Circular Economy Podcast

Catherine Weetman interviews the inspiring people who are making the circular economy happen. We explore how circular, regenerative and fair solutions are better for people, planet and prosperity. We’ll hear from entrepreneurs & business owners, social enterprises, and leading thinkers. You’ll find the show notes and links at www.circulareconomypodcast.com, where you can subscribe to updates and useful resources.

Tracks

134 Jane Martin of City to Sea: powering refill & reuse on-the-go
To mark World Refill Day 2024, we talk to Jane Martin, the CEO of City to Sea, a campaigning non-profit with a mission to prevent plastic pollution at source. World Refill Day is a global campaign to prevent plastic pollution and help people live with less waste. It’s a day of action each year, designed to create an alternative vision of the future and to accelerate the transition away from single-use plastic towards refill & reuse systems. City to Sea develops and supports upstream solutions to give individuals, communities and businesses practical ways to replace single-use plastic in their lives, shopping baskets and operations. City to Sea are specialists in behaviour change and creative communications and they develop innovations including the Refill app and Refill Return Cup to shift the dial from linear to circular. For the past five years Jane Martin has been working as Head of Development at City to Sea, leading project work developing refill and reuse infrastructure in food-to-go and retail sectors, and she has recently been promoted to CEO. Jane has broad experience across environmental, FMCG, retail, and culture sectors. In ten years' time Jane wants to “look back and see a transformed circular economy where we value all the precious resources in the system and where we’ve abandoned our damaging throwaway culture.” Jane summarises a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which categorizes packaging refill & reuse systems into four types: refill on-the-go, refill at home, return from home, and return on-the-go. Each of those four categories has its own challenges around user needs, logistics, infrastructure and control systems. City to Sea focuses on refill on-the-go and return on-the-go, and we unpack those. Jane talks about some of the practical schemes that City to Sea has supported, and shares the insights and learnings gleaned so far.
38:53 15/06/2024
133 Re-Action – repurposing: a new life for unwanted stuff
This is the 4th and final episode in the special 5th Anniversary mini-series featuring the Re-Action Collective, and we’re focusing on repurposing – using creativity and craft skills to breathe new life into unwanted outdoor gear, clothing and workwear. We’ll hear from the founders of two small repurposing businesses: First, Jen Dickinson, founder of Dirtbags Climbing, an upcycling workshop in the English Lake District, which turns retired outdoor textiles into hand-made bags. And secondly, Beccy Evans, founder of Utilifolk, who gives things fresh appeal and new life by re-working unwanted garments that are no longer fit for their original use, and makes new pieces from preloved and remnant textiles. Ironically, nearly every outdoor gear brand uses sophisticated marketing to hijack our brain chemicals, encouraging us to buy yet more stuff to do the things we love, to excel and enjoy them. And yet, those same things, when discarded, are destroying the very essence of the places and living things we love so much. We discuss the ethos and design principles for their businesses, why we need to avoid sucked into the ‘fast-fashion’ and ‘compartmentalising’ approaches of brands that want to sell more stuff, and how repurposing can help people create their own identity, instead of looking like they’re wearing other people’s stuff. Rebecca Heaps, founder of Tentshare, who we met in Episode 131, says “when we buy 2nd hand, the earth breaths a sigh of relief” – and I think that applies to repurposed things, too. Everything we do to keep our clothes, tools and equipment alive is a way to sustain life on earth – for us, and for the future of our living world. And of course, emotional engagement and well-crafted kit helps Re-Action's mission to make the outdoors more affordable and accessible.
42:54 08/06/2024
132 Re-Action – repairing: from radical to renaissance
This is #3 in the 5th Anniversary mini-series featuring the Re-Action Collective, and focuses on repairing. We hear from the founders of three UK businesses that are helping people repair their outdoor clothing and equipment: Rosanna Watson at Snowdonia Gear Repair, Becky Kirby at Sheffield Clothing Repair, and Vicky Balfour of Vicky Bikes. The strapline for this episode was inspired by Rose Macario, former CEO of Patagonia Inc, who wrote a blog back in 2015 declaring that ‘repair is a radical act’. But repairing and caring for our things used to be the norm, until we’ve gradually been persuaded to treat our stuff as disposable, and to think that newer is always better. But many of us are discovering that’s not true, and that repairing, customising and caring for our clothing and equipment is better for us, for our wallets, and for our futures. Now, repairing is having a renaissance, with millions of people finding ways to do DIY repairs, or find repairers with specialist skills and the relevant spare parts. We speak to the founders of 3 businesses to discover what motivates people to repair, why repaired items can be better than replacements, and what to look out to make sure your gear is easy to care for and repair.
