Getting Smarter, Going Circular: Maximising the opportunities of digital technology, innovation and collaboration

Getting Smarter, Going Circular: Maximising the opportunities of digital technology, innovation and collaboration

At last month’s ‘Found­a­tions for Innov­a­tion’ con­fer­ence organ­ised by North­ern Ireland’s Loc­al Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­ation, I presen­ted Peterborough’s Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy approach. The Future Peter­bor­ough team was invited to share our unique approach to imple­ment cir­cu­lar eco­nomy prin­ciples at a city scale, with loc­al author­it­ies across Ire­land. The con­fer­ence included a diverse range of speak­ers, aim­ing to explore the oppor­tun­it­ies of digit­al tech­no­logy, innov­a­tion and col­lab­or­a­tion and how coun­cils can har­ness these. The Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough approach def­in­itely embraces these three levers!

Digit­al tech­no­logy, innov­a­tion and col­lab­or­a­tion are very much at the centre of cir­cu­lar eco­nomy pro­jects in Peter­bor­ough, which include:

-       The innov­at­ive online resource shar­ing plat­form for organ­isa­tions in the city (Share Peter­bor­ough) is a unique digit­al tool to facil­it­ate col­lab­or­a­tion between loc­al busi­nesses, com­munity groups and schools to make the most of the resources we have loc­ally and min­im­ise waste.

-        Allia’s new Innov­a­tion Lab provides an excit­ing maker space for entre­pren­eurs to test their ideas with­in a state-of-the-art facil­ity, which received fund­ing from the European Region­al Devel­op­ment Fund and Future Peter­bor­ough (formerly Peter­bor­ough DNA).

-       The recently estab­lished Cir­cu­lar City Cham­pi­ons scheme which brings togeth­er a dynam­ic group of organ­isa­tions pas­sion­ate about driv­ing the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy agenda for­ward.

In the ‘Get­ting smart, going cir­cu­lar’ ses­sion, I was joined by Mar­tin Doher­ty from Bel­fast City Coun­cil who dis­cussed how Bel­fast are work­ing towards devel­op­ing a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy loc­ally. High­lights from the pan­el dis­cus­sion, chaired by Andrew Cas­sells from Mid Ulster Dis­trict Coun­cil, included the import­ance of mov­ing away from a purely waste man­age­ment per­spect­ive when con­sid­er­ing the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy. When we think about a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy, waste is often at the fore­front of most people’s minds! How­ever, if we are think­ing about stuff that is deemed as ‘waste’ and how to man­age it, we have already missed out on some valu­able cir­cu­lar eco­nomy oppor­tun­it­ies. The cir­cu­lar eco­nomy aims to design out waste, so we need to go back and rethink how products, ser­vices, busi­ness mod­els and sys­tems are designed. In Peter­bor­ough, we apply this think­ing by using our 7 Rs – our prac­tic­al steps towards cre­at­ing a Cir­cu­lar City. These include Rethink; Redesign; Repur­pose, Reuse and Share; Repair; Reman­u­fac­ture; Recycle and Recov­er.

At the city level, the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy should cer­tainly stretch fur­ther than waste man­age­ment and con­sider how silos across the city can be broken down in order to rethink how resources are used and redesign sys­tems to ensure resources can remain cir­cu­lat­ing in the eco­nomy for as long as pos­sible. This requires think­ing at a stra­tegic level and enga­ging with a range of dif­fer­ent stake­hold­er to co-cre­ate innov­at­ive solu­tions.

Whil­st the speak­ers dis­cussed the oppor­tun­it­ies avail­able to those involved in devel­op­ing cir­cu­lar eco­nom­ies, ques­tions from the audi­ence focused on how to encour­age a beha­vi­our change in cit­izens so they can play a role in cre­at­ing a more cir­cu­lar eco­nomy. In my opin­ion, this needs to be a mix­ture of tar­geted cam­paigns to pro­mote a mind­set shift away from throwaway cul­ture, and top down poli­cy change to facil­it­ate wider changes. Key to this, is chan­ging how we value resources. As con­sumers, a fun­da­ment­al change is needed in how we value the products we use, food we pur­chase and even the pack­aging we dis­card. This change is needed to ensure that we make the most of what we have and take appro­pri­ate action when we have ‘fin­ished’ using the resource, wheth­er that be using items for longer, going to the effort of repair­ing a broken house­hold appli­ance rather than buy­ing a new one, tak­ing your old clothes to a char­ity shop, or recyc­ling your old phone.

