The Circular Economy in Practice

There’s no two ways about it, our world is currently configured to produce large quantities of waste in the form of packaging, broken products, and the byproducts of various activities including manufacturing, cooking and travel.

But what if were to change how we view waste, and instead think of it as a unexploited resource? I believe, that as well as reducing avoidable waste, we also need to look at how we make use of ‘waste’, and in doing so lay the foundations of what is being termed the ‘Circular Economy’.

Make no mistake, we are in a maelstrom of planetary crises, most of which are exacerbated by the huge quantities of waste that we create, but … with all change comes opportunity and it is my hope that the emerging circular economy brings a number of opportunities for us all to do things better.

Opportunities for innovators abound; wherever there is a waste stream there is a possibility to extract a valuable resource that can then be used for manufacturing new products. Here at Full Circle we collect a range of hard-to-recycle items such as crisp packets and toothpaste tubes which we then send to a national centre run by Terracycle who have the capability to produce new products. The Full Circle website has full details of the items we can accept.

Johanna manning our stall at a Repair Café in Kettle’s Yard

Another great example of innovation that must have been immensely rewarding to invent is the rCUP, a reusable coffee cup that is made from single use coffee cups.

For consumers the shift to the circular economy represents an opportunity to buy goods that are more individual. For Christmas this year I was given a stunning Upso gym bag made from discarded curtain sides from trucks; as well as being robust, each bag is different as it contains a different segment of the image on the side of the truck.

For society as a whole, we see examples where the circular economy lends itself to boosting the local economy as small manufacturing businesses, repairers and craftspeople work with offcuts, used items, broken goods etc. At Full Circle we are always looking for opportunities to resell locally manufactured goods; our best-selling range of soaps, shampoos and deodorants are made in north Cambridge, and we’ve just taken on a range of exquisitely made reusable fabric gift wraps that come from no further than Histon.

Developing the theme of the boost to the local economy, it is also my sincere hope that the growth of the circular economy can reverse the seemingly inexorable shift of the value of labour to capital that has created such huge wealth inequality around the globe. Whilst I’m not suggesting that large, efficient manufacturing plants aren’t a great benefit to all (as long as they are operated to high labour and environmental standards), it would be wonderful to see locally-owned, labour-intensive businesses gain a greater share of the world economy.

Full Circle currently stock a variety of products from body care, to household products, clothing care and products for on the go. We’ve recently expanded into refillable cleaning products but we’ve set our sights higher. We want to start selling packaging-free food. To make this happen, we need your help. We’re currently crowd funding to allow us to expand our market stall so you can bring your containers to fill up with food there, or you’ll be able to bring them to Repair Cafés and community events. We’re also planning to start home deliveries by electric van to bring packaging-free food right to your door. To find out more about our plans and to support us, please head over to our Crowdfunder page.


Paul Richardson, Director at Full Circle