52:20 01/06/2024
131 Re-Action – Sharing: Serving more people with less stuff
This is #2 in the 5th Anniversary mini-series featuring the Re-Action Collective, and focuses on sharing and ‘pay to use’. We hear from the founders of three startups enabling people to have convenient and affordable access to high-quality outdoor gear: Anna Smoothy from Cirkel Supply, Rebecca Heaps from Tentshare and Bruce Leishman from KitUp Adventures. The strapline for this episode – serving more people with less stuff – was inspired by Anna Smoothy at Cirkel Supply. I loved their aim, to serve more people with less products. and that aligns with one of my favourite phrases at the moment, about the need for businesses to do better, with much less. Sharing, including ‘pay to use’ systems, is one of the 3 key circular economy strategies that I encourage businesses to focus on. Sharing can be a catch-all term for commercial arrangements that make it easy to use something for a short period, rather than owning it. These systems can help organisations to serve other organisations, to serve individuals, or for people to serve other users. For decades, we’ve been happy to rent houses, holiday accommodation, cars, skis and bicycles, movies and more - and now people are branching out into other categories. Rental and subscription services are popping up for technology, fashion and accessories, home appliances, furniture and more, avoiding the need to buy things you aren’t sure you’ll want to use over the long term. Often, these are disruptive startups using online platforms to provide convenient, flexible ways to access high-quality brands at affordable prices. Sharing is really coming to the forefront, in particular for younger people who want access to the stuff they need and see ownership as a burden, not a benefit. Global revenue growth for sharing and renting is forecast to grow at 30% each year, and is key to helping us do much more, with much less. In other words, we get more use – or productivity – from underutilised assets – meaning we need fewer of them in the overall system. This is sometimes referred to as Decoupling. (The UN defines Absolute Decoupling as “a situation in which resource productivity grows faster than economic activity (GDP) and resource use is absolutely declining.”)
61:11 25/05/2024
130 Heather Davies: the Re-Action Collective
It’s now 5 years since I started the podcast, and to celebrate, I’m doing a 5th anniversary mini-series. I’ve invited several guests from the Re-Action Collective, a group of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector. Over the next few episodes, we’ll be hearing from them and exploring 3 different types of circularity – sharing, repairing and repurposing. The Re-Action Collective was formed in 2022, by Gavin Fernie-Jones and his friend, Heather Davies. We met Gavin back in Episode 72, talking about One Tree at a Time, a circular social enterprise to repurpose outdoor gear and ski-wear and to share value with the community and nature. In this episode, we’ll meet Gavin’s co-founder, Heather Davies, a freelance sustainability-focused content creator and communications trainer. Heather is motivated by a love of nature and the outdoors, and she works with a range of organisations, helping them communicate their sustainability stories and strategies, without greenwashing. She also offers training, including carbon literacy courses. The Re-Action Collective is all about Making the outdoors more affordable and accessible, and over the next few episodes, we’ll meet some of the member organisations, with business models based on sharing, repairing and repurposing. Heather and Gavin formed Re-Action to challenge product marketing that tells us we need shiny new, highly technical kit to access the outdoors. They say “We live in the outdoors and we know this isn’t true. We also know a lack of access to basic outdoor kit and absence of community are barriers to people getting outside and active for the benefit of their physical and mental health.” The Re-Action Collective wants to amplify the voice and impact of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector, for example running, cycling, climbing, surfing, sailing and snow sports. Member organisations rescue products and revive them through repair, rebranding and repurposing. They then redistribute items through resale, rental and donation and reallocate profits to regenerate the outdoors. Re-Action is focused on community-first solutions and wants to empower citizens to be more mindful about how they buy, maintain and dispose of their outdoor clothing and equipment. We’ll hear how the collective works in practice, and how they’ve developed ways to avoid the pitfalls of shared interest groups that end up being hard to engage with, because they generate too much information and conversation.
44:37 18/05/2024
129 Alex Holland: SolarPunk Stories for a circular future
How do we draw people towards a deliciously sustainable future? In this episode, we’re going off at a slight tangent: to explore how we can bring people into this world, to feel they have agency and to see an exciting, meaningful future where we do better, with less. We’re going to hear about a way of telling stories – that could be fiction to help people understand circular solutions, or it might be stories to help them imagine how circular products and services work in real life, helping them see how that’s more fulfilling than buying yet more stuff and adding to the problems of waste and pollution. Alex Holland is the Founder of SolarPunk Stories, and has worked as a journalist in the UK, Venezuela and India. Alex has an MA in Leadership for Sustainable Development and created the world's first Tea Pub which was also Crowdcube's most-shared startup. SolarPunk is a much more optimistic genre than dystopian fiction – it’s more like the Thrutopian concept set out by Professor Rupert Read in an article for the Huffington Post, a few years ago. Utopias are too fantastical, whereas dystopias can be useless, even dangerously doom-mongering. Instead, we can create thrutopias: stories that help us see a way through the challenges we face, that help us build a vision for the future we want to be part of: a regenerative, fair and inclusive future that we can be proud of. Stories that help us to imagine, to feel what it would be like, and to design the political and economic systems to get us through.
50:36 04/05/2024
128 Tara Button: products that say ‘Buy Me Once’
Tara Button is the founder and CEO of Buy Me Once, a platform which helps people buy the longest-lasting products on the planet. If you’ve heard me talking about the 3 essential strategies for circular businesses, you’ll know that one of those 3 strategies is Keeping things in use for longer, through durability, repairability and resellability. I get frustrated by how difficult it is to find good examples of companies doing this, and so it was brilliant to discover Buy Me Once, which is all about finding products that meet that criteria and helping people find them. Back in 2015, Tara was a frustrated advertising creative, tasked with increasing the chocolate consumption of children, when the gift of an heirloom cooking pot sparked the idea of Buy Me Once. The platform went spectacularly viral in 2016, allowing Tara to leave Ad Land. Since then, Buy Me Once has partnered with 100s of ethical brands to help consumers buy for the long term, for a wide range of products from kitchenware to bedlinen, home furnishings to electronics, and for clothing. Tara explains what led her to start Buy Me Once, and the ethos underpinning the choice of featured brands and products. We hear what is driving the push for more durable, repairable products, and how the feedback from customers can help brands to improve their products. Tara has also become a disruptive voice, speaking about product durability at events, on TV, podcasts and BBC radio. Tara’s early career in marketing and advertising meant she could unpack the psychology of consumerism, and she has written a very engaging and insightful book on mindful consumption, A Life Less Throwaway, published by Harper Collins. We touch on aspects of what’s in the book, which has some great tips to help us spot the various kinds of marketing tactics before we get sucked into the ‘buy it now’ decision.
