Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

What is the circular economy?

What is the circular economy?

linear v circular economy


In our existing economy,

  • we take resources from the ground, air and water
  • we make them into products and structures
  • then we dispose of them.

In a circular economy

  • we get as much value as possible from the resources that we use
  • we return nutrients to the soil and ensure on-going productivity
  • we minimise value lost by reducing landfill and incineration (preventing ‘leakage from the economy’).

We have made a lot of progress in reducing the amount of waste we dispose of, by segregating wastes and recycling them.  We are also making progress in the use of resources, by looking at energy, water and materials efficiency.

For example, we mine aluminium ore, smelt it into aluminium and manufacture drink cans and other products. Many of these products are used once, and then disposed of. Recycling rates are improving, and the manufacturing process is using less aluminium, but there is still a loss of materials, mainly to landfill. This means more aluminium needs to be mined and smelted. If all aluminium could be retained from goods that were designed to be reused or taken apart when they reach the end of their useful life, this would significantly reduce the need for primary extraction.

This is an example of what is meant by the circular economy.

This guideline explains what actions you can take to support the shift in focus from making improvements to existing manufacturing methods, to creating new methods of design and manufacture that will help to move us towards a circular economy.

Benefits to our economy

  • creates new business opportunities
  • creates new jobs
  • increases resilience to global material scarcities
  • reduces waste to landfill

In the following sections, this guideline also explains how taking these actions can benefit your business.

Further information

In this Guideline

What is the circular economy?

Using fewer resources

Managing your waste for the Circular Economy

Designing your products, and your business model to support the Circular Economy


Repairing goods



Environmental News Blog

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

  • Brewing and Distilling Technical Drop-in Day: Waste, Water, Energy, Brewing and Distilling is booming due to high demand for quality Scottish beers and spirits. All this growth is also leading to a boom in food waste, energy and water use.

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms