BLUEPRINT Model - About your organisation

Summary notes

This page aims to provide insight and inspiration from the BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Project and industry leading organisations. Its objective is to support local authority officers to take steps to become more circular. This page will:

  • Outline the role of local authorities in supporting a circular economy.
  • Introduce the concept of a circular economy.
  • Summarise how an organisation’s vision can drive circularity within a local authority.
  • Touch on the role of local authority policies and strategies in embedding circularity across an organisation.
  • Make the case for circular economy expertise and resource.
  • Share how collaboration and partnerships can accelerate progress towards a circular economy.
  • Detail the importance of colleague communications in supporting an organisation to become more circular.

Introduction

Local authorities are a major employer within their localities, responsible for purchasing goods and services, and as a regulator and policy maker on a local level. Local authorities, therefore, have a unique opportunity to support the move to a circular economy and increase circularity in their areas – benefiting residents, local businesses, and the environment.

There are many opportunities for local authorities to adopt more circular practices, such as through service designs, operations, procurement, and colleague behaviours. With a broad range of benefits, adopting a circular economy can help to minimise waste and pollution, increase social value of activities, create jobs, reduce the impact of activities on the environment, and build a more resilient economic system.

Before reading about your organisation and the circular economy further, it is recommended that your local authority completes the BLUEPRINT Baselining Activity. This will help you assess how your local authority is currently performing with regards to a circular economy. The BLUEPRINT Baselining activity aims to support local authorities to identify areas where they are already performing well and identify areas of opportunity to improve circularity.   

What is the circular economy?

The linear economy is where resources are taken, used to make products, distributed for use, and then thrown away when they are no longer wanted. However, the concept of a circular economy has emerged as a solution to move away from wasteful practices and reduce the impact on the environment.

In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in use for longer – by designing products that are durable, easy to maintain and repair and can be reused many times through borrowing, renting, and buying second-hand or refurbished products. When products or materials can no longer be reused, they are designed to enable straightforward recycling. The Butterfly Diagram, created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, depicts the continuous flow of materials in two main cycles: technical cycles and biological cycles (figure 1).

“In the technical cycle, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes such as reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling. In the biological cycle, nutrients from biodegradable materials are returned to the earth to regenerate nature.”[1]

Butterfly diagram of the circular economy from Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Figure 1: The Butterfly Diagram: Visualising the Circular Economy (ellenmacarthurfoundation.org).

The circular economy model provides a solution that recognises the value of resources, creates opportunities for growth and jobs, and reduces the environmental impacts of creating and disposing of products.

To find out more about the circular economy, visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Supporting a local authority’s vision

How the circular economy supports a local authority’s vision and ambition should be identified. While an organisation’s plan may not directly reference the circular economy, these principles can often be associated with existing ambitions such as green jobs, reducing waste, and protecting the natural environment. Engaging with senior colleagues to move the circular economy up the political agenda – particularly when a local authority’s organisational plan is being refreshed – can be a great opportunity to ensure the circular economy is considered across the organisation. 

Local authority policies and strategies

Policies and strategies have an important role to play in ensuring the right systems are in place that support local authority employees and service users in adopting desired behaviours. The waste management and procurement pages of the BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Model outline how circular economy principles are being embedded across these two departments.

As described in the waste management page, some local authorities may opt to create a separate circular economy strategy, with others choosing to integrate these principles in their existing strategies. There are pros and cons to each method, with the right option being down to your own local authority’s preference, existing strategy landscape and timing or need for a particular strategy’s review.

The responsibility of integrating the circular economy sits across all functions and services, which is why some may opt for a circular economy strategy. However, not integrating circular economy principles into existing strategies risks teams working in silos. Ultimately, both indicate a move in the right direction, with no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

View examples of circular economy and waste strategies and plans:

Circular economy expertise and resources

Having dedicated circular economy expertise and resource within a local authority is essential to raise awareness of the circular economy with colleagues, partners, and residents, and to drive circular practices within an organisation.

Circular economy expertise

A circular economy role or team can be the solution for some local authorities and can often support other organisational priorities such as reducing waste, saving money, and regenerating natural systems. However, for other local authorities, this need could be met through upskilling or circular economy training for colleagues in existing roles, such as waste management, procurement, or economic development, for example.

At Essex County Council (ECC), the Circular Economy team has evolved from existing roles originally created to reduce waste and improve recycling in Essex. While the Circular Economy team continues to create and deliver behaviour change through waste reduction and recycling initiatives, it also strives to engage with colleagues, partners and officers from other organisations to share expertise and drive towards a more circular economy.

In contrast, at Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC), officers from Economic Development, Sustainability and Business Support work together to support the delivery of the Carbon Neutral 2030 Programme and the cross-party 2030 Carbon Neutral Member Working Group. The programme sets out actions and interventions to achieve net zero emissions.

