Wayne Hubbard of London Waste and Recycling Board champions this week’s showcase of circularity in the capital and calls for longer-term collaborations and commitments

Our economy is based upon a “take, make, dispose” model. But we all know this approach is reaching its limit; there’s a growing realisation that it’s no longer working for businesses, people or the environment, particularly as the world’s middle class population is growing rapidly and expected to grow again from 4 billion to 5 billion between 2022 and 2028. We urgently need to develop and scale new ways of doing things to keep materials in use for longer and minimise negative environmental impacts.

The customer demand for more sustainable approaches is clear. Nearly 90% of consumers strongly believe that society should be more resource-efficient, and the UK’s market for ethical products and services grew by more than £40bn between 2008 and 2017. In addition, almost half of those aged under 24 say they avoided a product or service in the last year due to its negative environmental impact. Ethical investment is on the rise too: in 2017, the top 100 socially responsible companies in the Standard & Poor’s index financially outperformed the rest by 7%.

A growing number of businesses, charities and social enterprises are responding to this need, with many pioneering organisations leading the way when it comes to circular business models. Wherever organisations are on their journey, collaborating and learning from each other is vital.

The transition to a circular economy could have hugely positive environmental impacts, potentially capable of preventing more than 60% of London’s waste

To help share and spread sustainable business practices, London Waste and Recycling Board launched the first ever Circular Economy Week last year, through our Circular London programme. As one of the most vibrant business hubs in the world, London is already home to fantastic sustainable innovators and entrepreneurs; so we wanted to bring together organisations of all shapes and sizes to help learn from each other and speed up the transition to a circular economy.

The inaugural week in 2018 was a great success, with a host of businesses, policymakers, entrepreneurs and actors in the resources industry coming together to explore more circular approaches to resource management, product design, manufacturing and retail. The second Circular Economy Week is now under way, with four times more events, workshops and collaboration opportunities taking place across the capital than last year. These events include sessions on how to make workspaces more sustainable, workshops on technology’s role in the circular economy, sessions on using food waste as a resource, sustainable fashion insights, and even a tour of circular businesses along the Circle Line.

Those taking part in Circular Economy Week range from Goldfinger Factory, the social enterprise that transforms reclaimed materials into furniture while teaching upcycling skills to disadvantaged young people, through to Dame, the first reusable tampon applicator, which has already saved 156 million pieces of single-use plastic from being thrown away.

Goldfinger Factory transforms reclaimed materials and teaches upcycling skills to disadvantaged young people.

Of course, Circular Economy Week is just the starting point for inspiring longer-term collaborations and commitments, helping to ensure that more organisations can thrive by adopting circular models. The transition to a circular economy could have hugely positive environmental impacts, potentially capable of preventing more than 60% of London’s waste. But it’s not just about environmental impacts – it also makes good commercial sense.

London’s population is predicted to reach over 11 million by 2050. Taking a flexible and circular approach to products, housing, office space and infrastructure is crucial to London’s ability to adapt and thrive. The circular economy provides a sustainable and profitable solution to the challenges of this dramatic growth. By 2036, the circular economy could provide London with £7bn every year in the sectors of built environment, food, textiles, electricals and plastics, as well as creating new jobs in the areas of re-use, remanufacturing and materials innovation. The circular economy can also create efficiencies and new revenue streams and product lines – all important in this time of economic uncertainty.

Cities are the engine room of the circular economy. For the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. It is the power of cities that will drive the global development of the circular economy. The past year has seen a rapidly growing appetite for action on the circular economy, and there is growing global interest. For example, New York recently hosted its own Circular City Week, and this autumn will see the first global Circular Cities Week.

The Circular London Accelerator provides access to our partner network as well as mentoring and business advice

London Waste and Recycling Board is committed to helping make London the place to be for innovators and circular economy entrepreneurs. Beyond Circular Economy Week, we’re also investors in the Greater London Investment Fund, recently launched by the Mayor of London to provide more than £100m worth of investment to small and diverse businesses, with at least £14m of venture capital targeted at circular economy start-ups.

We’re also supporting the best new circular economy start-up business innovations through our Circular London Accelerator, through which we’re currently providing access to our partner network as well as mentoring and business advice (in partnership with Carbon Trust) to our first cohort of innovators in the built environment sector.

Across London, we’re already building a strong community of organisations working together to deliver a more resilient, resource-efficient economy. We want many more organisations to join us: the prospect of building truly circular cities together is hugely exciting.

Wayne Hubbard is Chief Executive of London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB)

Main picture credit: Botond Horvath/Shutterstock


Circular London  closed-loop recycling  Ethical investment  sustainable business 

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