Highlights from Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland

15 November 2018


Hanna Plant, Senior Consultant and Kate Chambers, Consultant, share their highlights from the Circular Economy Hotspot Event in Glasgow from 30 October to 1 November

The Circular Economy Hotspot 2018 may have opened on a ‘dreich’ (Scots word for grey and wet weather!) Halloween morning in Glasgow, but the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. This event was heralded as the Circular Economy event of the year and Scotland pulled out the stops as hosts. Everything from a pipers welcome, a Scottish country dance performance, Scottish poetry (including a reading from Resource Futures’ very own Kate Chambers), whisky tasting and kilts, ensured a full Scottish flavour to the proceedings. With 400 delegates in attendance over the three days and #CEHotspotScot being the top twitter trend in Glasgow of the day, the event was considered a great success.

Sometimes, the scale of the issues we are facing as a global community can feel overwhelming. But CE Hotspot Scotland brought together great thinkers, impressive practical circular examples, and ambitious ideas. A particular highlight was a key note address from the First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. She not only positioned Scotland as a leader in the Circular Economy globally but more specifically announced that the Scottish Government will be funding three businesses as part of the Circular Economy Investment Fund. Much to the delight of Resource Futures, after providing Circular Economy Business support this year to furniture reuse project Total Homes, they were announced as one of those businesses. It was a great reminder of how the business support provided by Resource Futures through Zero Waste Scotland has been making a tangible difference to driving the circular economy in Scotland.

From a line-up of diverse and excellent speakers, we’ve selected a few highlights under the themes of leadership, collaboration and systems for people and planet.


It’s time for everyone to become a leader! When it comes to circular economy thinking, each one of us must show initiative within our own sector and throughout our personal lives. Dr Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of UN International Resource Panel, focused on governance at every level and explained that we can’t wait around for appointed leaders to act – we must take that step ourselves. For Harald Friedl, circular economy begins at home. On the big screen, an image of his young son was juxtaposed with a startling photo of plastics deep in the ocean. Faced with the world we are creating for the next generation, the scale of the problems can feel overwhelming. The reality is that without achieving a circular economy, we will not reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and our planet will not be safe and prosperous. Even Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon emphasised Scotland’s central role in leading for circularity. She reflected on the country’s disproportionate impact on industrialisation across the world, with great inventors and Enlightenment thinkers contributing to the linear principles that have defined our economies. Now, Scotland is at the forefront of showing the same leadership in circular economy thinking and practice.

Cooperation and collaboration

Dr Leyla Acaroglu, Founder of Disrupt Design and UnSchool, focused on the need for big-picture thinking across design chains and systems. Unfortunately, we have been designing our world for disposability and behaving as if the ecosystem is separate from us, but the hard reality is that we are all interconnected. Controversially, she claimed that recycling and waste reduction is a red herring, which encourages wasteful design. If we are truly going to achieve circularity, we need collaboration across all our (eco)systems! The audience was treated to an example of collaborative thinking in practice, through a Glasgow Showcase from Circular Glasgow. For Alison McRae, Senior Director of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the key to success in creating a circular city is getting the right people in the room and watching the ideas happen! She explained how the Circular Glasgow team created space and opportunity for organisations to share knowledge and challenges. This support fed into several circular business ideas, such as a collaboration between Aulds Bakery and a microbrewery called Jaw Brew in creating Hardtack beer made from unsold morning rolls. In Rebecca Ricketts inventive presentation, she argued that there is no space for jargon in successful collaboration: everyone needs to be speaking one common, easy-to-understand language. Rebecca transformed herself into a superhero on stage, complete with cape and an uplifting soundtrack, and encouraged everyone to find the courage to embark on collaborative projects because we can all make a difference. 

Systems for people and planet

Over the course of the day, all speakers emphasised circular economy as an exciting opportunity to create a better world. Of course, there are incredible challenges but there are also impactful solutions. Dr Katherine Trebeck spoke passionately about how ‘business as usual’ is failing us all – both people and planet. We have an obligation to move towards a ‘wellbeing economy’ where fundamental needs are met, resources are preserved and shared fairly, and economy is embedded in society. Adding to this, Cynthia Reynolds, founder of SmartUse Global, emphasised how our over-consumption of resources is detrimental to our health and wellbeing. She spoke of the ‘burden of ownership’ (how many items are cluttering your home right now?) and how our economy must more to a service model rather than relying on ‘owners’ and ‘consumers’ – we need more ‘users’ and ‘sharers’. Miranda Schnitger of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation focused on the potential of circular cities to become positive systems, where waste and pollution is designed out, resources are maximised, and natural systems are regenerated for the benefit of all.

The scale of the issues in front of us can seem unfathomable. Species decline, disastrous effects of climate change and plastics pollution being a few issues to hit the headlines over the last month. However, this event was one to inject a bit of hope back into the system. As a nation, Scotland is one of the best places in the world to be for playing an active part in driving the Circular Economy and Resource Futures is proud to be a part of it.