The draft Industrial Strategy set out a commitment for the Department for the Economy to work with the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in developing a Circular Economy Strategic Framework (CESF) for Northern Ireland.

Circular Economy Strategy (CES) for Northern Ireland

A circular economy will be a key enabler of the Department for the Economy's 10X Economic Vision for a decade of innovation.

In January 2023 the department launched a public consultation on the draft Circular Economy Strategy for Northern Ireland. The draft strategy sets out our vision to create an innovative, inclusive and competitive economy where business, people and planet flourish, with responsible production and consumption at its core.

Alongside this vision, the draft strategy identifies a target and 12 proposals for change that will make the transition to a circular economy a reality.

You can read the draft strategy and the public consultation response report at: Circular Economy Strategy for Northern Ireland.

What is the circular economy?

We live in a world where we take valuable resources from the earth and make things that we may use only once before throwing them away. This ’take-make-use-dispose’ model is known as the linear economy. It is unsustainable, costly and, moreover, it is unjust because it is based on a growth model which takes no consideration of the environmental and societal damage caused along the way.

The circular way offers an alternative model, that many countries are pursuing, in which:

  • we rethink and reduce our use of earth’s resources
  • we switch to regenerative resources
  • we minimise waste
  • we maintain the value of products and materials for as long as possible.

Proposals for change: How we can transition to a circular economy

The draft Circular Economy Strategy includes twelve proposals for change which set out how we could kick start the transition from a linear to circular economy. 

The twelve proposals for change have been framed around the Ellen MacArthur Foundation universal policy goals:

Collaborate for system change

  1. Develop and implement a programme to support and promote behaviour change
  2. Create clusters and networks to raise awareness and assist collaboration
  3. Develop an outcome-focused circular economy monitoring framework.

Design out waste

  1. Embed circular economy principles in public procurement
  2. Work with businesses to increase circular design.

Manage resources to retain value

  1. Create and support platforms and hubs to share goods and materials
  2. Maximise the value of materials locally.

Stimulate system change with funding incentives and penalties

  1. Establish a circular economy funding programme
  2. Create a regulatory framework that supports and incentivises greater circulation of goods and materials.

Invest in innovation, research and skills

  1. Invest in research and development to support the valorisation of materials.
  2. Embed circular economy principles at all levels of education.
  3. Design future skills programmes and reviews of current programmes to support a Just Transition.

The department commits in the draft strategy to explore options in establishing a delivery unit; to embedding circular economy thinking in climate action plans and to raising awareness of the circular economy across government, business and society.

Developing the strategy

To ensure the draft and final strategy are developed in collaboration across the public and private sector, the Circular Economy project team have worked alongside the Circular Economy Coalition (an advisory panel, established in 2021), and cross-departmental steering group. Members of the coalition include representatives of industry, academia, local government, the third sector and key NICS colleagues.

Developing a strong evidence base has also been key throughout the process. Circle Economy was commissioned in January 2021 to undertake a Circularity Gap Report (CGR) for Northern Ireland. The gap report, completed in June 2022, has informed the evidence base underpinning the development of the draft Circular Economy Strategy.

The full CGR and methodology document can be found at: Circularity Gap report Northern Ireland.

The department will continue to work in collaboration with the Circular Economy Coalition and cross-department steering group to consider feedback from the public consultation to help shape the final strategy.  

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