One chal­lenge raised dur­ing the con­fer­ence related to how iPads and iPhones destined for land­fill could be repur­posed and reused. A del­eg­ate ques­tioned wheth­er we could give these to those that need them. Although this was not imme­di­ately recog­nised as a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy ini­ti­at­ive, it is a great example of one that could have a massive impact on people in cit­ies.

Using tech­no­logy, innov­a­tion and col­lab­or­a­tion, loc­al author­it­ies can cer­tainly drive the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy agenda for­ward and cre­ate cit­ies in which we make the most of the resources that are avail­able loc­ally.

To find out more about the Found­a­tions for Innov­a­tion con­fer­ence, take a look at the Con­fer­ence Report.

Katie Thomas,

Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy Pro­ject Officer

Can the sharing economy actually help the planet?

Can the sharing economy actually help the planet?

With the grow­ing scarcity of raw mater­i­als coupled with the increas­ing pres­sures for skills, ser­vices, hous­ing, and oth­er spaces, the shar­ing eco­nomy is increas­ingly seen as an appeal­ing solu­tion to the chal­lenges we face in cit­ies. But how sus­tain­able is the shar­ing eco­nomy? Does it ful­fil its prom­ises of improv­ing resource pro­ductiv­ity, redu­cing CO2 emis­sions and min­im­ising waste?


Most not­able shar­ing eco­nomy plat­forms include Airb­nb, Uber, TaskRab­bit and Bor­row My Doggy. The basic prin­ciple behind shar­ing eco­nomy or col­lab­or­at­ive con­sump­tion mod­els is the idea that if we can ‘share’ or ‘bor­row’ resources from each oth­er, we can increase the amount of value we receive from these resources, increas­ing resource effi­ciency and pro­ductiv­ity. 


Back in Decem­ber 2016, we launched Share Peter­bor­ough, becom­ing the first UK city to develop a B2B resource shar­ing plat­form. Allow­ing organ­isa­tions to share unused and under-util­ised resources, the online plat­form aims to ensure that we are mak­ing the most of the resources that we have in the city. This includes products and equip­ment, as well as spaces and people’s skills. Enabling an organ­isa­tion to find value in another organisation’s ‘waste’ intends to dir­ectly con­trib­ute to improv­ing resource effi­ciency and pro­ductiv­ity, whil­st min­im­ising waste in the city. 


Our exist­ing suc­cess stor­ies on the Share Peter­bor­ough plat­form sug­gest that there are real social, eco­nom­ic and envir­on­ment­al bene­fits from the shar­ing eco­nomy. Recent suc­cess stor­ies include Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil donat­ing a num­ber of unused desk fans to a loc­al hos­pice, Thorpe Hall Sue Ryder Hos­pice; a loc­al sta­tion­ery com­pany (Wal­ters Ltd) provid­ing an under-util­ised con­fer­ence room to a num­ber of busi­nesses in the city; the shar­ing of con­fer­ence exhib­i­tion equip­ment between loc­al organ­isa­tions; and Coca Cola European Part­ners offer­ing tele­phone equip­ment they no longer needed to oth­er organ­isa­tions in exchange for a small dona­tion to char­ity.


Shar­ing eco­nomy plat­forms, whereby mon­et­ary trans­ac­tions take place, are often cri­ti­cised for not being genu­inely part of the ‘shar­ing’ eco­nomy. In Peter­bor­ough, we’re work­ing hard to cre­ate a real shar­ing eth­os across the city, in which organ­isa­tions can share skills, know­ledge, spaces, products and oth­er under-util­ised assets free of charge. We’ve recently made the plat­form access­ible to schools and com­munity organ­isa­tions, ensur­ing that the bene­fits are exten­ded bey­ond the busi­nesses com­munity. We’re aim­ing to cre­ate a vibrant online shar­ing com­munity, con­nect­ing a diverse range of organ­isa­tions with each oth­er.


