How circular economy could inject £475m into north’s economy

New All-Island Circular Economy Forum sets out direction for more sustainable economic future

Adopting 'circular economy' principles could add £475 million to Northern Ireland’s economy and boost the island’s overall economy by €2.3 billion (close to £2 billion), new research suggests
Pictured at InterTradeIreland’s offices in Newry are (from left) the agency's research manager Stuart Mathieson and chief executive Margaret Hearty with Brenda Burke, director at the Department for the Economy; Niall McLoughlin, principal officer at the Department of the Environment Climate and Communications; and Amanda Smyth, programme manager for the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor (DARREN KIDD)

Adopting ‘circular economy’ principles could add £475 million to Northern Ireland’s economy and boost the island’s overall economy by €2.3 billion (close to £2 billion), new research suggests.

It came as economic development agency InterTradeIreland brought together government departments and agencies from both jurisdictions for a meeting of the new All-Island Circular Economy Forum, which will work to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable economic future on both sides of the border.

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

Brenda Burke, director at the Department for the Economy at Stormont, said: “By embracing circular economy principles, we can create a resilient low-carbon economy that benefits the environment, society, and businesses in general.”

And Philip Nugent, assistant secretary at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in the Dail, added: “This meeting is in an important example of how cross-border collaboration can help to drive innovation, reduce waste, and leverage economies of scale to generate a greener, more prosperous economy for all.”

Estimates suggest that adopting circular economy principles could bring in an additional £475 million to the north’s economy and boost Ireland’s economy by €2.3bn.

A recent report from InterTradeIreland identified the need for more collaboration and joint initiatives across the whole island to deliver the full scale of opportunities available.

This would enable businesses to make significant cost savings, develop new products and reduce emissions.

The findings were backed up by an independent report for the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor, whose programme manager Amanda Smyth said: “We’re delighted to be taking forward the results of two really strong pieces of research that show the benefits of cross-border approaches to the circular economy. Working in partnership is absolutely central to what we do, and this meeting is an excellent example of that.”

The focus on collaboration was evident at the forum, with ambitious plans including the potential for an all-island resource matching service discussed as part of a roadmap toward an island-wide circular economy.

InterTradeIreland’s research also highlighted the value of Invest NI’s current resource matching service, which takes waste from one company and finds another company that can use it to produce new products but noted that an all-island platform does not yet exist.

Margaret Hearty
InterTradeIreland chief executive Margaret Hearty

Margaret Hearty, chief executive of InterTradeIreland said: “This forum demonstrates InterTradeIreland’s unique ability to connect partners from across the island to deliver tangible economic benefits.

“We look forward to future meetings with plans to incorporate a wider range of key stakeholders. There are huge opportunities available in the circular economy and InterTradeIreland has a range of supports available to help businesses capitalise on them.

“I encourage any small business that wants to become more efficient and sustainable to get in touch and find out how we can help.”