37:12 20/04/2024
127 Yann Toutant: getting started with As-a-Service
Yann Toutant is the founder of Black Winch, which helps businesses understand the opportunities, practicalities and benefits of shifting to ‘as a service’ models, and supports them in making it happen. Yann has been implementing subscription-based models for hardware in the ICT industry for 25 years, including over a decade as CEO of Econocom’s Dutch operations. Today with his own company, Black Winch, Yann Toutant helps CEOs and their teams to focus on the user experience by incorporating all components of an As-A-Service offer into a single in-house comprehensive, scalable subscription model. Yann sees offering a doorway to circular economy as one of the main drivers, making it possible to centralise ownership and to industrialise circularity at scale. We discuss why ‘as a service’ is becoming more popular, for business customers as well as for people in general, and then Yann talks about some of the benefits for service-based businesses, and how Black Winch helps its clients take the first, easy steps to ignite that journey. Yann explains how, for some products, ‘as a service’ is likely to exist alongside traditional ownership models, and what he sees as the motivators for that.
50:53 06/04/2024
126 Ruth Taylor: closing our circular values gap
Ruth Taylor of the Common Cause Foundation guides us through the field of social psychology, to explore how our personal values drive behaviour, and what that means for sustainability and the circular economy. I recently completed ‘Values 101’, a short course run by the Common Cause Foundation. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about our behaviour and what motivates our choices, actions and interactions. The course tutors were Ruth and her colleague Tom Crompton, and today, I’m talking to Ruth about some of my main takeaways from the course. The Common Cause Foundation works at the intersection of culture change and human values, and is driven by the belief that it is possible to design societies that magnify and strengthen the cooperative and caring parts of human nature. By doing that together, we can build ways of living that are equitable and just, and lie within our planetary boundaries. The Common Cause Foundation sees Values playing a pivotal role in shaping our cultures and systems. The dominant global culture is out of balance, prioritising extrinsic values such as wealth, power and social status, in a way that has led us to the brink of destruction; with crises of poverty, inequality and climate change. Common Cause Foundation’s work shows that balance can be restored by elevating intrinsic values instead – values like community, creativity and unity with nature. Ruth Taylor has worked in the field of social and environmental change for close to 15 years. She is driven by the question of how more people can be encouraged to think, feel and act differently when it comes to the multiple and interconnected challenges we are experiencing globally. Ruth explains what values mean, and how they impact our daily lives, and we talk about the Perception Gap – the mistaken beliefs we have about other people’s values, and why that matters. We also talk about why we might not always act in line with our values, and how we can overcome that. We explore how engaging certain values could influence more sustainable and circular behaviours, and how it’s relatively easy for people to become interested in topics and actions that have similar underlying principles - for example, being passionate about women’s rights makes it more likely that you’ll be interested in supporting other movements for equality and fairness, both for humans and other-than humans. We find out how values are like muscles, and can be strengthened, and we discover why we misunderstand other people’s values, and how that’s holding back our shift to a circular and regenerative world.
47:16 24/03/2024
125 Walter R Stahel: signs of circular progress
Professor Walter R Stahel, widely acknowledged as a circular economy pioneer, talks about progress, barriers and missed opportunities. Walter is the founder and director of the Product-Life Institute in Switzerland, founded in 1982 and now Europe’s oldest sustainability-based consultancy and think tank. These days, his is a keynote speaker and author on sustainability and circular economy and says he has always been interested in what he does not know. With over 500 publications since 1975, he holds a number of visiting professor and lecturing roles, and a long list of awards and advisory roles, including being a Full Member of the Club of Rome. Walter sees the circular economy as a ‘changer of the globalised industrial game’, creating societal resilience and providing protection against disruptive events. Walter created the idea of the performance economy, as a way of extending the concepts of the circular economy, and says that many of the opportunities are either untapped, or criticised by those who benefit from the Rentier Economy. (If you want to know more about the problems of the rentier economy, have a listen back to ep 119 with Ken Webster.) We talk about the business case for the circular economy, and Walter highlights some of the aspects that are often missed, especially for the future value of materials. We discuss the opportunities offered by platforms, digital twins and passports for products and materials, and why we need better ways to assess the remaining life of expensive products and components. We discuss the need to shift from a mindset of owning to using, and the need to change how we frame things for customers and businesses. Walter describes how we might rethink designs to minimise risks and liabilities, and how caring for our things opens up lots of interesting career opportunities, especially for young people.
52:01 10/03/2024
124 Share Shed: the world’s first travelling library of things
Mirella Ferraz is co-founder of Share Shed, the world's first travelling library of things. The Share Shed van visits rural communities, so people can borrow a wide range of useful things, including tools, household appliances, camping and gardening equipment, sewing machines, suitcases and much more! Share Shed aims to • Help people save money, space and resources, and reduce clutter • Build bridges between people’s needs and wants and the resources already available in their community • Support more collaborative and sustainable lifestyles and inspire people to engage in social change Mirella Ferraz has worked for over 10 years at the Network of Wellbeing, which supports Share Shed, and she is proud to set up and run community projects that support the wellbeing of people and the planet. Mirella grew up in Brazil, and currently lives in Devon, UK. We find out how Share Shed works in practice, and how it’s been evolving as it expands to serve more communities – including finding was to make the service more convenient for those who can’t make it to the Shed’s pick up and drop off locations and schedule. Mirella tells us how perceptions and attitudes are changing, too – for a variety of reasons.
37:09 25/02/2024
123 Topolytics: making waste visible, verifiable and valuable
We explore why it’s important for business to map, and understand their waste flows: what it is, specifically; where it comes from and goes to; how much there is – and why!; and to understand the opportunities for wasting less and circulating more value. Topolytics is a data analytics business that is making the world’s waste visible, verifiable and valuable. Michael Groves and Fleur Ruckley explain how data analytics, mapping and machine learning can make waste and resource management more transparent, efficient and effective, both commercially and environmentally. Founder and CEO Michael Groves is a geographer with a PhD in aerial and satellite earth observation. Michael has over 20 years’ experience in environmental management and sustainability reporting. Fleur Ruckley is Topolytics’ Head of Implementation, using Topolytics’ WasteMap® platform to generate actionable waste and resources analytics for clients and their supply chains. Fleur has a degree in Natural Sciences and a Masters in Environmental Management, and has worked in the charity, public and private sector supporting organisations, communities and schools to develop and implement sustainable and circular policies and practices. Fleur is a Chartered Waste Manager and is a member of the Circular Economy Steering Group for the Institute for Environmental Management & Assessment. Leveraging Topolytics waste map means companies can identify areas for improvement, such as preventing or reducing the waste or by re-designing processes and products, to support reuse and to achieve more efficient and sustainable outcomes. Mike explains how those sectors with significant waste generation are showing increasing interest in this. Business that understand what materials they produce and consume, can then make better decisions about recovery, reuse and recycling, and Geospatial analysis can help reduce waste by identifying material flow and leakage. Fleur tells us how companies are starting to see the benefits of using data and modeling to reduce waste in their supply chains, with improvements in ESG reporting, supplier management, and overall performance. Mike also highlights the potential for industrial symbiosis, using unwanted materials to create resources for another organisation – in other words, new by-products and value opportunities!
53:18 11/02/2024
122 Iain McKechnie: steps to a services-led strategy
Iain McKechnie of the Advanced Services Group helps clients develop services-led strategies, improving circularity and outcomes for the businesses and their customers. The market for services, including rental, subscriptions and ‘X-as-a-service’ is growing rapidly, both for business to business and business to consumer markets, and services can be a gamechanger for businesses looking to shrink their footprint and adopt circular strategies. It’s all part of a shift from a culture of ‘ownership’ to ‘usership’, with services emerging as a way to provide more convenient, flexible options for customers, avoiding the burden and hassle of ownership. Meanwhile, businesses can benefit from the stability of recurring revenue, predictable income streams and easier financial planning; and improve sustainability by using resources more efficiently. And providing services helps businesses get closer to their customers, with many more opportunities for contact and dialogues, discovering more about what customers value, and how to improve things. The Advanced Services Group are specialists in servitization research and practice, with work that is grounded in the latest academic research, real industry insight, business know-how and experience. The Advanced Services Group helps manufacturing companies and technology innovators on their servitization journey to develop services-led strategies and ultimately transform their business model to compete through advanced services. ASG has worked with over 300 businesses, multinational companies and SMEs to develop their growth strategies through services. Iain tells us a bit about what Advanced Services Group does, and which kind of sectors are starting to move towards service-based models. Iain then explains how companies can transition from selling products, to moving along what ASG calls the 'Services Staircase', developing different kinds of services to create value for their customers. Iain talks about the kind of benefits these companies are seeing – and how this is better for their customers, too. We hear what typically holds companies back from switching to services, and how they might get started. Iain shares a couple of diagrams from the resources on ASG’s website – the Transformation Roadmap and the Services Staircase, and I’ve included links to those in the shownotes.
49:17 28/01/2024
121 Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown: Contemporary Hempery
Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown are two inspiring people who are passionate about the properties and potential of hemp, especially for textiles. Their journey together led them to found a UK business, Contemporary Hempery. Hemp has amazing potential, for a wide range of products, and it’s brilliant for regenerative farming practices – so why aren’t we doing more with it? It’s useful as a textile, in construction, in food and personal care products, and as an alternative to plastic. But although cultivation is increasing and being encouraged by the European Union, elsewhere it’s a different picture. Kitty and Claire outline some of the uses of hemp across different sectors, about the little-known history of hemp growing in the UK, and some of the ways it was used – many of them absolutely essential to our industrial evolution. We’ll also hear about some of the current issues, in terms of hemp production and processing. Kitty and Claire also share the story of how they came together, the amazing coincidences that sparked their interest and what drove them to start Contemporary Hempery, to embark on this long and complex journey to rescue hemp for regenerative, contemporary textiles.
