University of Edinburgh Business School
ILW Challenge: Transport Congestion, Food and Material Waste
February 25, 2016

Students competed in a new circular economy challenge as part of SBI’s innovative learning week events.

For decades, the Edinburgh City Council has been grappling with the challenge presented by transport congestion and food / material wastage in the city. Alternative approaches have been trialed, yet the problem persists. Is there a circular economy solution? We put this challenge to our genius brains who took part in the Innovative Learning Week 2016 Circular Economy Challenge Event.

The challenge was part of the Sustainable Business Initiative’s Festival of events: There is no alternative! … Or is there? Exploring the tensions in alternative and sustainable business models.

The intimate 3-hour workshop event saw the unique collaboration between three disciplines: Textiles, Informatics and Business and comprised of three engaged groups all in pursuit of the prize. Each group set out to solve the Edinburgh City Council’s challenge and after discussing what the circular economy is and ‘brain dumping’ what each challenge (transport, food waste and material waste) encompassed, attendees were required to propose one final circular economy solution to any one of the three challenges.

Topping up on tea, coffee and biscuits as they went, teams grabbed paper, pens, materials and anything else they could get their hands and set to work on preparing their solution. After the time-up bell sounded the teams presented to the judges – Liz Cooper (Research and Policy Manager at the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department, University of Edinburgh) and Kenneth Amaeshi (Director of the Sustainable Business Initiative, University of Edinburgh Business School).

The ideas presented were impressive, inspired and excited the judges who are both leading thinkers in the field of the circular economy. One group proposed a transformative change in how waste is considered and would be driven by top-down government initiatives and bottom up societal mentality shift. They including various initiatives in how to achieve this and brought into play the re-use approach. Another group proposed a new legal policy – an Upgradeability Scheme – that provides tax breaks to manufacturers whose products have proven longevity. This considered how things can be circular by design.

It was, however, the concept of making the Edinburgh Festival more circular through effective flyering that caught the eye of the judges. Through dividing the walking channels in Edinburgh (for those that are interested in receiving flyers / advertising and those that aren’t) as well as capturing data from depositing leaflets in certain waste boxes (to determine the impact of the advertising on the consumer) less waste would be created. They proposed that the data collected would then be used in a circular economy manner to ensure that advertising is effective and does not generate waste and the old flyers themselves would be re-used and made into flyers for the following year. Huge Congratulations to the group of Bernardita Mancilla Vigneaux and Sam Henderson for delivering such a great solution to the challenge in such a short space of time.

They won a copy of the book The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows, Ken Webster, Ellen Macarthur Foundation (EMF) (kindly donated by Colin Webster, EMF) and a tasty bottle of wine.

Many thanks to L.Pschetz and S.K.Mclauchlan from ECA for working with SBI on delivering this workshop and to the judges for their time.