Glasgow, with a population of roughly 600,000 is Scotland’s largest city. With a pioneering industrial past, Glasgow is now a modern and cultural city. It is in this pioneering spirit that Glasgow aims to develop a circular economy.
What is the circular economy?
“Reduce. Reuse. Recycle” is the holy trinity when it comes to minimising waste. Like many other people, I am guilty of only considering recycling, and if it can’t be recycled, it tends to be thrown away.
The circular economy is an economic model that directly challenges the current “take, make and dispose” model of our throwaway society. Coined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it is described as “restorative and regenerative by design” and is built around 3 main principles:
- To preserve and enhance natural capital
- To optimise resource yields
- To foster system effectiveness
The saying is that one man’s trash is another’s treasure; the circular economy extrapolates this idea, and it can be applied on much larger, city wide scales, allowing for the promotion of resource minimisation and the adoption of cleaner technologies (Andersen, 1999).
How is Glasgow aiming to become one?
In 2016 a “Circle City Scan” was commissioned to analyse Glasgow’s material flows, and look at how the city could become more circular in its economy. Whilst the report analysed three of the major economic sectors, the sector that was found to have the largest potential in terms of circularity was the food and drink sub-sector of manufacturing. This industry uses over 51% of the total resources consumed by all three sectors, so is a logical place to start in Glasgow’s effort to become a circular city.
One of the more novel solutions to make this sub-sector more circular is the “Bread to Beer” strategy. Glasgow is famous for its breweries (and their smell!), so it seems fitting that it is an industry that can be a major driving force in the city’s aspiration to become circular.
Flow diagram showing how bread waste can be utilised in the production of beer in the “Beer to Bread” circular strategy. Source: Circle Economy.
This strategy sees unsold, waste bread being used to brew beer. If implemented fully, this would save using (and the cost of using) 1/3 of the raw material currently being used. This idea, known as industrial symbiosis, sees two separate industries in a mutually beneficial relationship where resource utilisation is improved, therefore reducing waste production (Jacobsen, 2006).
Whilst this solution seems unusual, I think that it considers waste in a way that most people are unaccustomed to. By viewing waste as a commodity, the city’s environmental impact, not only just in terms of waste to landfill, will be reduced, while economic growth would be boosted and society would benefit (Prendeville et al., 2017). Having said this, in order to work effectively it needs the general public to change their attitudes in the role of the consumer, and be more open to purchasing “waste” products.
Andersen MS (1999) Governance by green taxes: implementing clean water policies in Europe 1970–1990. Environ Econ Policy Stud 2(1):39–63
Jacobsen NB (2006) Industrial symbiosis in Kalundborg Denmark: a quantitative assessment of economic and environmental aspects. J Ind Ecol 10(1–2):239–256
Prendeville, S., Cherim, E. and Bocken, N. (2017). Circular Cities: Mapping Six Cities in Transition. [online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210422416300788 [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].