Widening the circle: the internationalisation of Scotland’s circular economy

Virtuous Circle-1035

Scotland is at the leading edge of the circular economy. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government was awarded a prestigious prize at the World Economic Forum for its work placing the circular economy at the core of Scotland’s economic strategy and manufacturing action plan. But so far discussion and action has been largely limited to domestic considerations. So where better to start the conversation on how to “widen the circle” than at the Scottish Parliament? 

In early November, Tearfund Scotland hosted an exhibition and reception in the Scottish Parliament to launch the report “Virtuous Circle: How the circular economy can create jobs and save lives in low and middle-income countries” to explore how Scotland’s experience on circularity, as well as its commitment to international development, could be harnessed to the benefit of communities around the world.

We’ve explored in previous posts (starting here) how the circular economy (which keeps resources in use for as long as possible) is almost entirely absent from the international development discourse, despite the fact that it has the potential to create jobs, save lives, and improve the environment, dramatically increasing the scope for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Virtuous Circle-1032At the reception MSPs from across all parties attended, along with representatives from the Scottish international development sector, academia, and church and community groups. Discussion ranged from the intersectionality between poverty, environmental sustainability and the SDGs, to how social norms and values impact our views on waste. Input from Tearfund partner, the Pakistan Missionary Society, evidenced the impact circular approaches are already having through introducing effective waste management systems, which create jobs and reduce health burdens (more on this coming in future posts).

Scotland has been rightly celebrated for leading the way domestically on its commitment to circular approaches across a number of sectors. Now it has the opportunity to be a champion of circular practices on an international level too, and in doing so make a significant contribution towards the realisation of the SDGs.

At the parliamentary reception Tearfund Scotland outlined three next steps for Scotland which could contribute towards the transition to circular economies in low and middle-income countries.

  1. Exploring how the Scottish Government could prioritise circular investments through its international development portfolio, and related departments, as well as sharing technical expertise.
  2. Developing “circular” research proposals, to establish replicable models and gathering evidence on health, jobs and environmental benefits of circular approaches.
  3. Setting ambitious targets in the proposed Scottish Zero Waste Bill for waste reduction and resource efficiency, to drive progress throughout the public and private spheres.

The circular economy offers an unparalleled opportunity, and Scotland has the chance to lead the way and widen the circle.

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