 So can the shar­ing eco­nomy actu­ally help the plan­et? Yes, we believe that shar­ing eco­nomy mod­els, such as Share Peter­bor­ough, put people and the plan­et at the heart of the loc­al eco­nomy. In the case of Share Peter­bor­ough, the plat­form fosters col­lab­or­a­tion between organ­isa­tions and cre­ates social value, whil­st pro­mot­ing more sus­tain­able resource use through facil­it­at­ing oppor­tun­it­ies to share, reuse and repur­pose a num­ber of dif­fer­ent assets. Through shar­ing resources, you can help care for loc­al com­munit­ies and the plan­et. To max­im­ise the pos­it­ive impacts of the Share Peter­bor­ough plat­form, we need more busi­nesses and oth­er organ­isa­tions in the city to get involved.

If you’re a loc­al Peter­bor­ough organ­isa­tion you can join the plat­form for free and start shar­ing, swap­ping and sav­ing today: .


Businesses Discuss Peterborough’s Circular Future

Businesses Discuss Peterborough’s Circular Future

Over 40 busi­ness del­eg­ates from organ­isa­tions across Peter­bor­ough have helped to define how the city can meas­ure its pro­gress towards cre­at­ing a Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy.

By adopt­ing cir­cu­lar eco­nom­ic prin­ciples, the Depart­ment for Envir­on­ment, Food and Rur­al Affairs (DEFRA) cal­cu­lates that UK busi­nesses could bene­fit by up to £23 bil­lion per year through low cost or no cost improve­ments in the effi­cient use of resources.[1]

Facil­it­ated by the Future Peter­bor­ough pro­gram­me, dis­cus­sions at a recent work­shop centred around how the city and organ­isa­tions could improve under­stand­ing, facil­it­ate change and chart suc­cess with­in the 7 Rs — rethink, redesign, repair, reuse, reman­u­fac­ture, recycle and recov­er products and ser­vices. These are the sev­en pil­lars that form the found­a­tion of the Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough Com­mit­ment.

This Com­mit­ment has set out the city’s approach to cre­at­ing a Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough and is a Future Peter­bor­ough ini­ti­at­ive delivered by Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough and Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil. Devel­op­ing a Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy means encour­aging col­lab­or­a­tion across the city to max­im­ise the life­cycle of products and ser­vices, help­ing organ­isa­tions save money by redu­cing waste, envir­on­ment­al impact and reli­ance on raw mater­i­als and nat­ur­al resources, whil­st mak­ing bet­ter use of our resources, mater­i­als, products, prop­er­ty and people.

Organ­isa­tions that took part in the work­shop included Queens­gate, Skanska, Allia, Per­kins, Cross Keys Homes, Wal­ters and AECOM.

Examples of pro­jects that con­trib­ute towards a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy that are already under­way in Peter­bor­ough include:

  • Cross Keys Homes’ Food Cycle pro­ject which uses excess food from loc­al super­mar­kets and stores to com­bat food pover­ty.
  • Share Peter­bor­ough, a free busi­ness to busi­ness online shar­ing plat­form that is help­ing organ­isa­tions in the city to share resources.
  • Regen­er­a­tion work at the Rail­world Wild­life Haven reused and repur­posed items – like using scrap metal pipes to build hand­rails and old aque­ducts to cre­ate walk­ways.

Del­eg­ates were joined by The Ellen MacAr­thur Found­a­tion, a glob­al thought-lead­ing char­ity work­ing with decision makers in busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and aca­demia to drive the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy agenda. Peter­bor­ough is part of the Foundation’s exclus­ive Cir­cu­lar Cit­ies Net­work which includes New York, Rio de Janeiro and Copen­ha­gen.

Julia Vol, Port­fo­lio Man­ager from the Ellen MacAr­thur Found­a­tion said, “It was inspir­ing to see how a small city such as Peter­bor­ough is tak­ing big steps to intro­duce a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy approach, look­ing to strengthen the loc­al busi­ness com­munity and improve qual­ity of life for the city’s res­id­ents.”

Steve Bow­yer, Chief Exec­ut­ive of Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough said, “The work­shop has provided some prac­tic­al steps for the Future Peter­bor­ough team in how we meas­ure the city’s pro­gress towards cre­at­ing a Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough and we’re grate­ful to all the busi­nesses, and organ­isa­tions such as the Ellen MacAr­thur Found­a­tion, who con­trib­uted their time and expert­ise.

