20 years on sustainability.
O’Donnell cites an innovation by BITCI member College Proteins based in Meath that integrates circular strategies.
“At the start of 2020 they launched their new biofuels facility which recycles waste from the agri-food sector to produce biodiesel for use in diesel vehicle fleets, industrial machinery, generators and private cars.”