View Brighton & Hove City Council’s Carbon Neutral Programme.

Circular economy resource

As with any other ambition, funding and resource are required for a local authority to move towards a more circular economy. Fortunately, circular actions and initiatives often support waste reduction, challenges the types of goods purchased – and can even promote efficient, effective and more resilient service. Although an initial investment may be required, the potential cost savings and environmental benefits can make a compelling pitch for additional funding and resource allocation.

Collaboration and partnerships

Moving towards a circular economy will take time as changes are gradually embedded across an organisation. Local authorities can be an active member of networks or partnerships to exchange best practices, share lessons learnt, and raise awareness for funding opportunities to accelerate progress towards a more circular economy.  This could be networking with colleagues from within a local authority or collaborating with officers in similar roles from other local authorities or organisations.

An example of collaboration is the Brighton & Hove Circular Economy Club (CEC), one of over 270 Circular Economy Clubs worldwide. It is made up of individuals, small and medium enterprises, social enterprises, universities, faith groups and third sector organisations. Members support knowledge sharing and together work towards supporting a more circular economy.

Another example is the UK Circular Cities and Regions Network that ReLondon leads. It is a network of circular economy officers from local authorities that aims to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration across the UK. The network has quarterly meetings where officers can share learning from local circular programmes and activities alongside presentations from relevant external organisations. 

Colleague communication

The circular economy should be considered across an organisation, in decision-making, service design, operations and procuring products and materials. All employees, therefore, have a role to play in ensuring circular economy principles are applied throughout their roles and responsibilities.

While many employees will already be familiar with the concept of the circular economy and be proactive in applying circular considerations within their role, for other employees the concept may be new. So regular colleague communication is essential to raise awareness of the circular economy, outline how it fits in with an organisation’s vision, and highlight how it can be applied to a range of roles, and where employees can go for support.

Often the opportunity to apply circular economy considerations will only be recognised if the correct language is used. General awareness of the circular economy is an important first step towards effective colleague communications. Key after that is to outline a range of examples on how the circular economy can support a service to meet their key deliverables – such as service resilience or cost savings.

There are many ways to engage with colleagues using internal communication channels:

  • Intranet articles and guidance.
  • All employee newsletters.
  • Colleague Microsoft Teams channels (or similar).
  • Email correspondence.
  • Colleague social media groups such as Yammer.

The Circular Economy Hub at Essex County Council is a small working group set up to find out about colleague understanding of the circular economy and point out activities that already support a circular economy. The findings are used to highlight good practices that are already circular across the organisation, as well as helping to remove barriers – such as the knowledge gap on what the circular economy is – through colleague training and communication.

One of the ways the working group has looked to overcome the knowledge gap is by working with Learning and Development colleagues to create a Circular Economy Playlist on the internal learning platform. Training incorporates modules about the circular economy as well as videos created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to provide a broad overview of the circular economy.

Circular economy interventions 

BLUEPRINT Project campaigns share detailed insights into pilot projects that aim to inspire local authorities to launch similar initiatives. As well as detailing project descriptions, case studies will share challenges, opportunities, and lessons learnt. Browse BLUEPRINT Project campaigns.

A Circular economy development document template has been developed as part of the BLUEPRINT Project – it is designed to support local authorities to define the scope, approach, and financial needs of a circular economy project.

Solution case studies have been collated from across England and France to create a catalogue of inspirational activities that inspire local authorities to support or run similar projects in their areas. Case studies will include initiatives that aim to design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use at the highest value for as long as possible; and regenerate natural systems. Some examples include:

View the BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Project’s Circular Economy Directory to find businesses, services and charities in the France Channel England (FCE) region supporting a circular economy.

Research, reports and presentations

Many key organisations lead the way for a circular economy, including:

  • ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency) – provides expertise and advice to businesses, local authorities, communities, government bodies and the public to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) – is a leading professional membership organisation for individuals in the sustainability, resources and waste management sector.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation – provides online resources covering all aspects of the circular economy.
  • Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) – provides online resources and host events to support officers working in waste management as well as influencing UK waste policy. 
  • Local Government Association (LGA) – is a national membership body for local authorities working on behalf of member councils to support, promote and improve local government.
  • ReLondon – is a partnership of the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management and transform the city into a leading low carbon circular economy.
  • Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – works around the globe with governments, businesses, and citizens to make the world a more sustainable place. It shares insight and resources on a range of reduction, reuse and recycling opportunities.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is a not-for-profit environmental organisation, using evidence and insights to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.

BLUEPRINT Project research and reports

As part of the BLUEPRINT to a Circular Economy Project, a number of reports have been published. You can find all BLUEPRINT Project reports here.

Presentations from the BLUEPRINT Roadshow:

Onwards to: Procurement