Katy Perry, denim, and Ireland’s circular economy

InterTradeIreland report points to new opportunities where businesses adapt ‘take-make-waste’ approach

Katy Perry arrives at the 56th Annual CMA Awards
Katy Perry arrives at the 56th Annual CMA Awards A denim-clad Katy Perry arrives at the 56th annual CMA Awards in Nashville last November

New all-island research has highlighted the many business opportunities in Ireland’s so-called circular economy.

That’s the economic model that replaces the linear ‘take-make-waste’ approach where, rather than dispose of waste, it identifies opportunities to keep waste material in circulation by repurposing it, often as a production input or replacement for virgin raw materials.

The report, carried out by economic development agency InterTradeIreland, highlights the potential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout the island to make significant cost savings and reduce carbon emissions.

But it also highlights barriers such as waste regulation and the lack of a joined-up approach which can hinder companies.

And while throughout the report specific opportunities have been identified for intervention to foster the circular economy across the island, it makes four key recommendations to:

  • Raise awareness across the various stakeholders through strategic communication;
  • Empower SMEs to take action themselves through training and information;
  • Enable their actions by providing support in specific forms: expertise, data transparency, and investment; and
  • Foster a consistent integration of the circular economy within SMEs through a robust, collaborative approach and policy alignment that transcends regional boundaries.

InterTradeIreland’s strategy director Martin Robinson said: “We know from our research that cost pressures are a significant concern for businesses across the island.

“Circular principles make better use of resources and deliver environmental benefits while also enhancing business performance. It’s an area that is relevant to all businesses.”

Launching the circular economy report at the La Mon Hotel are (from left) Marie Nancarrow, founder of Titanic Denim; Stuart Mathieson, research manager at InterTradeIreland; Martin Robinson, director of strategy at InterTradeIreland and Niamh Dooley, co-founder at BiaSol (Brian Thompson)

In contrast to the traditional economic model of ‘take-make-waste’, the circular economy keeps materials in circulation for as long as possible through strategies such as reuse, repurposing, and recycling.

It’s a process that Titanic Denim in Belfast understands well. Established in 2017, the sustainable denim company sources preloved denim and other reclaimed materials to craft bespoke luxury designs.

Founder Marie Nancarrow, underscoring the importance of sustainability, said: “The younger generation is more educated about sustainability and about the importance of looking after the environment. Increasingly, customers are interested in where their products come from.”

Notably, Titanic Denim’s commitment to sustainability has garnered attention from renowned figures such as singer Katy Perry and other top artists, who have sought bespoke pieces reflecting the company’s circular ethos.

One of the key findings of the report underscores the huge potential of industrial symbiosis, in which outputs from one process serve as inputs for another.

Such an example is innovative food business BiaSol from Athlone, which takes spent grain from breweries and makes it into a fibre-rich ingredient called super milled grains, which can be added to smoothies, porridge and baked goods.

Niamh Dooley from BiaSol said: “By 2050 we need to increase our food production by 60 per cent and with climate change on top of that, we need to do it in a circular way. A third of all food produced ends up as waste, and that’s mostly at the manufacturing level.

“There is definitely huge potential for SMEs in various sectors to get involved in the circular economy. It takes work, but it’s worth it. We’ve also found that circular principles are attractive to investors too.”

Martin added: “InterTradeIreland is committed to supporting businesses in exploring innovative ways to integrate and grow circular practices in their operations.

“We look forward to collaborating closely with policy makers, stakeholders and partners across the island to identify opportunities to work together, accelerate widespread adoption and make the most of the potential presented by the circular economy.”