Hav­ing a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy could save busi­nesses thou­sands of pounds by max­im­ising their use of resources whil­st sig­ni­fic­antly improv­ing busi­ness effi­ciency and redu­cing envir­on­ment­al impact. Organ­isa­tions may already be doing a lot with­in the 7Rs and we want to build on the expert­ise and good prac­tice already in place with­in Peter­bor­ough to max­im­ise oppor­tun­it­ies.”


City businesses commit to creating a Circular Economy by 2050

City businesses commit to creating a Circular Economy by 2050

City organ­isa­tions includ­ing Roy­al Haskon­ing DHV, Skanska, Viridor and Coca Cola, Free Think­ing, I3 Media and Rail­world, today atten­ded a sign­ing cere­mony com­mit­ting sup­port to cre­ate a Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough by 2050.

Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough, a Future Peter­bor­ough ini­ti­at­ive, delivered by Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough and Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil, encour­ages col­lab­or­at­ive work­ing across the city to max­im­ise the life­cycle of products and ser­vices, driv­ing great­er resource pro­ductiv­ity, redu­cing envir­on­ment­al impact and address­ing declin­ing nat­ur­al resource issues in the future.

The Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough Com­mit­ment sets out an approach: rethink­ing; redesign­ing; repair­ing; repur­pos­ing, reusing and shar­ing; reman­u­fac­tur­ing; recyc­ling and recov­er­ing products and ser­vices – the 7 Rs which enables the city to make the most of loc­al resources, sup­port eco­nom­ic resi­li­ence, develop strong com­munit­ies and increase envir­on­ment­al sus­tain­ab­il­ity.  Organ­isa­tions who have signed the com­mit­ment are act­ively involved in devel­op­ing pilot pro­jects and ini­ti­at­ives which encour­age a more sus­tain­able approach to busi­ness in our city.

Steve Bow­yer, Chief Exec­ut­ive of Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough and Pro­ject Dir­ect­or of the Future Cit­ies Pro­gram­me said ‘Put simply, if we con­tin­ue to use resources at the cur­rent rate, we will need three plan­ets worth to sup­port future gen­er­a­tions.  Cre­at­ing a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy here in Peter­bor­ough starts at grass­roots with city busi­nesses com­mit­ting to rethink the way they oper­ate’.

Paul Row­land, Region­al Man­ager for Viridor added of the com­mit­ment: “Peter­bor­ough is at the fore­front of devel­op­ing a more resource effi­cient UK. As a city we must look to reduce the amount of waste we pro­duce, recycle as much as pos­sible and then at the Energy Recov­ery Facil­ity we work closely with Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil to trans­form what res­id­ents throw away in their bins into power­ing homes in the city along with sup­port­ing loc­al busi­nesses to divert waste away from land­fill. By com­mit­ting to the Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough ini­ti­at­ive we will be able to sup­port the City as it grows in the future devel­op­ing a more resi­li­ent and suc­cess­ful place to live.”

Local resource sharing platform for businesses reaches milestone registration

Local resource sharing platform for businesses reaches milestone registration

The UK’s first busi­ness to busi­ness resource shar­ing plat­form to be developed by a city, Share Peter­bor­ough, is cel­eb­rat­ing its 100th regis­tra­tion.

The eclectic mix of busi­nesses means that among­st the first 100 mem­bers are inter­na­tion­al brands like Coca-Cola European Part­ners and Skanska, loc­al busi­nesses Ser­pent­ine Green and Rawl­in­sons Soli­cit­ors, and char­it­ies like Thorpe Hall Hos­pice and Rail­world Wild­life Haven.

Developed jointly and launched in Decem­ber by Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough and Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil, Share Peter­bor­ough has received keen interest from the city’s busi­ness com­munity who can use it free of charge to share their resources that are either no longer needed or are under-util­ised.