44:50 14/01/2024
120 Priorities are changing
People’s priorities are changing, as we realise more stuff doesn’t make us happier– so how can businesses thrive by doing better, with less? In this episode, Catherine suggests it’s time to bust one of the myths of the modern economy – people don’t want more and stuff! Priorities are changing, people are realising that more stuff doesn't make us happier. Instead, people are discovering that life is better when we care for, share and treasure our stuff, and what’s more, that’s better for our planet and society. But this presents a big challenge – a paradox – how can businesses succeed without selling more stuff, every year? Many of the Circular Economy Podcast guests are already doing just that, using circular strategies to thrive by doing better with less. You probably already have big questions on this. It feels logical to say that new designs and innovations will always make life better, that people want to keep up with trends and the status that comes from having the latest thing, And of course, that making new products underpins the success of a business ... but Catherine shares research and insights from guests in the last series of podcasts to show why we need to question conventional wisdom, and choose alternative strategies that are fit for the current business landscape.
42:18 31/12/2023
119 BONUS Ken Webster: the circular ECONOMY! Part 2
This is the 2nd part of the conversation with Ken Webster, one of the foremost thinkers in the circular economy field, where we explore concepts for a critical aspect that’s being ignored - the economy itself! In this episode, we go deeper into the possibilities offered by a universal basic dividend, especially as we move to a world where artificial intelligence might completely change the nature of work. Ken mentions his work with Earth4all, supporting the discourse and new thinking marking the 50th anniversary of the Club of Rome's ground-breaking Limits to Growth report. We move on to Ken’s mission to make these concepts easier to grasp and to help people get excited, plus the importance of getting really clear on the core idea, before trying to make this work in practical terms. Ken explains the overlaps between the thinking around circular economy and complex, adaptive systems and highlights some of the glaring faultlines in mainstream economic thinking. That leads us back to the Commons and regenerative and open systems, together with the key questions that should be at the heart of designing circular products, components and materials, And we finish by hearing a bit more about Ken's most recent books, including ABC&D: Creating a Regenerative Circular Economy for All - co-written with Craig Johnson, and his latest book, The Wonderful Circles of Oz: A Circular Economy Story, written with Alex Duff. If you haven’t already, please do listen to the previous episode to hear Ken talk about the Universal Basic Dividend (not Universal Basic Income), and the importance of reviving the concepts of commoning, and the Commons.
54:44 17/12/2023
119 Ken Webster: the circular ECONOMY!
This episode is different – I’m talking to Ken Webster and we explore some big themes and concepts for a critical part of the circular economy that often gets ignored - the economy itself! Catherine says: Ken Webster is right up there as one of my circular economy heroes, and is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost thinkers in the field. From 2010 – 2018, Ken was Head of Innovation for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, shaping current concepts of a ‘circular economy’.. Ken also co-wrote the book that first opened my eyes to the circular economy back in 2011 – Sense and Sustainability, co-written with Craig Johnson. One of Ken’s best-known books, The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows, relates the connections between systems thinking, economic and business opportunity and the transition to a circular economy. I’m very keen to read one of Ken’s most recent books, co-written with Alex Duff. Ken and Alex use a storytelling approach based on the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to offer a new and compelling narrative about the future direction of our economy, calling for macro-economic system redesign. It’s called The Wonderful Circles of Oz: A Circular Economy Story – you’ll find links in the shownotes. Ken’s written several more thought-provoking works on the circular economy, including ABC+D: Creating a Regenerative Circular Economy for All - also co-written with Craig Johnson, and we mention some of these as we go along. This was a wide-ranging conversation about system-scale issues and concepts. I tried my best to keep up with Ken’s thinking as we explored some of the big ideas he has been working on, including: • A Universal Basic Dividend – not to be confused with UBI, or Universal Basic Income. We discuss why a Universal Basic Dividend would be a good thing, how it would be funded and where the money would flow to. • We move onto The Commons – what that really means, and how it could be better accommodated in our modern economies, in a meaningful and sustainable way. • Ken talks about the rentier economy, and rentiers. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s someone who earns income from capital without working – for example by owning property or land that is rented out to tenants; by owning shares or bonds that pay dividends or interest, and so on. • We discuss why the economy isn’t working for the vast majority of people around the world, and what’s getting in the way of an ‘economy for all’. • We talk about some of the signals for change, with people are starting to see the potential of a future with community, connection and caring – caring for each other, and for our Mother Earth. The potential of a future that’s not all about ‘Work, Buy, Consume, Die’. I’ve split our conversation into two parts – the 2nd part will be out next week as a bonus episode.
54:17 10/12/2023
118 Ann Stevenson: minding our language
Let’s talk about how we talk about the circular economy – the language we use, and whether it’s helping us… or getting in the way. Ann Stevenson is the circular economy lead at Resource Futures, an employee-owned and non-profit distributing BCorp environmental consultancy in the UK. Ann has been working in the field of environmental consultancy for over 25 years, and one of her specialisms is understanding and managing risks in transitioning to a circular economy. Ann became curious to know more about how we use language to explain and make the case for the circular economy, and to discover whether that is affecting how SMEs are moving towards more circular practices. The academic term for this kind of research is discourse analysis – aiming to understand how language is used in real life situations. Ann recently completed a PhD, using discourse analysis to investigate perceptions of risks around the CE for established small manufacturing businesses, or SMEs, and she’s written a chapter with her key findings for a newly released book: Circular Economy: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. We’ve included links to Ann’s phD and the book in the shownotes. We discuss some surprising findings, in particular how we tend to frame the workings and outcomes of a circular economy in ways that actually encourage and embed the wrong behaviours! For example, Ann explains how focusing on economic cost savings can lead us to focus on outcomes that are too narrow, and that might ignore important benefits – especially over the long term. We can end up with unintended consequences, too - one example is when we talk about waste being a valuable resource – and Ann explains why that’s tricky.
