New ‘novel’ circular economy fund available

Published by Kayle Crosson on

May 2nd, 2019

A new fund from the Department of Climate Action is now available for “novel approaches” to promote circular economy practices.

The €600,000 fund was launched on Tuesday by the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton TD and is a part of Ireland’s National Waste Prevention Programme led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A circular economy, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is one that designs out waste and pollution, keeps materials in use and regenerates natural systems. The concept, the Foundation goes on to argue, originates from feedback in real-world systems.

“Transition to a low carbon circular economy will disrupt traditional business models and create new enterprise opportunities,” Mr Bruton said of the fund’s launch.

“Ireland uses over 100 million tonnes of material annually, and too much of the waste from this often ends up in landfill or an incinerator after only a short period of use.

“This funding initiative provides a bridge to commercial, transferable and scalable solutions that will deliver a circular and low carbon economy in Ireland,” the Minister added.

Such a model is a “win-win opportunity” according to EPA Director General Laura Burke. “Inefficient consumption and missed opportunities for reuse & recycling leads to more waste and higher greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.  

“The EPA is pleased to support smart management of materials to keep them in use longer which reduces demand for raw materials and protects the environment,” Ms Burke added.

The Minister has invited different areas of national importance to apply for funding, such as food waste prevention, construction and demolition, and plastics.

Green Economy Foundation CEO Cillian Lohan welcomed the Minister’s announcement, telling The Green News that it is a “positive move” to deliver on the circular economy goals.

Mr Lohan, who is also the Rapporteur for the European Economic Social Committee’s circular economy package, said that the inclusion of work on eco-design in the fund is “essential and very welcome”.

“Designing products so they can be repaired, remanufactured or, as a last resort, recycled will drive the change to a new way of treating our resources,” Mr Lohan said.

However, Mr Lohan added, additional elements not mentioned in the Minister’s announcement must be incorporated in the national move towards a circular economy.

“The next step, and what we need to also incentivise, is the move to new business models. This requires businesses to shift from product providers to service providers,” Mr Lohan said.

Another opportunity that not properly included, Mr Lohan said, is the link to the bio-economy potential on extensive small family farms in Ireland that “provide a great model for resource efficiency and circular practices”.

“We need to highlight this so that we can move our agriculture model away from intensification and maximize the opportunities for ordinary farmers to make more from doing what comes naturally to them – wasting less and being efficient,” he added.

“An essential part of that is recognizing the value in our natural systems – hedgerows, healthy soil, biodiverse habitats and so on are all by-products of improved circularity.”

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.