A £3.8m research project spearheaded by the University of Hull will explore how to create a more sustainable and economically robust environment with the minimisation of waste generation at its heart.
The European-funded Horizon 2020 project, called Cresting, will look into the aspects of the circular economy with related impacts on business, government, the economy and the environment.
The project will see 15 early career researchers recruited to universities across Europe. They will be trained in cutting-edge analysis of circular economy practices already in existence with the aim of turning this assessment into lessons for managing a transformation to a circular economy.
Academic partners in the project attended the University of Hull for the inaugural workshop, with recruitment underway for researchers. By the end, the project will have delivered 15 highly skilled individuals with an “unparalleled understanding” about how a circular economy works, able to inform and advise on future policy.
“What is unique about what this project is that we are trying to understand the implications of the circular economy. There is a lot of research into separate components of building a circular economy, such as design and recycling, but far fewer people working on how they fit together and what these changes might mean to the economy or for society.”
The project will look at, among other things, to what extent circular economy practices are already occurring in the public and private sectors and what the environmental, social and economic implications of developing a circular economy are.
Dr Pauline Deutz, project co-ordinator from the University of Hull, said: “This is a major policy strategy within the EU around resource and recycling. It’s about changing the way things are designed so they are easier to recycle, last longer or are not made with toxic matter. This involves building new relationships between companies, governmental bodies and the public to find ways of being cleverer in the use of resources than we currently are.
“There could be enormous implications for the geographies of employment and economic development too, with new opportunities arising but others also disappearing.”
The four-year project also includes 15 partner organisations located in ten different countries across the EU and beyond. Partners include WRAP; Hull City Council; EMS Ltd, an award winning Hull-based charity; the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment; and the universities of Nanjing, China, and Ibadan, Nigeria.
Other partners include companies involved in manufacturing, waste management and IT solutions for the circular economy. Each researcher will be seconded to one or more partners for first-hand experience of working in an organisation striving to develop the circular economy from its own perspective.
Dr Deutz said: “What is unique about what this project is that we are trying to understand the implications of the circular economy. There is a lot of research into separate components of building a circular economy, such as design and recycling, but far fewer people working on how they fit together and what these changes might mean to the economy or for society.”
The implications of building a circular economy also have an impact on climate change.
“If we are more effective in what we use then there can be carbon savings, but more attention needs to be paid to measuring the impacts of different approaches to resource efficiency,” Dr Deutz said.
“The most appropriate option will vary for different materials and different locations. There are potentially huge savings to be made in terms of money by using less resources, but there are also huge consequences in terms of helping the environment.”
Universities involved in the project include the universities of Graz, Austria; Utrecht, Netherlands; Messina and University “G d’Annunzio” Pescara, Italy; Aberta and New University of Lisbon, Portugal; and the University of Technology Troyes, France in addition to the University of Hull.
The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765198.