41:48 26/11/2023
117 James Rigg: a refurbishment revolution for electricals
James Rigg is CEO of Trojan Electronics in Wales, and has a wealth of expertise in value-adding circular solutions for electrical and electronics manufacturers and retailers. James has built on his experience across retail and more recently, leading growth across the Buy It Direct Group, and is now focussed on expanding Trojan Electronics Circular Solutions to help retailers and manufacturers recover value and at the same time, reduce e-waste. Trojan provides services to high-profile brands, and we’ll hear about some examples. E-waste – the waste from end-of-life or unwanted electricals and electronics – is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, and is forecast to grow by 30% over this decade. The Trojan Electronics team provides electrical repair, refurb and resell services in several ways – through their client’s own marketplace stores, through direct integration into the clients’ ecommerce stores, and through Amazon, eBay, Tik Tok, Wowcher and others. Trojan is a £20M turnover business based in Swansea, south Wales, employing 150 staff in a purpose-built warehouse housing repairs and all its other services, and refurbishing over half a million items each year. Ahead of our conversation, James sent me some customer research, digging into people’s attitudes to refurbished products, with some very encouraging findings, and we’ll hear more about that in the conversation. I can share a few of the standout figures now: over a third of the respondents had bought a refurbished or repaired electrical item in the previous 12 months, including smartphones, laptops or tablets, and household appliances. Only 1% of those people had a bad experience with that purchase, and almost 80% said they’d buy refurbished in the future. And even though people knew they’d bought a refurbished item, 24% of customers couldn’t tell the difference from the equivalent new product. The survey includes some market research, highlighting predictions for the growth of refurbished electronics – the market was valued at around $85bn in 2021 and is forecast to grow at 12% each year over the next decade. James is happy to share the research, and I’ve included a link to the research paper in the shownotes. James also shared information from Trojan’s clients who are offering refurbished products alongside new versions, and the results are very exciting. However, at some clients, attitudes are slow to change, with people reluctant to make the transition to selling refurbished products as well as new versions, and James explains some of the reasons behind this.
50:00 12/11/2023
116 Chuck Fuerst: circularity for product returns
Chuck Fuerst is Chief Marketing Officer for software provider ReverseLogix. ReverseLogix is the only end-to-end, centralized, and fully integrated returns management system built specifically for retail, eCommerce, manufacturing and 3PL organizations. The ReverseLogix platform facilitates, manages, and reports on the entire returns’ lifecycle. When I first worked in logistics, back in the late 1980s, for most companies, most of the time, returns were a minor issue. When e-commerce came along, starting in the 1990’s, product returns began to increase, and over the last few decades – especially as companies have moved towards cheaper products, with less reliable information on sizing for things like clothing - returns have become a major issue for many businesses – whether that’s for manufacturers and retailers, and for both B2B and B2C models. Chuck explains how the ReverseLogix software helps companies improve the process for getting products back into the system – whether that’s from e-commerce returns, returns of faulty goods, for repairs and warranty claims, and more. We’ll hear how ReverseLogix improves the customer returns experience, saves employee time with faster workflows, and helps businesses get insights into returns data – all of which improve profits and circular outcomes.
43:29 28/10/2023
115 Paddy Le Flufy: Building future-fit systems
We’re exploring the broader context of a future-fit economy, asking questions like: How do we create the conditions for circular solutions to gain traction? What’s holding us back, particularly when we think about our economic systems, and the way companies are set up? In today’s episode, I’m talking to Paddy Le Flufy about his book, Building Tomorrow: Averting Environmental Crisis With a New Economic System, which was published in March 2023. Paddy’s aim is to work out how we can improve our own society AND improve the lives of the billions of people currently affected by the dominant global systems. In A Circular Economy Handbook, I included a chapter on Enablers and Accelerators for the circular economy, and today we’re going to explore a couple of important ideas that fit into those categories – concepts that aren’t circular in themselves, but are important ways to help circular approaches have even more impact. Before embarking on this project, in 2015, Paddy had a somewhat different life. After a degree in mathematics at Cambridge University then qualifying as an accountant at KPMG in London, he lived something of a double life. He worked as a finance specialist in London for six months at a time, but then used his money to live in remote places, alongside people whose lives were drastically different from his own – and we’ll hear a bit more about that later. Paddy’s book is featured on the 2023 Financial Times Best Book of Summer reading list, and has earned praise from Jeremy Lent. “The book aims directly at creating systemic change by providing people with both a holistic vision of a new economic system and the tools with which to build it… Positive real-world examples and potential future developments show how people throughout society can help build the new system. Those that do will be creating a better world.” Paddy will give us an overview of the 6 themes in the book, one of which is the circular economy, and we’ll then go a bit deeper with a couple of them, exploring different forms of company structures and learning more about regenerative organisations.
