Glasgow: The Circular City Hosting the COP26

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3Q 2021 | IN-6264

Glasgow is setting a global example by shifting to a circular economy, which is focused on environmental sustainability.

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Glasgow a World-Leading Circular City


Glasgow is set to host the much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November this year. It is a city with a long industrial history, but what is it doing to become a future-proof resilient city? The answer—it is buying into the circular economy. The circular economy is a growing concept where businesses and consumers are moving away from the take-make-waste model of the past and becoming more aware of the resources that they use and what is being done at their end-of-life. The three circular economy principals are 1) Eliminate waste and pollution; 2) Keep products and materials in use; and 3) Regenerate natural systems[1].

Glasgow was the first city in the UK to sign the Circular Cities Declaration. The declaration is a collection of European cities that have committed to accelerating the transition from a linear to a circular economy. It is a clear and vocal commitment by the city to encourage and participate in a more circular economy and encourage better business practices. In practice, this is executed by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Circle City who collaborated to produce the Circle Glasgow vision and action plan with the support of Zero Waste Scotland (a non-governmental organization). Circle Glasgow provides £18 million in funding to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) through Zero Waste Scotland. It has also established the Circular Glasgow Network for people and businesses to collaborate and share their experiences with others. As a result of the Circular Glasgow’s success, it was a part of the FCDO (foreign, commonwealth, and development office) Smart Sustainable Cities project along with Manchester (UK) and Aarhus (Denmark). The event (co-sponsored by Arup) showcased the best practice for building a more resilient city through the circular economy and other smart city approaches.

[1] Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Growing Circular Businesses


As Glasgow has been championing different circular concepts many new businesses have been supported by Circular Glasgow and Zero Waste Scotland. One of these businesses is EGG Lighting. EGG Lighting is a lighting service company that uses many different circular and smart city concepts to build a more sustainable and smarter service. It uses an as-a-service business model to provide clients with an LED lighting service. The business model works since LED lights are going through a period of rapid upgrade and newer models are becoming more and more efficient. This coupled with the 10–15-year lifespan of the lights makes it easy for a business to be left behind. This is where the as-a-service model works, as EGG lighting would upgrade the system throughout its lifetime ensuring the energy and money savings are kept up to date with the markets best. This works particularly well for LED lights, as when upgrading the lights, generally only 5% of it must be refurbished, further reducing waste.

The company has gone a step further as the devices can also be connected to IoT (Internet of Things) devices for even smarter lighting that reduces usage and energy consumption. It also places QR codes on all lights so that their lifetime can be extended as the history and repairs of the device are easily tracked.

Another example business is Revive Eco. They are creating a palm oil substitute (among other products) from recycled coffee grounds. This tackles many different issues with one smart solution. It reduces the demand on palm oil, which is a very eco intensive product that is responsible for much of the Amazon’s deforestation and reduces the amount of waste going to landfill or compost (generally a very low-quality recycled product). It is currently in the proof-of-concept phase of the manufacturing process and has received grants and support from Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Fund.

How Circular Can We Get?


The 2021 Circularity Gap Report has stated that in order to reach our global emissions targets, the world’s economy needs to be around 15% circular. That’s almost double its current level of 8.6%. Collaboration on the city council level all the way up to the international level will be required to reach this goal. Many upcoming and growing smart city technologies will be essential in facilitating this transition. The City of Glasgow has started this evolution through its enabling of cross company cooperation and funding of the circular economy. Platforms and technologies like 5G, blockchain technology, cooperative IoT, increased automation through AI, and digital twins will be essential in allowing this new economic model to be successful. IoTs and blockchain will be used for proper and safe resource management whereas digital twins will aid in the designing out of waste before it has been produced. However, a truly 100% circular economy would be an impossible task in todays globalized society, but for companies and governments the circular economy is a clear path to a more sustainable future.



Companies Mentioned