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The Top 5 Examples of Circular Economy in the UK Right Now

02 July 2018

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Everywhere we look, there are companies talking the talk when it comes to sustainable business- but who is “walking the walk”?  A growing awareness of environmental issues coupled with changes in legislation are moving our society away from the linear model of ‘extract, use and dispose’, to a “circular economy” that keeps resources in the loop for as long as possible.

Attitudes towards resource management have perhaps never been better, but attitudes and actions must align. So which organisations (big &small!) or regions in the UK are best modelling a circular economy right now?  We look at some of the best examples we can find in the UK right now- in no particular order!

1. Gatwick airport

Gatwick has become the first airport to achieve a Zero Waste to Landfill accreditation from the Carbon Trust- which we know, is no easy feat! The airport also has a ten-point sustainability plan[1] which covers everything from transport to water quality.

2. Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland is supporting organisations and individuals all over Scotland in the growth of a circular economy.[2] The most recent scheme being discussed by Zero Waste Scotland is the Deposit Return scheme where customers pay a small cost when they buy drinks and then get the deposit back when they return the container for recycling.[3]

What we think is particularly important is that Zero Waste Scotland have been consulting the public on the scheme and how it would best work for them.  Initiatives like this must be viable for the consumer, otherwise there will never be any uptake- Zero Waste Scotland are thoughtfully approaching the scheme and demonstrating how everyone can be part of a circular economy.

3. Biffa Waste Recycling, Horsham

Biffa Waste Services, Horsham are diverting 99% of their street sweepings waste from landfill. Yes, that’s right- street sweepings aren’t just waste, they contain valuable resources that can be reused. The Road Sweepings Recycling system in West Sussex is a wet processing solution which effectively screens, classifies and dewaters their waste streams.

 The effective recovery and re-use of materials from this solution proves that Biffa are continuing to provide one of the most creative and sustainable waste management services in the UK. Read the full story here in our case studies section.[4] Lots more of our customers are diverting this unlikely waste from landfill too and proving that a circular economy can be achieved in every industry. 

4. Wales

We know it’s a large area in comparison to some of the other organisations we’ve talked about but Wales deserves a particular shout-out when it comes to demonstrating a circular culture. An Independent Report produced by Resource Recovery from Waste compared all 4 nations in the UK on several different factors including how well the country has realised radical change through the engagement of the government. Industry, academia and the general public- Wales came out tops in nearly all of the criteria. Read the full report here.[5]

5. Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC)

With a population lower than around 130 other districts in the UK, one of Northern Ireland’s local authorities is showing that you don’t have to be the biggest to make a big impact.  In 2017, the district had the lowest recycling rate in Northern Ireland so a feasibility study was commissioned from environmental consultancy firm, Eunomia Research & Consulting who produced a strategy that covered behavioural change and education, national influence and many other important factors.  DCSDC are a great example of those taking on the difficult challenges to create a circular economy.[6]  



[1] Gatwick Airport, Sustainability: Our Ten Point Plan, [Accessed 30/06/2018]

[2] Zero Waste Scotland, Our Role in the Circular Economy, [Accessed 02/07/2018]

[3] Zero Waste Scotland, Deposit Return Scheme,

4 CDEnviro, Biffa Waste Horsham Case Study,

[5] Velenturf, A.P.M.; Purnell, P.; Tregent, M.; Ferguson, J.; Holmes, A.     Co-Producing a Vision and Approach for the Transition towards a Circular Economy: Perspectives from Government Partners. Sustainability 2018, 10, 1401.

[6] Eunomia, A Circular Economgy Waste Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council, [Accessed 02/07/2018]


Circular Economy Zero Waste Recycling road sweepings Recycling Biffa Waste Services