Six months ago I relocated to the east coast of Scotland, after living and working in London for many years. At the same time I quit my job, and decided to go freelance. These two moves have so far, turned out to be two of the best decisions I have ever made. I guess you could call them life-changing. I’m a dreamer, and a great believer in making dreams happen – if you can.
From a professional perspective, heading north of the border is also great in terms of marketing. Scotland is a circular economy hotspot … I’m a circular economy hothead … on that level, we are both perfectly matched. I write about this agenda every week, but actually being close to where it is happening on the ground makes things pretty special.
This week I ventured to Glasgow to attend the Scottish Resources conference, co-hosted by Zero Waste Scotland and CIWM. The second day was devoted to the circular economy and this wasn’t merely talk (as it is so often), but concrete, solid action. The Scottish are taking this super seriously.
Investment to the tune of £1.3 million for a remanufacturing research and knowledge hub. A ministerial pledge to develop a circular economy roadmap. Moves to push the North Sea oil and gas decommissioning sector more towards reuse (a massive challenge). A leasing model for wind turbine power. A materials brokerage service for councils which will act as a marketplace for the sale of recyclables. The list goes on.
“We are looking at how to support the deep case for innovation for the circular economy in Scotland,” Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead told delegates. “There are areas where we need to up our game in radical ways.” Imagine such words coming out of England’s ministerial leaders. Well, you can’t.
One of my favourite talks at the event was from Sandy Rodger of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. These guys know how to rock it, how to frame it, and how to play it. “The circular economy is not a game of Solitaire,” Sandy mused. “You cannot change it by yourself. It’s all about collaboration.”
He revealed some interesting stuff in the pipeline. Like using Denmark as a pilot region for a circular economy blueprint, assisted by regulation. Employment opportunities resulting from going circular are also going to be explored, suggesting that the social value side of this agenda is now starting to take flight. America (finally!) is starting to sit up and take note. The air, it seems, is full of promise.
I remember back, four years ago, when I first started writing about this topic. It felt a bit weird, but also a bit sexy. These were radical ideas being suggested. Never did I think it would catch on to the extent it has. I think you have to give credit to Ellen MacArthur here, and her ability to get the right type of people behind it. Her ability to pull the right teams together. If you’re that successful in one venture (sailing), then you learn how to apply it elsewhere.
Scotland’s devolved path means it can seize the day with this one. And what a cool space to be in. Especially if it’s on your doorstep.