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New Research highlights business opportunities in the All-island Circular Economy

21 Mar 2024

InterTradeIreland, the all-island economic development agency, has launched a report revealing new business opportunities available in the all-island circular economy across a wide range of sectors.

The report, announced today at the All-Ireland Sustainability Summit, highlights the potential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout the island to make significant cost savings and reduce carbon emissions.

Martin Robinson, Director of Strategy at InterTradeIreland, explained the benefits of circular approaches, stating:

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.

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 multi award winning sustainable denim company, sources preloved denim and other reclaimed materials to craft bespoke luxury designs.

Founder Marie Nancarrow underscoring the importance of sustainability, commented:

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. An example of this is BiaSol from Athlone. The innovative food business 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 lots of 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.

The report does note that despite the opportunities available, barriers such as waste regulation and the lack of a joined-up approach can hinder companies.

Martin concluded,

At InterTradeIreland, we are committed to supporting businesses in exploring innovative ways to integrate and grow circular practices in their operations. BiaSol participated in an InterTradeIreland Synergy initiative and as a result were introduced to a new investor.

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.
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