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Circular Economy in Wales

Dr Daryn Taylor & Dr Farzaneh Hafezi
15 October 2019

Rhys Charles SWMA Dinner

The team had a great night at the SWMA annual dinner in October 2019, and one of the highlights of the evening was a fantastic talk from Dr Rhys Charles on Circular Economy. 

During the 1970s, Walter Stahel deduced that the then current linear economy model would no longer suitable due to an increasing demand for raw materials, and the huge accumulation of waste in industry. The term circular economy basically refers to a model of production and consumption alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose).

By adopting a more circular economy, resources are kept in use for as long as possible, and the maximum value is extracted from them whilst in use. After use the materials are recovered and regenerated.

As well as creating new opportunities for growth, circular economy aims are to reduce waste, to deliver a more competitive economy, to better position the country to address emerging resource security/scarcity issues in the future, and ultimately to help reduce the environmental impact of our consumption.  The end goal is to maximise resources through remanufacturing old products, by planning smartly and by keeping materials and products in use for as long as possible and circulating them in a design procedure with whole life cycle in mind.

The concept of circular economy goes further than just products, including design, business models, reverse networks and enabling conditions. For each of them a number of research and development problem definitions were prepared which may help develop a more circular business process. 

In Wales, WRAP (Waste &Resources Action Programme) working with the Welsh Government, have recently commissioned a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The report helps to identify how we can implement the benefits of the circular economy model in Wales.

It is thought that Wales, because of its sustained pursuit of recycling and resource-efficient strategies, is ideally placed to move forward with the circular economy model.

Key findings

  • Wales now has an opportunity to build a leading position with its resource efficient and progressive strategies, this new ground will also bring along opportunities to capitalise. 
  • Using a detailed and defined roadmap to build a circular economy will not only reduce the dependency on raw materials in Wales, but it will also have a positive impact on jobs and increase efficiency within agricultural systems this is on top of the overall net financial gain expected.
  • It’s possible that £2bn a year in material cost savings could be gained through transitioning to advanced circular processes. 

Currently, there is an opportunity for Wales to begin a new period of growth that will be both Wales-centric and resilient. This in turn will bring about meaningful employment for the Welsh workforce and a modernisation of its industry.

Read the full report

Further Reading

Circular economy: definition, importance and benefits

What is the Circular Economy and What Does it Mean for You?