What is the

circular economy?

Imagine a world where we design and manufacture products in such a way that they can be used and re-used for as long as possible, maximising their value.

Where by-products are captured and used to create additional valuable commodities. And then, at the end of their life, products are refurbished or remanufactured into other high value, high quality products.

Embracing this way of working enables businesses to reduce costs, generate new income streams and open up new markets.

The Circular Economy Accelerator by Zero Waste Scotland can help you and your business move towards your own circular business model.

How it works

In this system, nothing goes to waste - it all stays in a loop.

Physical products are given new life through repair, reuse, remanufacture or recycling.

Reusing products, substances or materials becomes the norm. It’s a circular mindset.

For businesses, there’s money to be made – and saved.

It generates business...

Ultimately, it gives you a competitive edge, and satisfies your customers’ changing needs and expectations.

... and retains it

Customer loyalty is given a boost as companies move towards offering services like repair and refurbishment, rather than single-use items. Your customers will look to you for on-going support and maintenance, keeping you close to your market and allowing you to meet its evolving needs.

It's stable

Supply of materials, and fluctuating resource prices, become less of an issue. The result is higher returns, and less risk.

It places you at the forefront

Companies moving towards a circular economy are seen as innovative – building business resilience and strengthening their brand.

The benefits of a circular economy from a pioneer

"The shift to a circular economy could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 66%" - Dr h.c. Walter R. Stahel

Businesses on the ball:

circular economy examples

Here are a few organisations already making a circular economy work for them.

EGG lighting

Light, but not as you know it. By using innovative technology, EGG make sure that you have appropriate levels of light in your building at all times, without even having to flick a switch.

You pay for the light, not the LED, and EGG take care of the practicalities, ensuring that the equipment is kept up-to-date, maintained and repurposed when it’s no longer needed.

The Edinburgh Remakery

This social enterprise encourages and empowers locals to repair, remake and re-use their existing possessions – from furniture to computers.

The Edinburgh Remakery creates jobs, reduces landfill and helps cut the city’s carbon footprint, whilst teaching key repair skills and providing resources for some of the capital’s most vulnerable citizens.

Cirkel

Bedding for hotels, and other commercial operators, is a high-waste industry. Cirkel disrupt that with a subscription model for bedsheets.

Their organic cotton sheets can be returned at end-of-life for a discount on your next purchase. The old sheets are repurposed into bedding for pets. A win for our furry friends as well as the environment.

To find out more about Scottish companies moving to circular business models with the help of Zero Waste Scotland, read our circular stories.

Circular

strategies

Imagine a world where nothing is wasted in the production or use of products and materials.

Energy and primary resource use is minimised and finished products are utilised to their fullest extent.

When they can’t be used any longer, their value is captured through being refurbished, re-used or remanufactured back into high value, high quality usable products.

Circular design

Developing products or services with consideration for repair, re-use, recycling and repurposing. Designing with the whole lifecycle in mind, so products, materials and energy stay in use for as long as possible. This means gaining the maximum value from them and enabling deconstruction, repair and repurposing at end-of-life.


JML Contracts are paving the way for Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) house design in Scotland. And by using offcuts for other purposes – they’re doing it the circular way. Leftover materials are used to build bespoke garden rooms. Offcuts are even used for premium kindling. In short – nothing goes to waste.

 

Resource recovery

Creating new, higher value uses for by-products and co-products. Unlocking hidden value in existing processes by reintroducing energy, materials, products and resources back into the product lifecycle – or into the lifecycles of other products.


East Africa Sisal use sisal from discarded coffee sacks as part of the base material for their sustainable insulation products. From a business perspective, East Africa Sisal were able to cut cost, and the result is a truly circular business model that unlocks value in a ‘waste’ product.

 

Enabling
technologies

Using advanced tools and systems like data collection, sharing platforms, machine learning, asset management and tracking systems and dynamic modelling to enable circular business approaches and behaviours. Sophisticated asset tracking is the backbone of improved logistics, knowledge sharing and collaboration.


RAB Microfluidics’s ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology analyses machine-lubricating oil 1,000 times faster than commercial labs and means clients don’t have to pack up and send oil samples away for testing. Their best advice for going circular? “Don’t give up. If you’ve seen something as a need, you’ve been able to evaluate the market potential.”

 

Product as
a service

Customers pay for the service while ownership, management and responsibility of the asset remain with the manufacturer. This turns the relationship upside down, incentivising manufacturers to understand product use so they can maximise ongoing value, durability and performance.


EGG Lighting believe that lighting systems can be the backbone of the Internet of Things (IoT).  EGG’s circular design model of product as a service allows them to build a strong customer base, and a steady source of revenue. Customers save energy – and benefit from lights that can be upgraded with the latest technology, simply.

 

Leasing

Customers pay regularly for continued use of a product over an agreed time span, after which they return the product so that it can be remanufactured, repaired, re-used or recycled. The manufacturer retains ownership and responsibility for delivery, maintenance and take-back, which encourages circular design.


Leasing a product changes the relationship between manufacturer and customer. The ongoing reliability and eventual post-use value of the product becomes important to the manufacturer, which pushes them
to consider that whole lifespan in their initial design and development.

 

Remanufacture

Dismantling a product and refurbishing, repairing or replacing each part to produce a new product, with a warranty, that matches or exceeds the quality of the original. This extends the life and inherent value of the product.


Elite Contract Furniture work on a products-as-a-service (PAAS) and remanufacturing model, which allows them to retain control and have a stable income. Seemingly the first in their sector to go circular, they are self-proclaimed guinea pigs. In their own words? “It’s high risk, high reward.”

 

Re-use

Retaining a product or component’s inherent value for longer by continuing to use it for its primary intended purpose for as long as possible. Keeping a product or component in use extracts a far higher ongoing value than recycling it could.


Re-use is the simplest circular strategy there is. Continuing to use products as they were originally intended for as long as possible will always be more sustainable than creating new products, replacing products, or disposing of products. It’s a no-brainer. The Revolve Re-use quality standard is a great example of the circular economy in action.

 

Repair

Extending the life of products by maintaining or improving them through repairing or upgrading. This extends the product’s economic usefulness and value, reduces waste and saves on materials.


Manufacturers can encourage a culture of repair and extended use by designing in the ability to repair their products from day one. At a community level, it is vital to provide skills, workshop spaces and tool libraries that enable a repair culture to thrive. Enabling technologies like 3D printing or spare parts will support this shift.

 

Sharing economy

Treating products as assets that can be used by multiple customers, multiple times. Manufacturers can retain ownership and provide shared access, or customers can create peer-to-peer sharing marketplaces. Both lead products to be thought of as long-term asset investments.


Circular thinking can be applied to the provision of products, spaces and skills just as much as it can be applied directly to products. Designing products and services that are robust enough and accessible enough for shared use can help enable whole communities to embrace a circular mindset.

 

Ready to embrace the benefits of a circular approach to your business?

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