Collaborative Action!

Making the circular economy happen in London

“The circular economy is a game-changer for London,” said Wayne Hubbard, Chief Executive Officer, London Waste and Recycling Board, in his introduction the first event of Circular Economy Week. “It is a £7bn opportunity for the city that will require collaboration and systemic change.”

Getting down to business

Collaborative Action! was held on Monday June 18th at Grosvenor’s London offices and it had the room buzzing throughout the day. The event brought together more than 100 people from big companies, disruptive SMEs, local government and charities all focussed on making productive connections. It was a fast-paced day of expert panel discussions, SME pitches and speed networking.

The overriding feeling was one of rolling up sleeves and getting down to business. A year on from the publication of the Circular Economy Route Map, the talk was all about practical action, moving on from creating awareness, to creating real change. How do we build the right partnerships? Solve the knotty problems? Measure success?

Learn, share, engage, collaborate

London is home to some of the most exciting examples of the circular economy in action, many of them brought about through collaborative partnerships, some of which were represented at the event. How, delegates wanted to know, could that best practice be shared right through the supply chain, or across a whole sector?

“It’s about working out where we can make the biggest impact, and keeping the conversation alive,” said Victoria Moorhouse of Costa Coffee as she shared some of the challenges that her company has had in trying to find a viable solution for the recycling of disposable cups.

“We want our suppliers to challenge us,” says Paul Quinn, Director of Merton Regeneration, Clarion Housing Group. “We have to go on this journey together.”

“It’s not just about finding someone new to work with,” said Casper Jorna of the Ellen McArthur Foundation. “When you’re trying to change the system, you have to be open to doing things differently.”

Changing the game

Library of Things is doing just that, getting us, and leading brands like Karcher and Bosch, to do things differently, with its mission to ‘make borrowing better than buying’. Their community-based schemes are creating new routes to market for manufacturers of high-end tools and other equipment. Entocycle is farming insects, getting us to think differently about the way we produce protein, and Biohm is creating bio-based building materials for a different approach to construction.

There were pitches from Tryatec, a peer-to-peer rental platform that seeks to release some of the value from our little-used gadgets and Clean Conscience, a charity that partners with high end hotels to make good use of left-over soap and toiletries by recycling it and giving it to those in need. Aeropowder told us how they make packaging and other materials from feathers that would otherwise go into the waste stream.

Successful collaboration is founded on shared values. Sometimes it is ‘love at first sight’ as for Olivia Wise of John Lewis Partnership and John Atcheson of Stuffstr. Or it may take time to reach a common understanding and build trust, as David Gledhill of Borough Market talked about in his partnership with the food redistribution charity Plan Zheroes, a project now in its fourth year and going from strength to strength.

As the day progressed there was no diminishment of energy in the room. In the coffee and lunch breaks, the air was thick with the sound of new connections being made, plans put in place to follow up and the potential for productive collaboration.

London is a Circular Economy frontrunner where powerful collaborations are helping to change systems and unlock the value associated with resources that have traditionally been lost or wasted. With events like this one, Circular London is providing the space for those ideas to thrive.

Click here to join Circular London’s community and find out more about news, challenges and upcoming events like this.

What does a circular economy mean for London?

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