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“Waste Nowt, Want Owt?”: Creating a Circular Yorkshire

Charlie Collett, Content Writer Nov 13, 2019

The York Railway Museum might not be the first place you would think of for a business event, but it was the perfect setting for Circular Yorkshire’s Strategy and Action Plan launch a few days ago. From construction to education, finance to food, the day brought together a range of industry experts from across Yorkshire and demonstrated just how passionate local businesses are about sustainable practices.

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership is the largest, most rural LEP in the UK. With over 48,000 SME businesses and a £24 billion economy, it is a place where businesses can drive real change. It’s no surprise, then, that the LEP has its sights on becoming the first region to implement a carbon neutral circular economy by 2030. This is a vision that we are eager to support, both as a Northern company keen to future-proof business growth in the area, and as a company where making use of the resources we already have is at the core of our business.

“Moving forward together” was very much the positive theme day. Describing the circular economy as a “win-win” for the region, Tim Frennaux, Head of Business at the LEP began the event by saying where there is a global challenge, there is also great economic potential. In other words, protecting our environment is a great way to enhance both our planet and the world of business. He also noted that a circular economy would enable Yorkshire to reinvent traditional values in a more modern setting; exchanging “Where there’s muck there’s brass” for “Waste Nowt, Want Owt?”, where people repurpose, reuse, recycle and pass things on.

Katie Thomas, Low Carbon and Circular Economy Lead at the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership then outlined the details of the Circular Yorkshire strategy. The plan has 6 aims, including boosting skills and wellbeing, improving economic growth and building community resilience. The plan outlines that sharing best practices, educating people in the community and then accelerating change are 3 of the 7 phases which will enable this transition from a linear to a circular economy. This will create a thriving economy which eliminates waste and pollution, creates job opportunities and addresses climate change.

Barriers to the circular economy

The launch was a safe space for businesses to voice any concerns and barriers faced whilst trying to make sustainable changes. Limited staff and resources were common issues raised, as well as difficulty engaging business leaders and experts. This is where the variety of professions in the room came in handy; everybody had a different take on the issues discussed and could offer advice. Astrid, Sustainability Manager at Techbuyer who I attended the event with, suggested getting involved with Policy Connect in order to reach the people in charge of large organisations such as manufacturers and universities.

Finding solutions in the food industry

My favourite part of the day was hearing David Stone from Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA) discuss his social enterprise’s food waste initiative: community fridges. Any food that is past its sell by date, but not its use by date, is stored in these fridges across Yorkshire where people can take whatever items they wish for free. This is an excellent way to reduce food waste and could easily be implemented in offices, schools and universities across the UK. As Harry Holden from Future Food Systems stated, 30% of all the food we grow is thrown away, and so finding solutions within the food industry is crucial for a circular future.

Taking immediate action

In the afternoon, there were a series of workshops to choose from, including ‘Creating a Circular Office’. Here I worked in a small group to establish which office habits are letting us down; including non-recyclable lunch containers, single-use cutlery, petrol-based inks and wasted electricity. I mentioned the invisible cost of data: every time you share a file or watch a video, there is a huge material cost of this due to the data centre equipment and energy required behind the scenes. We committed to avoiding duplicating files in future, only skyping when necessary and having regular computer clear-outs. It was great to come away from this session with a variety of ideas that we could implement into our businesses the very next day, such as meat free days, more recycling facilities and following up on energy providers.

Spreading the word

November is Circular Yorkshire Month, and Circular Yorkshire is launching its “Talk Circular” campaign to celebrate. The campaign aims to inspire businesses by sharing case studies of circular companies and the 6 main benefits of transitioning to a circular economy. You can see our case study here, which demonstrates how Techbuyer reduces e-waste, boosts its brand and provides quality IT solutions with its refurbishing process.

As part of this commitment to spread the word, every person at the York event pledged targets for a #CircularFuture, and at future LEP events we will be asked for our progress on these commitments. At Techbuyer, we vowed that our business will divert 360,000kg of IT equipment from landfill by November 2020, and Astrid also noted that she can provide information about initiatives in the digital sector. We can’t wait to see what Yorkshire businesses can achieve together.