 Bread for Brew­ing and tele­phone sys­tems are among­st the grow­ing num­ber of products, skills and places becom­ing avail­able on the new shar­ing plat­form:

  • Excess bread for brew­ing from Cross Keys Homes’ Food Cycle hub in Peter­bor­ough which aims to use food waste to com­bat food pover­ty. Tak­ing inspir­a­tion from oth­er cit­ies facing sim­il­ar chal­lenges, like Glas­gow, the organ­isa­tion is look­ing for a micro-brew­ery to use the sur­plus bread to brew beer.
  • A com­plete tele­phone sys­tem includ­ing phones, head­sets and com­puter screens, lis­ted by Coca-Cola, avail­able in return for a dona­tion to their chosen char­ity.
  • Meet­ing spaces with­in the city. As an example, Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough took up an offer from Peter­bor­ough Region­al Col­lege to share their con­fer­ence space for the Future Peter­bor­ough team to deliv­er a free work­shop in March.

The plat­form was developed as part of the Future Peter­bor­ough pro­gram­me, run by eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment com­pany, Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough and Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil. Share Peter­bor­ough aims to help develop a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy with­in the city, by allow­ing organ­isa­tions to reduce waste, find new uses for items they no longer need and ensure the their resources are used to max­im­um capa­city.

Steve Bow­yer, Chief Exec­ut­ive at Oppor­tun­ity Peter­bor­ough said, “There are so many resources avail­able in Peter­bor­ough but, until now, the biggest chal­lenge has been how to make these resources avail­able to oth­er organ­isa­tions, rather than wasted.

Share Peter­bor­ough is really help­ing to stim­u­late col­lab­or­a­tion, sav­ing busi­nesses time and money by ensur­ing they avoid waste by max­im­iz­ing the use of all kinds of resources.”

To find out more about Share Peter­bor­ough and to register your busi­ness for free, vis­it:

Bringing the Circular Economy to life – How does it really work?

This is the second part of a two-part series on the Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy. You can read the first part here.

In my first blog, I talked about why a Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy could be a solu­tion to some of the biggest chal­lenges we are facing today through a grow­ing urb­an pop­u­la­tion increas­ing the pres­sure on our planet’s resources, whil­st waste piles up. Let’s now look at what the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy looks like in prac­tice.

The media have recently covered stor­ies that at a first glance do not seem related.

Food waste has been under the spot­light, with the help of a few fam­ous chefs. In the UK, Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­ting­stall fea­tures his War on Waste cam­paign on BBC One. World-wide celebrity chefs grasped the oppor­tun­ity behind the scene of Rio’s Olympic Games, by cre­at­ing a gour­met soup kit­chen, Refet­toRio Gast­ro­mo­t­iv­aby, cook­ing meals for the home­less with the Games sup­pli­ers’ unwanted and excess food.

On the tech­no­logy front and for the first time in his­tory, SpaceX, who launches satel­lites and space sta­tion sup­ply mis­sions, suc­ceeded in land­ing a reusable rock­et on an ocean plat­form after deliv­er­ing an inflat­able hab­it­at into space for NASA. It prom­ises a much less costly future for space flights.

Apple released Liam. Not a new iPhone, but an innov­at­ive robot with 29 arms, who takes apart returned iPhone 6 devices in only 11 seconds to recov­er its pre­cious com­pon­ents, such as alu­mini­um, cop­per, cobalt, gold and sil­ver parts. A prom­ising solu­tion to tackle e-waste for the com­pany that sold over 231m phones in 2015.

So what do these celebrity chefs, NASA and Apple have in com­mon?

An act­ive role in a Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy. Don’t get me wrong, they might not even be aware of the Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy con­cept. Yet each of them, for dif­fer­ent motives, are show­cas­ing how it works. They clearly acknow­ledge the oppor­tun­ity that lies between volat­ile or increas­ing sup­ply prices and ever increas­ing piles of waste. Why should you spend so much for brand new sup­plies, when in fact your industry’s waste has tons of per­fectly good com­pon­ents you could reuse? Why waste tons of food when mil­lions are fam­ished, even in the UK?

So wait, what exactly is a Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy?