46:03 14/10/2023
114 Daniel Kietzer: making resources discoverable & reusable
Daniel Kietzer is Director of Ecosystem Growth at Rheaply, a digital sharing platform scaling reuse by making resources discoverable, easily transferable and more valuable. Rheaply was started in 2016, and has won lots of awards, including Most Innovative Reuse Company at the Reusies in 2021. It’s backed by a number of early-stage investors, including Microsoft and Salesforce. Daniel Kietzer provides strategic, organizational, and technical support to Rheaply clients and their partners. He’s a circular economy and sustainability professional with 10+ years of experience designing and leading impact-focused projects with forward-thinking companies and organizations across the globe. Daniel’s speciality is reuse and recycling market development is his specialty, but he also dabbles in social entrepreneurship, sustainability in the built environment, water, carbon, and a variety of other sustainability-related efforts. We’ll get an update on how Rheaply has evolved since my original conversation with Tom Fecarotta back in 2020, in particular how data aggregation unlocks opportunities for cost and carbon savings, as well as supporting your zero waste targets. So many organisations could be tapping into these solutions to help them do better, with less.
41:39 30/09/2023
113 Steven Bethell: systemic solutions to the crisis of stuff
Steven Bethell is a thought leader and pioneer in the post-consumer textile space for over 20 years, who’s creating innovative and relevant solutions to the crisis of stuff. Steven is co-founder of the Bank and Vogue family of companies, which includes a major remanufacturing plant where the circular economy for textiles is brought to life. Taking post-consumer waste and transforming it into relevant products, Steven works with big brands to help them bring their sustainability platforms to the next level. Steven is also behind Beyond Retro, the largest vintage retailer in the UK and the Nordics which launched in 2002 and now has 15 retail outlets and an online shop, offering a wide selection of handpicked vintage clothing. When we donate clothes and shoes to a charity shop, how many of those end up being put on display and successfully sold? You might be surprised by the stats that Steven shares. Steven explains how he at the leverage points in the overall system, to work out where B&V could get involved and how to retain more value, in particular by reselling. Steven then took this further, finding ways to repurpose and remanufacture clothing and footwear – at scale. Steven explains how this works in the retail business he set up – Beyond Retro – and how he then looked upstream to develop remanufacturing services for a major US footwear retailer. Steven thinks at a system level, looking at the whole value network both upstream and downstream to see where he can intervene to make the biggest impact, and how to create the critical mass needed to create value, and overcome the sticking points. In his spare time Steven lives off the grid in the Canadian wilderness. He is an avid woodsman: fishing, paddling and learning about the outdoors and its many wonders.
52:19 16/09/2023
112 Fiona Dear: reviving repair and reuse for our tech
Fiona Dear is a Co-Director at The Restart Project, which aims to keep our electronic technology in use for longer through repair and reuse
47:17 02/09/2023
111 Sara Howard: symbiotic circular ceramics
How might we design and make ceramics in a circular economy? Ceramic products make our lives better in all kinds of ways. Some have been around for centuries (think bricks, tiles, pottery), and some are much more modern, in microchips and more. To help us learn about circular ceramics, we’re going to meet Sara Howard, a very impressive and award-winning ceramic designer and materials researcher, whose practice is focussed on reducing the environmental and societal impacts of ceramic production. Sara graduated from Central St. Martins in 2020, with a BA Honours Degree in Ceramic Design. In her final year, Sara designed an industrial symbiosis around the ceramics industry, in which waste from one industry replaces the raw materials in ceramic production. Sara wrote a book, Circular Ceramics, to openly share her methods and processes and help fellow ceramicists to adopt these sustainable processes in their own practices. On top of that, since graduating just 3 years ago, Sara has created two groundbreaking projects, collaborating with ceramic producers, artists and other industries to implement the use of industrial waste on a larger scale. Sara tells us how she’s set up a project for ceramics made with excavation waste from construction sites, and is launching a circular tableware startup in Bali, complete with its own factory. We’ll also find out about the key problems with modern ceramic production and why making new ceramics from ceramic waste is pretty much impossible.
48:34 19/08/2023
110 Katie Beverley: designing a circular economy
Are we designing a circular economy – or just designing circular products and materials? Today we’re catching up with Dr. Katie Beverley. Katie is a Senior Research Officer at PDR International Centre for Design and Research, at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She works with academic partners and the public and private sector, to embed ecodesign, circular economy and sustainable thinking into products and services. Back in Episode 5, Katie helped us understand more about ecodesign. She describes herself as a ‘critical friend’ of the circular economy, and that feels like a great starting point to explore what’s going well, and what isn’t.
58:48 05/08/2023
109 Janina Nieper – Connecting new designs to leftover materials
Janina Nieper is an Architect and Designer, working at Furnify, a design agency in the Netherlands. Janina Nieper is passionate about concepts that promote the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants, including using the Circular Economy to help us stay within planetary boundaries. At Furnify, a company dedicated to creating circular spaces, Janina is in charge of Business Development and Consulting, merging her expertise in spatial design and Circular Design. Janina wants to accelerate the Circular Economy through connecting, collaboration, and sharing, and she founded the Circular Economy Club in Amsterdam, with regular events to create a network of Circular Pioneers in Amsterdam. Furnify is a design agency, designing interior spaces for office work, education, and other activities. Furnify aims to turn its client’s sustainable ambitions into a circular reality by offering 2nd life alternatives for new designs. Furnify’s offers four services: consulting, design, realization, and story telling. We hear about how client needs are evolving and broadening. On top of the aesthetic and practical requirements around what do we need to do in this space – now, organisations want to reduce carbon, make a positive impact on other sustainability measures, and create healthier spaces for their teams and customers. That could include improving mental wellbeing, as well as reducing synthetic materials, chemicals like flame retardents and more.
