Cornwall could be at the cutting edge of a transition towards a “circular economy”.
The concept of a circular economy aims to eliminate waste by using and reusing resources rather than throwing them away.
This drastically new form of economy claims benefits for both people and the planet.
At a summit on Wednesday (Sept 25), organised by the Tevi programme, dozens of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as policymakers and academics, discussed how to make Cornwall’s economy more circular and environmentally sustainable.
This work builds on existing regional development approaches focusing on more innovation, resilience and value creation on the local level.
Invited speakers included Professor Peter Hopkinson and Professor Steffen Boehm from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Circular Economy as well as Dr Reg Butterfield, founder of the international consultancy Management Resource Centre based in Austria, and Simone Gager, who runs the design programme for the Amsterdam-based social enterprise Circle Economy.
Tevi (Cornish for “grow”) is an EU-funded project, led by the University of Exeter, to create both economic and environmental growth in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The programme is delivered in partnership with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Council and Cornwall Development Company.
“Ultimately we are trying to delete the concept of waste,” said Tevi project manager Dr Dan Bloomfield.
“Any reasonable assessment of circular economy tells us that Cornwall is in the early stages – a truly circular economy is radically different from how things are now.
“However, compared to other rural areas, we are ahead of the game because we have a dedicated network in Tevi.
“We have the enthusiasm from Cornish businesses, coupled with the academic input, to bring about the circular economy in Cornwall.”
The summit heard from a range of experts from Cornwall and beyond, and participants broke into groups to discuss specific issues and opportunities.
SMEs received practical advice about moving their businesses from the conventional linear to a more circular economy business model.
One recurring theme was the need for a hub or exchange where businesses could list their waste products, to find out if any other business or organisation could make use of them.
In this context, a data-driven approach to both mapping and environmental intelligence lies at the heart of Tevi’s offerings.
“Mapping Cornwall in this way is a really interesting idea,” said investor Chris Gaskell, speaking at the event at Nancarrow Farm near Truro.
“It would really help to get the circular economy going.”
Mike Hooper, of Miscanthus Nursery Ltd, said Tevi was playing a vital role by bringing people together.
“My main drive in life is to create a can-do attitude,” he said.
“You need to get people together to get things done.”
Tracey Dockree, who upcycles unwanted clothes and is developing yarn made from nettles, added: “Cornwall has a really good shot at making something like this work.”