The Cir­cu­lar Economy’s rais­on d’etre is to reduce the neg­at­ive eco­nom­ic, social and envir­on­ment­al impacts our cur­rent sys­tem gen­er­ates. Win-win scen­ari­os can be cre­ated by tap­ping into the wealth of resources hid­den in our bins. It reduces the raw mater­i­als needed to launch space rock­ets or to assemble smart phones, sav­ing com­pan­ies and cli­ents money in the pro­cess. In the case of the Chefs, redu­cing food waste can actu­ally tackle food pover­ty. By learn­ing from their les­sons and tips, we can also reduce our own food bill.

The cir­cu­lar eco­nomy pro­poses an altern­at­ive way to make, use and get rid of our things, so they can last longer, have mul­tiple adapt­able uses, and are eas­ily taken apart to recov­er what’s still valu­able in them. Think about what hap­pens in nature, where noth­ing is really lost. The prin­ciples are sim­il­ar here. Have a look at the Ellen MacAr­thur anim­a­tion that explains it, it’s bril­liant. Or the cod fish story, like those sold in our super­mar­kets, as it’s quite enlight­en­ing.

Now, how does it work?

Most people are already famil­i­ar with the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mot­to.

In Peter­bor­ough, we believe there are 7 ways to achieve a cir­cu­lar eco­nomy, the 7R’s.

  1. Rethink We take many things for gran­ted, not really ask­ing ques­tion as to why they are done the way they are. But as cli­ents and con­sumers, it’s our demand that actu­ally shapes the mar­kets, so we have a bit of power in our hands, and we should use it more.So let’s think dif­fer­ently about resources, remem­ber­ing they’re not only mater­i­als and products, but also cap­it­al and people. We can look for more eco­nom­ic­ally viable and sus­tain­able solu­tions for the products and ser­vices that sur­round us.

    For instance, do we need to own all the stuff we’ve got that accu­mu­lates in our gar­ages and cup­boards, likely all for­got­ten about in no time? Drills are used on aver­age 13 minutes in their life­time. Could we lease one when needed, rather than buy it? Par­is and Toron­to are going there, with their “res­sourcer­ie” or Tool Lib­rary.

    As a com­pany, rethink­ing your oper­a­tions pro­cesses might reveal lots of eco­nom­ic oppor­tun­it­ies, just as Brit­ish Sug­ar has. The Wiss­ing­ton plant is a great example of how you can make the most of what you have, even rocks and dirty water. It also makes strong eco­nom­ic sense whil­st decreas­ing the company’s envir­on­ment­al foot­print and boost­ing their image.

  1. Redesign is all about cre­at­ing things that last longer. Things con­ceived to be mod­u­lar, thus easi­er to upgrade, repair, pull apart, reuse and recycle. It is not only sens­ible envir­on­ment­ally; it does make a lot of busi­ness sense. It should also help reverse the pro­grammed obsol­es­cence logic. That is the fact that your pro­duct starts to dys­func­tion right after its war­ranty expires, or forces you to buy a whole new phone when only the bat­tery died and could have been replaced.The best example here is the Fair­phone 2, the first mod­u­lar mobile phone that is eth­ic­ally sourced and made to last, as it is designed for its own­er to upgrade and repair it eas­ily. As any first of its kind, it’s not cheap. Just as expens­ive as the latest smart phones on the mar­ket.

    With their Eco­Design pro­cess, Philips is rely­ing on 6 green innov­a­tion areas that change how they design their products. On top of real­ising sav­ings, the com­pany gen­er­ates new rev­en­ues and boosts its brand’s pop­ular­ity.

    Build­ings can also be redesigned. Icon­ic of our cit­ies’ iden­tit­ies and built to last dec­ades, without any clue on how they’ll actu­ally be used in 10 or 50 years. Using mod­u­lar design that allows for flex­ib­il­ity in our fast-chan­ging times is an emer­ging theme. Arup gave it a thought, if you want to see how our build­ings might look like in a not-too dis­tant future.

  1. Reuse What you don’t want or need any­more can still be very valu­able for oth­ers. This is where we enter the Shar­ing Eco­nomy world that we are all famil­i­ar with, thanks to the likes of Airb­nb. We can all take part in this dynam­ic land­scape, by simply donat­ing stuff, time and know­ledge, or by selling and buy­ing second-hand products.In Peter­bor­ough, we have great examples: Rail­world and its Wild­life Heav­en run thanks to volun­teers and donated items, includ­ing the bridge con­nect­ing the site across the River Nene. Peter­bor­ough Reuse not only diverts a stream of waste from land­fill to cre­ate bags for life, but trains loc­al women in deprived com­munit­ies for that pur­pose. Cross Keys Homes has partnered with Food Cycle to use super­mar­kets food sur­pluses that would oth­er­wise be binned. They train volun­teers to cook healthy meals offered to deprived com­munit­ies.

