£1bn potential of circular economy to Scotland’s cities and regions revealed in new reports

Iain Gulland
Iain Gulland

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Key regions of Scotland could be at the heart of an estimated £1bn boom for circular economy businesses in Scotland, the First Minister of Scotland will announce at a major international event taking place today (Wednesday 31 October) in Glasgow.

The potential value to the local economies of circular approaches in Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire and Tayside, is set out in reports commissioned by Zero Waste Scotland, and highlighted in a speech by the First Minister at the Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland. The Hotspot is a major international circular economy event, running from 30 October to 1 November at the Glasgow SEC.

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The predicted economic benefits to Tayside of adopting a circular economy are over £400 million, while the predicted benefits to Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire are over £600m. A further report sets out the economic opportunities unique to Scotland’s capital, including proposals to maximise the circular opportunities in Edinburgh’s huge festivals and hospitality market.

All reports were produced with the assistance of the local chambers of commerce and written by independent consultants. Each chamber has already started to engage businesses and to help them realise the opportunities. These reports build on work undertaken in Glasgow in June 2016. Scotland has four circular economy regions: Circular Glasgow (a partner in the Hotspot); Circular Edinburgh, Circular Tayside and Circular North East – each work on projects tailored to local opportunities.

The First Minister will also use her speech to announce the latest businesses to receive support through the Circular Economy Investment Fund, with over £700,000 going to help three Scottish businesses accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Circular Economy Investment Fund is administered by Zero Waste Scotland and supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

The three businesses are:

  • Total Homes, £312,385: a three-sector partnership delivering house clearances for Housing Associations in Glasgow, ensuring that household appliances, furniture and other goods are re-used.
  • Revive Eco, £234,358: based in Glasgow, they collect used coffee grounds and recycle them to create high value bio-oils, which have a wide range of valuable applications including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food and drink. The business is built upon partnerships with large coffee chains and small independent coffee stores and garden centres.
  • Angus 3D, £175,000: this grant enables the Tayside start-up to bring latest metal 3D printing technology to Scotland. This will reduce waste in the design process and extend the lifespan of machinery by allowing obsolete parts to be manufactured from 3D scans.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“These reports show the exciting potential of a circular economy where reducing waste and investing in keeping materials in circulation for as long as possible can release an estimated £1 billion of economic opportunities for Tayside, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. This demonstrates the overall scale of the opportunity for Scotland.

“It’s great to see projects like Total Homes, Revive Eco and Angus 3D embracing our circular economy and getting maximum value from resources. This £700,000 investment will help these businesses re-use and repurpose products which will benefit communities by creating jobs and reducing emissions.

“Scotland is already leading the way with its ambitious and challenging targets for recycling which are above and beyond the EU targets. However, we want the narrative to move beyond recycling to re-use, repair and remanufacturing of items. In this light, we are currently considering next steps for introducing a deposit return scheme which will help us achieve our ambitions.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to profile the work that’s being done in Scotland to kickstart the circular economy to a global audience. Businesses like Revive Eco, Angus 3D and Total Homes are already doing great things, and I hope this event will be an impetus for even more ambition. Our Circular Economy Investment Fund is helping to bring exciting new ideas to market and we are seeing ever greater interest from private backers, who recognise that the future is circular. The challenges in building a circular economy are big but they are only matched by the potential benefits to businesses, which could be up to £1 billion in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and Tayside alone.” 

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

Predicted economic benefits in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire from adopting a circular economy are approximately £625 million:

  • Construction and built environment sector – £286 million.
  • Energy infrastructure sector – £250 million.
  • Food and drink sector, and the wider bio-economy – £52 million.
  • Manufacturing sector – £37 million.


Predicted economic benefits in Tayside from adopting a circular economy are around £404 million:

  • Construction and the built environment sector – £185 million
  • Energy infrastructure sector – £186 million
  • Manufacturing sector – £19 million
  • Food and drink sector, and the wider bioeconomy – £14 million


Researchers considered a range of economic opportunities specific to Edinburgh’s key sectors.

  • The University of Edinburgh has identified an alternative method of gold recovery from electronics which has a reduced impact on the environment through the use of less toxic chemicals. Reuse and recovery of precious materials could be worth up to £140 million, with a potential reduction of 13,000 tCO2e.
  • Edinburgh and the surrounding region is home to a host of breweries and distilleries. Making beer produces a high volume of spent grain, which can then be channelled into grain bars/granola and animal feed, anaerobic digestion and energy generation, with a potential value of £1,275,000 to the economy each year.
  • Circular Edinburgh is joining forces with the Festivals Edinburgh to help promote the circular economy.


Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, has pioneered the cities and regions approach to developing a circular economy in Scotland. An initiative of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Circular Glasgow is a partnership alongside Zero Waste Scotland, Glasgow City Council and Circle Economy from the Netherlands.

To date Circular Glasgow has a directly engaged with over 500 businesses through a range of tools, alongside a suite of events.


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