Researchers and practitioners at the University of Edinburgh have been working together to identify how principles of the Circular Economy can be embedded in Research, Learning & Teaching and Operations at the University and have published a report on their findings.
The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS), with support from Zero Waste Scotland, facilitated a project between January and April 2015 with operational and academic colleagues. The Business School’s Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI) was recruited to carry out the main piece of research, and smaller teams from the Schools of Geosciences and Chemistry also looked at practices within their own areas.
As well as a literature and document review, interviews were carried out with over 35 staff members. Initial research findings were presented to a group of over 20 staff from the across the University (Schools, ERI, operations) on 1st April 2015, who offered feedback and discussed potential next steps. The report details the findings of this project, presenting a review of the concept of the Circular Economy, approaches taken at other universities, the results from the stakeholder engagement at the University of Edinburgh, and a summary of the current initiatives at the University.
Researchers found that a range of research and teaching on Circular Economy thinking is taking place, and some practical initiatives exist which could be developed and promoted further – including current practices and policies within the University, initiatives such as the Warp It re-use portal for staff, the student led re-use cooperative SHRUB (Swap and Reuse Hub), and activities of the UK Biochar Research Centre, which uses waste to enhance soils.
Courses looking at the Circular Economy are on offer in the School of Education and Edinburgh College of Art, and a number of courses where the themes can be further embedded have been identified in School of Geosciences and the School of Chemistry.
Higher education institutions such as the University of Edinburgh can play a pivotal role in a transformation to a Circular Economy. They can supply cutting edge research that promotes the adoption of Circular Economy initiatives and educate designers, engineers, future business leaders, procurement decision makers, potential market influencers, policy makers and many others. In addition, they have leverage in their own supply chains and operations.
There was strong interest from the academic and operational staff involved in this small project to take this forward. We look forward to continuing to work together on next steps.