The importance of the Circular Economy – why we should all be interested

Member News published by Cambridge Network

Economic growth, while desirable, tends to be linked to consumption, yet consumption cannot continue indefinitely at the expense of the earth’s resources. But there is a movement, ‘the Circular Economy’ which encourages large and small businesses, organisations and individuals to look at all their processes and habits to minimise consumption and waste.

The British Antarctic Survey and Cambridge Network are holding a free afternoon event on Monday 26 February to explore the circular economy from five key points of view:

  • materials (not just plastic!)
  • retailing
  • water
  • infrastructure
  • policy.

If you have a creative mind and would like to be part of the solution, please come along.

Today's linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy, and is a model that is reaching its physical limit. We can no longer use resources to produce items that are used just once, with no reuse, recovery or regeneration of products built into the life cycle process.  The plastics crisis is now well known, partly thanks to Blue Planet II, but examination of production and reuse processes of materials such as steel, concrete, aluminium and paper as well as plastics is equally as important.

Dr Jonathan Cullen, University Lecturer in Energy, Transport and Urban Infrastructure from the University of Cambridge will explore some of the metrics and context for materials in the circular economy.

The second speaker, Mike Barry, is head of Marks and Spencer’s Plan A, a groundbreaking five-year plan to address a wide range of environmental and social issues.  Plan A is M&S’ way to help build a sustainable future by being a business that enables their customers to have a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet through all that they do.  It covers areas such as clothing and home, food and food waste, property and construction, retail operations and community engagement.

Following Mike will be Sarah D’Arcy, Sustainability Manager & Lead for campaign ‘Love Every Drop’ at Anglian Water, who will present the circular economy from a Utilities view. Long-term access to secure supplies of water is one of the most pressing environmental and economic challenges the world faces today and getting to grips with that is not something that can wait until tomorrow.

The built environment view will be outlined by Richard Boyd, Senior Engineer and Circular Economy Lead for Arup. While the Circular Economy is part of the answer, Richard will argue that additional approaches are needed (resource efficiency, material substitution) and will include details of some initiatives Arup is working on.

The final speaker Dustin Benton, Policy Director, Green Alliance will talk about the policy aspect of a circular economy, linking it to the Industrial Strategy and May’s ‘global leadership’ announcement, and what this could mean for funding connecting high value expertise in Cambridge to industry needs.

After the round of talks, the day will end with a panel discussion led by Dr David Greenfield, from SOENECS & Circular Economy Club who has been working in the policy arena on Circular Economy for over five years. He will chair questions submitted by the audience on the day.

After the event, focus groups around the different areas will be introduced for delegates to engage with further.

This interesting event is free to attend and open to all – sign up at

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