Ellen MacArthur foundation and the circular economy model

By Ollie Mulkerrins
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is leading the discussion on sustainability through operational efficiency and intelligent resource management. The Ell...

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is leading the discussion on sustainability through operational efficiency and intelligent resource management.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, based in the UK is changing the way businesses approach sustainability through a circular economy framework. The charity was founded in June 2009 and was launched publicly on 2 September 2010 by Dame Ellen MacArthur, funded by a group of five founding partners: B&Q, British Telecom, Cisco, National Grid and Renault, who raised £6mn between them.

In May 2017, the foundation launched an initiative to encourage and fund the development of waste plastic management solutions, with a US$2mn prize fund.

 The charity promotes a circular economy model within its partners. This is aimed at eliminating waste products through sharing, repairing and recycling to create a closed-loop system to maximise efficient resourcing. This will keep products and packaging in use for longer, before they need to be recycled or disposed of. The idea is that ‘all waste becomes food’ for another process in a company’s infrastructure or manufacturing. This is in contrast to the more traditional ‘take, make, dispose’ method of manufacturing.


The circular economy model does not only apply to businesses. The initiative also works to educate municipal bodies on what the movement could do for its cities. Through examining construction, mobility, food systems and services that can benefit from opportunities offered by sustainable innovations and technologies.

A quote from the foundation’s website explains: “Cities account for 85% of global GDP generation and are also huge collectors of materials and nutrients, accounting for 75% of natural resource consumption. Cities also produce 50% of global waste and 60-80% of greenhouse gas emissions. These are symptoms of the ‘take, make, waste’ linear economy. With their high concentration of resources, capital, data, and talent spread over a relatively small geographic area, cities are uniquely positioned to drive a global transition towards a circular economy.”

Implementing a transformation on such a large scale can come with its own challenges, particularly with regard to the man power required to research and collate data regarding a city or businesses administerial or manufacturing process. However, next-generation AI can help to alleviate the strain on a workforce by making data more comprehensible and accessible. The foundation’s website explains, “AI helps to solve problems through performing tasks which involve skills such as pattern recognition, prediction, optimisation, and recommendation generation, based on data from videos, images, audio, numerics, text and more.”

Through the use of focused technology and educational initiatives, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is leading the discussion on waste management through operational efficiency and forward-thinking, rather than relying on previous sustainable solutions. For more on the foundation and circular economy click here.


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