Definitely, maybe: circular economy initiatives that work for poor communities

Over the last 18 months we’ve been thinking, discussing and writing about how the circular economy can work for communities in developing countries. Our latest research paper, Bending the Curve, takes the evidence base to the next stage. It assesses the literature available to identify what works in practice, and the range of income, health and environmental benefits these interventions bring.

We can divide the approaches into three categories, which I think of as:

  • Definitelyproven interventions that have a strong evidence base, and could be replicated in a variety of low- and middle-income contexts.
  • Probably: approaches where the evidence base is evolving; more research is needed to understand how they could be scaled up and rolled out in different contexts.
  • Maybe: areas of high concern or great potential, but where the solutions are as-yet-unproven or speculative.

[Read more…]

The tide is turning for the world’s waste crisis

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The Government has woken up to the world’s waste crisis. Uncollected trash blights life chances in poor communities and chokes the oceans. Theresa May’s commitment today to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste through UK aid, as part of the Government’s 25-year environment plan, clears the way to a solution. We hope that concrete announcements will follow soon that commit the Government to spending 3 per cent of their aid budget to tackle this issue.  [Read more…]

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

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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?  [Read more…]

3 opportunities for the new Secretary of State

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The appointment of a new Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt MP to lead DFID presents an opportunity to step up the fight against poverty. Here are three things we would love to see Penny Mordaunt do during her time at DFID:  

1. Act on Aid

The UK have a proud history of delivering quality aid to those in need around the world. It is vital that the UK continues to honour this legacy by maintaining our commitment to spend 0.7% of the UK’s income on international development. It is important that the focus of this spending remains on providing life saving assistance and empowering people to raise themselves out of poverty. [Read more…]

The world’s biggest waste dump (hint: it’s big, blue and you like going there)

I used to be a big fan of seafood: crabs, mussels, prawns you name it, I ate it. Then when this year Ghent University in Belgium found that seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic a year, I reluctantly decided to cut my consumption to the odd treat (what’s a couple of hundred bits of microplastics between friends). Consumers in better off nations like ours are rightly worried about the as yet unknown health impacts of ingesting plastic, but little or no attention has been paid to the impact on communities in the developing world.

The escalating crisis of marine litter (this ranges from microbeads to plastic bottles to boats) is the latest, dystopian symptom of a linear economy which takes, makes and throws away.  It turns out ‘away’ is often the oceans. Every year we produce 300 million pieces of plastic and 5 to 12.5 million pieces of it end up in the oceans.   [Read more…]

An economy where both people and nature thrive

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In 2016 Tearfund and the St Paul’s Institute held a programme of roundtables exploring global development and the green economy. Barbara Ridpath, Director of the Institute, and I explore inequality and the economy, and the recommendations from the programme in our follow up paper, ‘Going Full Circle:  tackling resource reduction and inequality’.

Look around your office floor or the train you’re travelling in. Can you count eight people? That’s the number of men who own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world this year. This inequality is extreme and it’s down to a broken economic system.  [Read more…]

Three ways product design can reduce poverty overseas

 

One day, your smartphone will probably be recycled by a teenager on a rubbish tip; perhaps in Ghana or Nigeria. Months before that, it will likely have been repaired and sold on by an entrepreneur in the same country.  The health and livelihoods of these women and men depend on the way we design our products in the EU – the toxic chemicals we permit and the ease of repair that we require.  [Read more…]

Going circular in Finland

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Joanne Green, Senior Policy Associate at Tearfund, reflects on her trip to the first World Circular Economy Forum in Finland. 

This week I attended the first ever World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) generously hosted for free by the Finnish Government in Helsinki. For those who are unfamiliar, the circular economy is a new approach to economic development that recognises biophysical limits by using resources as efficiently as possible in every stage of a product lifecycle. For more info see here. [Read more…]

Why advocate on waste and a circular economy?

RS67759_LEB2015_DXC_R_0162Well, we’ve produced a guide which aims to answer just that question. We’ve explored in previous posts (in particular here, here and here) how the current approach to resources is creating mountains of waste, which are harming some of the most vulnerable communities in low- and middle-income countries. This waste could instead be re-used or eliminated; this circular economy approach – keeping resources in use for as long as possible – would: [Read more…]

The sky’s the limit for the circular economy

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On the 30th March, the first ‘second-hand’ rocket was launched into our skies. Rockets – like many products in our current economy – are traditionally one-use only items. They are made, used and, with their mission complete, discarded. SpaceX have made history by finding a way for their boosters to return safely to Earth to be used again. Through this new approach, rockets can return to the skies again. [Read more…]