    Also keep an eye for the upcom­ing Share Peter­bor­ough. An online B2B plat­form where organ­isa­tions can share and source resources such as office items, skills or meet­ing rooms with oth­ers in the city.

  2. Repair Before filling up our bins, we should attempt to repair broken items. This might be chal­len­ging, as we’ve lost many repair skills in recent times. Yet the trend is chan­ging. The rise of repair cafés, with their pos­it­ive social impacts, and bike-doc­tors shows the grow­ing appet­ite for such things.There are oth­er ways to help in fix­ing our stuff. Man­u­fac­tur­ers can share user-guides on how to repair their products eas­ily. As a cus­tom­er, we can learn how to mend our broken items by fol­low­ing online tutori­als.
  3. Reman­u­fac­ture This is an excit­ing eco­nom­ic oppor­tun­ity for com­pan­ies. Reman­u­fac­tur­ing means tak­ing back items once they reach their end of life, recov­er­ing the usable com­pon­ents or mater­i­als in them and then pro­du­cing either by-products, detach­able items or new ones with the recovered mater­i­als. Take-back schemes and leas­ing rather than buy­ing products offer great incent­ives for both busi­nesses and their cli­ents.Cater­pil­lar is a great loc­al example, with Per­kins Engines design­ing for reman­u­fac­tur­ing since 1973.
  4. Recycle The most fam­ous R of all. We all know it exists, wheth­er we do it or not. And it’s still a very import­ant part of the cir­cu­lar eco­nomy. Yet it’s not the thing we should be doing first, but rather last. If your items can’t be repaired, reused or reman­u­fac­tured, then it’s time to recycle, and only then. Lots of every­day items can be recycled includ­ing paper, plastic, metals or elec­tron­ic items. Food too, to become com­post, fuel or energy. All of us can do it, no mat­ter where we are.Some com­pan­ies are also fully embra­cing the recyc­ling path, such as Coca Cola and their new 100% recycled bottles – bottles made out of recycled mater­i­al and by-plant products. The com­pany goes a bit fur­ther, involving reg­u­lat­ors and ask­ing them for a “leap of faith” in cir­cu­lar eco­nomy to over­come legis­lat­ive bar­ri­ers in such innov­at­ive approaches.
  5. Recov­er – Not as fam­ous as recyc­ling, recov­er­ing should be the very last option. It basic­ally con­sists of burn­ing waste to turn it into energy. It is quite con­tro­ver­sial, as it requires strict sort­ing of waste to avoid burn­ing stuff that would be much more valu­able in the pre­vi­ous reuse, reman­u­fac­ture or recycle loops.In Peter­bor­ough, we have our own Energy Recov­ery Facil­ity. Run by Viridor, it diverts 90% of resid­ual house­hold waste from land­fill and provides energy to 15,000 homes in the city. The facil­ity accepts com­mer­cial waste too.

Is that it? Well, almost.

You’re right. It will take some time to achieve a full trans­ition, and it won’t be a smooth jour­ney as chan­ging mind-sets is a chal­lenge. It will require edu­ca­tion­al sup­port at all ages and a trust in open data and new tech­no­logy as great ena­blers. The poten­tial is there, and the prom­ising bene­fits and val­ues are start­ing to flour­ish.

Whil­st many people will tell you that Cir­cu­lar Eco­nomy needs to be triggered by pion­eers from the private sec­tor, each of us can actu­ally play our part in the 7Rs wheel, both at home and at work.

There are many oth­er examples to illus­trate each R. If you’re already doing any­thing along these lines or know of people and organ­isa­tions that are, no mat­ter how they’re call­ing or labelling their pro­jects, please do let us know. Map­ping Peterborough’s diverse cir­cu­lar actions is a strong first step to achieve our ambi­tious Cir­cu­lar Peter­bor­ough goal.