Motorway crash barriers are one of those things that we see, yet don’t see. They perform a vital role but, rather like electricity pylons, are so ubiquitous that most of us never give them a passing thought. Unless you are Scottish businessman Geoff Crowley that is. Geoff has spent the last 20 years thinking about motorway crash barriers and how to stop the huge waste that happens when the rust sets in and they are scrapped.
His company, Highland Galvanizers, is pioneering a new way of extending the lifespan of these essential, yet often invisible, pieces of infrastructure, preventing significant unnecessary waste and potentially making huge savings to the public purse.
Finding a business opportunity between the whisky and aquaculture industries, MiAlgae is making moves on commercial micro algae production.
MiAlgae is sitting just where a circular economy business should – right in the middle of things.
This young Edinburgh-based company is taking nutrient by-product from whisky distilling and using it to grow omega-3-rich microalgae. The algae can be processed and sold as a rich feed supplement. It’s a great example of circular economy working where a low value product is turned into a high value product.
They now extract its nanocellulose fibres and use them to create Curran® – a versatile material that has the ability to transform industrial applications.
This is resource recovery at its finest. The process is efficient and sustainable. Most importantly from a business perspective, the output is highly effective and high value. Curran® can be used across a broad range of industrial applications. It can also be used in cosmetics, detergents and home cleaning products. And it works – brilliantly.
Ultimately, Curran® has the ability to help reduce the use of harsher chemicals in materials, without affecting a product’s performance. And all this from material once considered ‘waste’. This is huge for industry, and consumers. Plus, research and development continues. Because in a circular model, there’s always room for innovation.
But it’s not just about reducing energy consumption; it’s about cutting waste. They noticed that businesses weren’t considering a lighting fixture’s end-of-life. Their solution? Design light fittings that would last as long as buildings – with parts that can be replaced, so entire fixtures wouldn’t have to be disposed of to fix small faults.
When a fixture does eventually reach the end of its life, EGG buy it back and refurbish it. So it all comes full circle.
This ‘product as a service’ and circular design model allows EGG to build a strong customer base, and a steady source of revenue. Customers save energy – and benefit from lights that can be simply upgraded with the latest technology.
Asset management and smart technology? They’ve got that covered too.
Enter JML Contracts – a building and civil engineering company who have been waste-conscious since day one.
Working in remote locations has always meant using materials to their fullest, and not transporting excess supplies to site without reason. Specialising in modular construction with pre-fabricated panels, JML 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.
Now, with the help of Zero Waste Scotland, they’re evolving their ‘product as a service’ and remanufacturing model even further.
They originally sourced all of their raw material from small-scale farms in East Africa. Once they heard about the idea of a circular economy, they wondered how they could move to a resource recovery model instead.
The answer? Discarded coffee sacks filling landfills around the UK. These are made from sisal, and although sisal is biodegradable, throwing it away still isn’t a great way to operate. So, the recycled sacks and sustainably sourced sisal are now blended to make a more sustainable base material. The result is a truly circular business model that still helps farmers in East Africa trade their way out of poverty.
From a business perspective, East Africa Sisal were able to cut cost and unlock value in a ‘waste’ product. As a company whose values lined up with a circular model – it just made sense.
Working with companies in the oil and gas, aerospace and defence, processing and manufacturing, power generation, transport and maritime industries, their net is cast wide.
Their circular business model centres on enabling technologies. Their ‘lab-on-a-chip’ method analyses machine lubricating oil right there on location 1,000 times faster than fixed-site commercial labs. This means clients don’t have to pack up and send oil samples away for testing. Costs are cut. Resources are saved.
This kind of emerging technology reinvents how and where the workforce is used. With less time spent on maintenance and repair, staff are freed up to use their skills elsewhere.
Their best advice for going circular? “Don’t give up. If you think your idea is solid and you’ve validated it and seen something as a need, you’ve been able to evaluate what the market potential is.”
Ultimately, Elite Contract Furniture are moving to a subscription model that allows clients to enjoy a service, rather than just a product.
A huge part of this is refurbishing products and extending their life, but Elite are looking at their supply chain too, with an aim to start sourcing materials more locally.
Working with a products-as-a-service (PAAS) and remanufacturing model allows Elite to retain control, and generate a stable income. They’re at the start of their journey, so an exciting shift lies ahead.
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.”