Edinburgh circular economy summit showcases innovation and new business models

Zero Waste Scotland’s Chief Executive Iain Gulland opened the 2016 Scottish Resources Conference on 5 October by stating that Scotland is moving the circular economy from rhetoric into reality thanks to major EU and Scottish Government investment.

Experts in sustainability and resource management attended the two-day conference in Edinburgh, Scotland’s biggest and most important event for sustainability, resource and waste management professionals. This year’s themes included the Scottish food waste opportunity, recyclate markets and quality, the latest in behaviour change thinking and the future role of producer responsibility.

Gulland advised that since opening its circular economy investment fund in March, there are over 30 organisations in the running for funding totalling £14 million and many organisations are already receiving support for their circular economy business model. He also highlighted that there would be a number of targeted funding calls coming up in the next few weeks and months, aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular sectors.

Delegates on the first day of the conference also heard from Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network and co-creator of the ecological footprint concept, and Eric Lombardi, who is Executive Director of US enterprise Eco-Cycle International, and one of the pioneers of the zero waste movement globally.

Gulland spoke about the £18 million circular economy investment programme launched earlier this year, using funding from the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and managed by Zero Waste Scotland. “This funding has given us a fantastic opportunity to invest in really innovative solutions, led by Scottish SMEs, that can be really transformative, and I’m delighted that we already have 35 projects in the final application stages for funding,” he said.

“The Scottish Resources Conference is a great showcase of how we are already operating in a circular economy and we hope it inspires others to bring forward ideas that will transform how we do business in the future.”

The conference showcased business models and technology aimed at enabling the circular economy, including smartphone apps that help to divert surplus food, a successful Danish company leasing baby’s clothing as an alternative to ‘fast fashion’, and a Scottish biotechnology firm creating advanced fuels from whisky by-products.

It was rounded off on the evening of 6 October with an awards ceremony. Six awards were handed out on the night, including two peer nominated awards – the FCC Outstanding Contribution Award and the Re-Gen Waste Rising Star of the Year Award, which are decided by a public vote. The winners were as follows:

· The Iona Capital Best Food Waste Initiative – FareShare Scotland
A food redistribution charity which in the last two years has, with the support of Scottish Government, redistributed over 1800 tonnes of high quality surplus food to 370 Scottish charities and community groups – equivalent to 4.4 million meals.

· The GJF Fabrications Best Litter Prevention Initiative – Leithers Don’t Litter
Started a year ago by Zsuzsa and Gerry Farrell to raise a groundswell of anti-litter activism, Leith’s Don’t Litter now has 1,600 social media followers and has organised two big clean-ups with 110 volunteers collecting 170 bags of rubbish. Further initiatives with local schools have taken another 100 bags of litter off the streets, and their Adopt-a-Street scheme already has 50 pledges.

· Best Health & Safety Initiative in Resource and Waste – East Lothian Council Waste Services
The council has designed its own health and safety training programme, reducing accidents by 66% and improving attendance, which has in turn generated savings on absence costs, damage repair costs, and claims.

· The FCC Environment Outstanding Contribution Award – Dr Colin Clark
With over 30 years experience, Colin has made a significant contribution the development of waste and resources policy, thinking and practice, including in his roles as Chair of the Waste Management Officers’ Network and a member of the CIWM Scotland Centre Council. He is also seen as an invaluable source of advice and support by many of his peers and has taken time to inspire the next generation of waste and resource management professionals.

· The Re-Gen Waste Rising Star of the Year – Richard Dryburgh
The youngest member of Changeworks Recycling sales team, Richard has been instrumental in rolling out the company’s RE:Action pilot initiative, which offers customers efficiency improvements in waste, water and energy. Described as both a strategic thinker and an advocate for sustainability, Richard is credited with finding smart solutions to zero waste challenges.

· The Zero Waste Scotland Best Circular Economy Initiative – CMS Window Systems
From its inception in 2006, CMS has had a clear strategy that considers environmental, social and economic sustainability in every aspect of its operations. The firm has improved its environmental performance year on year, despite rapid growth and a steep rise in turnover, and now diverts a minimum of 95% of its waste from landfill each year.

For further information visit: zerowastescotland.org.uk and ciwm.co.uk

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