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Circular economy

  • About the circular economy

    We have a ‘linear economy’, where materials are taken from the environment and used to make products. We then use those products and then we dispose of them. This linear, take-make-use-dispose system creates a pattern of consumption, production and waste that the planet cannot sustain.

    A circular economy is a more sustainable and alternative economic system than the linear economy. It minimises waste and pollution and uses fewer resources and energy by reducing waste and keeping products, parts and materials in use. It is not just recycling, but includes repairing, reusing and returning products, for example returning bottles to be refilled.

    In the circular economy, the amount produced and consumed is reduced. Waste is reduced and the use of products is maximised before they go back into the system to be used again, minimising waste.

    Recycling is a big improvement in the linear economy and is a first step towards a circular economy.

  • How do we achieve a circular economy?

    Moving to a circular economy will be a gradual change. It means switching some jobs from extracting raw materials, making new products and disposal, to maintaining, repairing and recycling. Circular economies can sustain more jobs than linear economies as these processes are harder to automate.

    A circular economy can:

    • reduce the total usage of goods and materials
    • optimise the usage of goods and materials from sustainable sources
    • optimise production
    • reduce overall levels of waste
    • reduce pollution
    • optimise levels of recycling
    • increase numbers of jobs.
  • Circular economy examples

    Circular economy approaches and solutions have always existed and there are many examples, locally and at home, including:

    • using cloth nappies rather than disposable nappies 
    • donating your old laptop to our Reuse IT scheme at Ormeau Recycling Centre
    • bringing your old spectacles to a recycling centre so they can be sent for reuse
    • donating to and buying clothes from charity shops
    • buying good-quality items that last longer or that are repairable
    • buying and selling pre-loved items, for example using Gumtree or eBay
    • borrowing from libraries
    • school uniform reuse schemes.
  • Circular economy organisations

    There are more and more examples of organisations and schemes in Belfast that work using the circular economy model. These include:

    • Repair Café Belfast (link opens in new window) - Skilled volunteers give up their time to fix broken items for free at planned events in different locations across the city. As well as keeping items in circulation the Repair Café gives an opportunity for social connection and learning new skills. Over 1,000 items were fixed in the first two years at 16 events.
    • Belfast Tool Library (link opens in new window) – The Belfast Tool Library is a not-for-profit organisation and allows people borrow tools they may only need once or twice. All of the tools have been donated to the library. Members save money, space and have access to hundreds of different tools for a low annual membership fee.
    • Play Resource Belfast (link opens in new window) – Play Resource collects non-toxic waste materials from industry. Members like schools, community groups and charities have access to these materials to use for art and craft activities.
    • Refill Quarter (link opens in new window) – This is a ‘zero-waste shop’ where customers bring and reuse their own containers to buy loose products rather than packaged goods. As well as reducing packaging waste, it allows shoppers to only buy as much as they need, reducing food waste.
    • FareShare NI (link opens in new window) – As part of the larger FareShare organisation, they collect surplus food from industry and shops and redistribute it to charities that are providing meals to vulnerable and disadvantaged people and groups.

    If you are interested in moving your organisation or company towards a more circular way of working, or would like more information on the circular economy, email us at to request a copy of our circular economy information pack.

  • Claim your free recipe book

    UK households waste 6.5 million tonnes of food every year, with 4.5 million tonnes of this food still being edible. An average family of four can save just over £60 a month by reducing their food waste. The aim of this recipe book is to try to reduce the amount of food we throw away, while creating dishes that are easy to prepare, low-budget and produce as little waste as possible. 

    Our Thrifty Kitchen recipe book is full of delicious and quick meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, using many ingredients and the food stored in our cupboards and fridge-freezers.

    It also includes:

    • helpful hints and tips on how to better store food at home
    • how to understand food use by and sell by dates
    • meal planning ideas
    • tips to reduce food waste.

    For a copy of the book, email

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