37:33 22/07/2023
108 Sian Sutherland – fixing plastics can fix so much else…
In the 2nd part of the conversation with Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and PlasticFree.com, Sian tells Catherine Weetman why, instead of seeing a miserable picture of the future, we can reinvent a better, brighter future. As Sian says, by "fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else" A Plastic Planet is one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering global creatives to design waste out at source. Sian Sutherland, an award-winning serial entrepreneur across several industries, wants to ignite social change, and. At the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), this year, Sian and A Plastic Planet partnered with the Plastic Soup to launch the Plastic Health Council. This brings expert scientists to the UN Plastics Treaty negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health. In the 21st century, we find plastic in almost every part of our lives – but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, or only solution. Many of those people who resist the idea of a move away from plastics tell us that it’s a fantastic material, that it enables us to create a wide range of products to solve all kinds of challenges. On LinkedIn, you can see people – mostly with roles that depend on the continued use of plastics – cherry-picking examples of plastics used in medical and safety products, such as syringes, PPE, safety glasses, life jackets and so on. But those examples don’t mean that plastics are necessarily safe in use, or at the end of use. Nor do they mean that we should go along with the continued expansion of single-use plastics. The plastics industry spends millions on promote plastic as the perfect material for thousands of products, being cheap, lightweight, clean, and convenient. But we’re becoming more aware of serious downsides, for our health, and for the health of our living planet. Who says we can’t find better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity? Sian is passionately pro-business and solutions focused, and believes the plastic crisis gives us all a way in to changing both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations. In the first part, which went out in the last episode, 107, we discussed the new PlasticFree.com solutions platform for creatives, showcasing plastic-free materials and products, such as the Degenerative sneaker. We moved onto greenwash, and why Sian thinks the word 'recyclable' should be banned. Then, we explored the importance of understanding chemistry, especially in helping designers and material technologists get clear on the good and bad aspects of chemical processes - and we discussed some of the very new scientific advances that are shining a light on the links between plastics and a wide range of serious health conditions. In this episode we discuss neuromarketing, some of the uses of microbeads and microcapsules that you might not know about, and why systems change is even more important than changing the materials. Sian tells us about the work of the Reuseable Packaging Coalition, founded by another podcast guest, Jo Chidley. And we ask why big companies are finding it so difficult to break away from those last-century systems - take, make, use, and dispose - and how those businesses risk becoming irrelevant, following in the footsteps of Kodak - disrupted by better solutions.
53:29 08/07/2023
107 Sian Sutherland – plastic is last century’s material – what’s next?
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, tells Catherine Weetman why there are compelling reasons to design plastic out of our lives, and how and PlasticFree.com helps us do that... Plastic is embedded in pretty much every part of our lives. The plastics industry promotes it as the perfect material for thousands of products, being cheap, lightweight, clean, and convenient. But is that really true? And are there better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity? I've been a long time admirer of Sian Sutherland and her work. Sian co-founded A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis, and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering global creatives to design waste out at source. Sian is passionate about igniting social change, and creating brands and businesses with soul, and is a serial entrepreneur with a varied background across industries. In 2023 at the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, A Plastic Planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing the expert scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health. Sian is passionately pro-business and solutions focused, and believes the plastic crisis gives us all a way in to changing both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations. I particularly like the courageous way that Sian helps us unpack the key issues around plastics and is actively creating and powering up a range of solutions of plastic-free solutions. As Sian says, by "fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else" I felt this was a really rich conversation. Sian and A Plastic Planet are involved in so many initiatives and I didn't want you to miss out on any of Sian's insights and ideas, so I've split the conversation into two episodes. In this episode we talk about plastic free.com, a new systems and solutions platform for creatives, including designers technologists marketers strategists - that has thousands of case studies and proof points for plastic free solutions. We cover greenwash, vegan leathers, why chemistry is now essential for designers and makers, plus recent science on plastics and health.
45:19 24/06/2023
106 Yael Shemer of Tulu – everyday essentials on-demand
In episode 106, we hear from another disruptive start up, helping people ‘get more, from less’ - shrinking the footprint of production and consumption by improving the utilization of under-used objects. Today, I’m talking to Yael Shemer, an environmental entrepreneur and the co-founder and chief customer officer of TULU. Tulu is an on-demand service, enabling people to access things to help them cook, host, clean, and do DIY. Tulu operates in residential buildings and student housing, with customers renting things by the hour. It curates the kinds of items residents are looking for, installs a smart unit to display and stock the items, with a one-click app to manage access. Tulu is already in 22 cities across 3 continents, servicing 70,000 households. It was founded in 2018, by Yael and her co-founder, architect Yishai Lehavi. Tulu is now part of the MIT DesignX venture program, and has already raised nearly $30 million dollars. Yael Shemer has led several ventures in the field of urban communities and sustainable living. This year, Yael was selected as a Forbes 30 under 30. We'll hear how Tulu provides benefits for everyone in the system - landlords are able to create a better experience for their tenants, tenants get access to equipment and other things that make life easier or more enjoyable, and the equipment brands can create deeper, two-way relationships with customers.
50:23 10/06/2023

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