The core of CIRCULÉIRE’s Thematic Working Groups (TWG) is supporting members in their transition to circular economy. CIRCULÉIRE organised a series of Thematic Working Groups on circular economy topics that industry members have noted are critical to enabling the scale-up of circularity in their businesses and supply chains.
Each year for the duration of the programme, CIRCULÉIRE’s industry members vote on topics that they deem strategically important to enabling – or preventing – their transition to a circular economy. To date we have covered the topics of Circular bio-economy, industrial symbiosis, procurement, packaging, plastics, design, finance, end-of-waste, by-products & waste licensing.In 2023 we will be discussing CE Product Lifecycle Thinking & Sustainable Product Regulation, Digitalisation & Digital Product Passport, and Measuring Circularity.
Industry members and multi-sectoral panel members (i ncluding regulators, policymakers, solution providers, and academia) are guided through a collaborative peer learning and knowledge-sharing process through a facilitated method led by Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) in collaboration with appointed Expert Facilitators or Guest Speakers.
I found the Circular Packaging Thematic Working Group (2021) a useful way for my company to meet and exchange with diverse cross-sectoral stakeholders, and to learn about and identify concrete opportunities for circular packaging innovations with the potential to reduce waste.
– John Durkan, Vice Chair, Plastics Action Alliance
Well done to all on a fantastic thought-provoking three days regarding the transition to circularity.
– CIRCULÉIRE member Novum (about the Circular Design (2021) Ideation Workshops)
This year’s Thematic Working Group will unfold over 3 topics deemed as strategic for CIRCULEIRE industry members:
Designing products and services with a circular economy mindset, considering the entire lifecycle of products from design to disposal, and creating value through sustainable and innovative business practices.
Latest digital technologies to optimize the use of resources, reduce waste, and increase efficiency in the supply chain. importance of data-driven decision-making + how digitization can support transparency and traceability in the supply chain, as well as ensuring your business is ready to adapt to future EU regulatory changes such as Digital Product Passports.
Main measurement approaches and tools for measuring circularity, such as life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and circularity indicators. The process of measuring progress in the circular economy, and whether and how impact is highly dependent on the goals, reach, and target audiences of circular economy practitioners.
End-of-waste and by-product notifications are recognised as playing a key role in a circular economy. They do this by helping to establish a market for a wide range of secondary raw materials, improving resource management, encouraging symbiotic industrial practices, and preventing resources from being sent for disposal.
By maintaining resource value within the economy, successful application of end of waste and by-product status reduces the environmental impacts arising from waste disposal. Nevertheless, end of waste and by-product regulation is often poorly understood by certain sectors of the Irish industry, which amongst other challenges, can result in poor engagement or unsuccessful applications.
CIRCULÉIRE and our appointed expert facilitators, Karl Hylands (Re-Mine Limited), guided participants through a series of meetings, including two ideation workshops, a policy roundtable and a webinar aimed at unlocking the potential of using end-of-waste and by-products & waste licensing to advance a circular economy in Ireland.
Hosted by CIRCULÉIRE on 14th September 2022, this webinar presented the key results and innovation opportunities identified by CIRCULÉIRE’s End of Waste, By-Products & Waste Licensing Pathfinders Thematic Working Group.
Expert Facilitator, Karl Hyland from Re-Mine Limited, presented the main findings of the working group including:
• The state of play of Ireland’s end of waste and by-product policy context, and the role that this plays in driving Ireland towards circularity;
• What key lessons industry can apply when looking to prepare strong end-of-waste and/or by-product applications;
• Major barriers to circularising Ireland’s economy using these specific tools, and the recommendations identified on what’s needed to overcome them;
• Recommendations identified by CIRCULÉIRE’s cross-sectoral Thematic Working Group Panel Members about how Ireland’s end of waste and by-product regimes might be optimised for a circular economy.
Transitioning to a circular economy requires a significant increase in circular finance and funding instruments to support the development and scaling of circular economy pilots, business models and infrastructure. Yet both industry and the financial and funding sectors encounter considerable challenges.
For one, regulations, markets, investment tools and practices – including financial risk assessment, are adjusted to linear models, and negative externalities and risks linked to linear business models are largely not considered. Consequently, emergent circular business models can be perceived as being highly risky, not bankable, and can thus face added difficulties accessing funding and/or finance.
While an increasing number of circular finance instruments are coming on stream, there is a need to take a holistic, pipeline approach to developing the funding and financial landscape that serves industry needs and reflects different stages of circular business model maturity. Meanwhile, more may need to be done to increase awareness and knowledge of the circular economy within the financial and funding sectors, and ensure that there are financial instruments, and risk assessment tools, fit for financing commercial circular economy innovations.
A key aim of this multi-sectoral working group was to bring key stakeholders together from industry and the financial, funding and enterprise support ecosystem to jointly explore what opportunities there are to optimise the circular finance & funding landscape, so that it best supports Irish industry’s transition to a circular economy.
Hosted by CIRCULÉIRE on 7th October 2022, this webinar presented the key results and innovation opportunities identified by CIRCULÉIRE’s Financing Ireland’s Circular Economy Thematic Working Group. Expert Facilitators, Elizabeth Gavin (Eur Digital Village / Kilpatrick Innovation), and Kate Van Der Merwe presented the working group’s main findings, including:
• The state of play of Ireland’s circular finance and funding landscape, and the role finance can play in driving Ireland’s shift to circularity;
• Major barriers to financing Ireland’s circular economy and recommendations identified to overcome them;
• Innovation opportunities identified by CIRCULÉIRE’s cross-sectoral Thematic Working Group Panel Members about how Ireland’s funding and finance landscape might be optimised for a circular economy.
