Glasgow aims to be Scotland’s ‘first circular city’

A view of GlasgowGlasgow has announced ambitions to become Scotland’s ‘first circular city’, with plans to publish a ‘route map’ to circularity next year.

The announcement came at this year’s Circular Economy Hotspot, an international conference focused on sharing knowledge and ideas around the circular economy. Sustainable business practices across Scotland were showcased at the event, which was held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow (30 October – 1 November).

Glasgow City Council has said it is aiming both to reduce the amount of waste it produces, and to focus on reusing all waste that is generated. Its ‘Circular Economy Route Map’, to be published in 2019, will focus on five key areas: food, textiles, energy, plastics and the built environment. One specific commitment announced at the Hotspot event was for 15 per cent of the city’s homes to be powered by renewable energy by 2030.

Driving the move towards a circular economy in the city is Circular Glasgow, a project launched in 2017 in partnership with Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Zero Waste Scotland and Circle Economy, and funded with help from the European Regional Development Fund.

Aiming to support Glasgow businesses to cut down on waste and make financial savings at the same time, Circular Glasgow initially carried out a ‘scan’ of the city to assess the potential for moving towards a circular economy.

The organisation has also set up a series of ‘challenges’, facilitated through the Circle Lab, which is an online crowdsourcing platform designed to find circular solutions to global challenges. The first challenge, launched in March this year, asked how SMEs can improve the legacy of major city events and prolong the positive impacts that come with hosting them.

Lectern made from reused computer parts at the Circular Economy Hotspot
Circularity in action: The lectern at the CEHotspot was made by reuse organisation Edinburgh Remakery using repurposed computer parts
Commenting on the new circular commitment for Glasgow, Councillor Susan Aitken said: “The First Minister has announced today that the opportunity for Scotland in embracing the circular economy runs into the billions of pounds. I want Glasgow to be at the forefront of seizing that opportunity.

“The work done by the Chamber of Commerce and Zero Waste Scotland in Circular Glasgow has already put us far ahead of most of our competitors but the opportunities really are limitless. Our Route Map will point a way to building better homes and communities, reducing food insecurity and playing our part in dealing with the world’s addiction to single-use plastic.

“Increasing the number of homes powered by renewable or circular energy to 15 per cent by 2030 is an ambitious target but we will need to be ambitious in the coming years."

Tips for circular cities

Speaking at the Circular Economy Hotspot on Wednesday (31 October), Rebecca Ricketts of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce gave her top three tips to other cities looking to begin their circular transition.

  1. Use simple language – Ricketts said it was important to communicate the circular economy concept and its benefits in a clear and accessible manner. “Clear communication erases uncertainty and brings people together with a common sense of purpose,” she explained.
  2. Champion diversity – She spoke on “harnessing the power of crowds” through the Circle Lab, gathering expertise from “a melting pot of different perspectives, ideas and experiences”.
  3. Recruit local heroes – It’s important, Ricketts concluded, to find people who “champion and support your vision… Through a shared sense of purpose, and teamwork, collaborations can bring about some of the greatest results”.

The importance of collaboration

This focus on collaboration was repeated throughout the Circular Economy Hotspot, including by keynote speaker Janez Potocnik, co-chair of the United Nations International Resource Panel (IRP) and, from 2010 to 2014, EU Commissioner for the Environment.

Potocnik spoke on his work pioneering the circular economy in Europe, saying that what was once “the dream of a few” was now “the reality of many”. With the EU’s comprehensive Circular Economy Package becoming law in June this year, and with delegates from around 20 countries worldwide attending the conference this week, the concept is clearly gathering momentum. But in order to stimulate further progress, Potocnik said, more cooperation is needed, because the world is “more interconnected and interdependent than ever”.

Building a global circular economy, he added, would be the most important instrument to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 12 (‘to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’). He also stated that SDG 12 should be the central focus of governments going forward, as achieving sustainable resource use would have the widest impact across the other 16 goals.

To achieve this, Potocnik stated that circular economy route maps – like the one announced for Glasgow – should be present in every government, ensuring that the circular economy remains at the top of the agenda on city, country and global levels.