Packaging waste is a key priority of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and the Irish Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, which identifies packaging as one of the waste streams where the Extended Producer Responsibility model is to be used.
In 2018, packaging waste generated in the EU was estimated at 174 kg per inhabitant (varying from 67.8 kg per inhabitant in Croatia and 227.5 kg per inhabitant in Germany) (Eurostat, 2020). Meanwhile, Irish inhabitants are amongst the top generators of packaging waste in Europe: Ireland produced 1,127,917 tonnes of packaging waste across all materials in 2019, and has seen average recycling rates decrease since 2013 (EPA, 2021).
The Circular Packaging TWG set out to demystify the barriers and enablers to scaling up the waste reduction, reuse, and new ways to retain the value of packaging and packaging materials within the economy through circular principles.
Co-designed and co-facilitated by IMR and CIRCULÉIRE’s appointed Expert Facilitators, Mabbett & Associates Ltd, this TWG guided participants through a series of meetings, ideation workshops and webinars aimed at identifying circular innovation opportunities where Irish industry can reduce or replace their primary, secondary and tertiary packaging waste with more re-usable, re-fillable or recyclable packaging systems.
The production and consumption of plastics offer a variety of benefits (in particular low production costs, durability, and versatility) but it also poses several challenges (including loss of material value as a result of single-use and low recycling rates, and negative effects on nature, marine life, climate and human health) (EP, 2017). Of the 30 million tonnes of end-of-life plastics collected in Europe each year, today just 5 million tonnes make it back into marketable products (POLITICO, 2020). The rest is either incinerated, landfilled or exported for recycling.
To meet the ambitious European Green Deal objectives, much more plastic waste needs to be recycled and more sustainable, non-toxic and viable material substitutes also need to be found.
The chemical industry has an important role to play in achieving the transition to circular plastics – by contributing to all forms of plastics recycling: mechanical, chemical, and organic. Meanwhile, innovations in green chemistry are now making it increasingly possible for industry to substitute plastics derived from fossil resources with non-toxic, bio-based alternatives from renewable resources.
The Circular Plastics Thematic Working Group guided participants through a series of meetings, ideation workshops and webinars aimed at identifying industry-led innovation opportunities to circularise Ireland’s plastics economy.
Circular Design is a stated priority under key national and European policies such as new Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy and EU Circular Economy Action Plan. It refers to “improvements in materials selection and product design standardisation / modularisation of components, purer materials flows, and design for easier disassembly, [and lies] at the heart of a circular economy” (EMF, 2012:9).
Key to developing sustainable products, services and value chains, circular design involves looking at design issues such as design for repair and recycling; including availability of spare parts, and removing barriers to reuse and repair, so that current products and services can be redesigned with circularity at their core.
Moreover, circular design plays an important role in enabling producers to design out waste and pollution – and features prominently in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) measures contained in the Government of Ireland’s Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, which recognises the importance of eco- and smart design.
In this TWG, CIRCULÉIRE and expert facilitators, M-CO, (https://www.mco.ie/), guided participants through a series of meetings, ideation workshops and webinars that shared circular innovation opportunities, highlighting major barriers that hold back circular design in Ireland and what’s needed to overcome them. Moreover, it provided an incentive to producers to design products that contribute to waste prevention and facilitate recycling by considering their durability, reparability, reusability, recyclability and the presence of hazardous substances.
The term “bioeconomy” and the “circular economy” have gained increased attention in recent years. Both of them promote potential solutions to issues ranging from climate change to pollution as well as economic and regional development.
According to the 2012 European Bioeconomy Strategy, Bioeconomy is “the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy”. This definition cuts across several sectors including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, paper & pulp production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological, and energy industries.
Ireland has abundant bioresources that presents immense opportunities for the development of a circular bioeconomy. To explore these opportunities, the CIRCULÉIRE Circular Bioeconomy TWG was established. You can check key outputs of this process like a circa of 200-page Comprehensive Synthesis Report on circular bioeconomy opportunities in Ireland & the EU developed by the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation (IBF), based on insights from the Thematic Working Group Panel Members who participated in a number of stakeholder meetings and ideation workshops.
Industrial symbiosis has proven effective in delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits, as well as supporting transition to a more circular economy around the world.
An industry-led consortium defined industrial symbiosis for the EU as follows: “Industrial symbiosis is the use by one company or sector of underutilised resources broadly defined (including waste, by-products, residues, energy, water, logistics, capacity, expertise, equipment and materials) from another, with the result of keeping resources in productive use for longer.” [CEN 2018]
To accelerate the uptake of industrial symbiosis in Ireland, this TWG introduced the concept of industrial symbiosis and various approaches to its delivery. Examples of industrial symbiosis best practices (implementation and policy) were presented to inform how to address gaps and barriers (real or perceived) in the country.
In the Industrial Symbiosis TWG, CIRCULÉIRE and expert facilitators, International Synergies, guided participants through a series of meetings, ideation workshops and webinars that shared circular innovation opportunities.
Circular Procurement can be understood as the process by which an organisation buys works, goods, or services that seek to contribute to closed energy and material loops within supply chains, whilst minimising, and in the best case avoiding, negative environmental impacts and waste creation across their whole life cycle.
While the public sector has used procurement as a policy tool to drive change to put more sustainable and circular contracts in place, the private sector has implemented core CE principles through procurement without perhaps being aware of it. Market collaboration, life-cycle assessments, total cost of ownership (TCO) and total costs of usership (TCU) models, green and circular criteria in specifications, and end-of-life product management – all these practices already have been implemented in various industries.
In this working group, CIRCULÉIRE and expert facilitators, IDDEA, guided participants through a series of meetings, ideation workshops and webinars that shared circular innovation opportunities and understanding the current and future circular procurement opportunities in Ireland.