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NESC publishes Council Report 144: Moving Towards the Circular Economy in Ireland


NESC Launch: Conversations on the Circular Economy in Ireland 

12.01am, Wednesday 25th October 2017

‘More Action is Needed to Boost the Circular Economy in Ireland’

Today’s report from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), Moving Towards the Circular Economy in Ireland, finds that there is momentum in circular economy practices in Ireland, but action is needed to build on the early advantage. This report highlights some of the leaders in the Irish circular economy, whose products and services keep resources in use for longer, extract the maximum value from them and recover products and materials.

The report includes ten case studies of businesses and social enterprises.  The research, by Dr Simon O’Rafferty, highlights the opportunities available for businesses and social enterprises, while drawing attention to the regulatory and social challenges in facilitating the transition to a circular economy.

The Council welcomes this research as providing fresh insights into the circular economy in Ireland through changes to product design, production processes, waste management, consumption, and procurement.  At the report’s launch today, NESC Director Dr Rory O’Donnell said ‘The research shows that there are surprising pockets of innovation and some very well established businesses at the frontier of the circular economy.’

The case studies highlighted in this report (details below) include a range of companies and social enterprises: recondition and remanufacture IT equipment; manufacturer peat-free compost; disassemble and recycle mattresses; provide education, community employment and training through reuse, repair and life cycle design in furniture, paint, bicycles and fashion; make polyester staple fibre from recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET); convert waste heat available in hot water into energy; create synergies between businesses that have surplus or unwanted materials; specialise in furniture design with particular strengths in applied human movement; match food retailers with surplus food with charities; and car-share.

The Council concludes, however, that the full potential of the circular economy for Ireland has yet to be identified. While resource efficiency and minimising waste are integral to a circular approach, it has the potential to be much wider than this.  Many governments now see that the circular economy and bioeconomy are part of the transition to a low carbon economy and society.  Insights from Scotland, the Netherlands and Finland point to the key role of innovative supports in unlocking new products, services and technologies. Strong central policy support is required to embed the circular economy into national policy priorities, including enterprise, regional, rural and climate action. A supportive approach to the circular economy in Ireland could help to gain Irish enterprises competitive advantage.


Note to Editors

The report was circulated to Government departments and has been tabled for noting by the Cabinet at its meeting on the 24th October.

The full report will be published on the NESC Website, on Wednesday 25th October. The report was launched at the Royal College of Physicians, Six Kildare Street.


The report is structured as follows:

  • Part 1: Council Comments:  The Council Comments outlines four key reflections from the Council on the research report and the potential of the circular economy.
  • Part 2: Moving Towards the Circular Economy: Irish Case Studies. Research Report by Dr Simon O’Rafferty.


For further information, for copy of the report or to arrange an interview, please contact NESC Director Dr Rory O’Donnell, +353-1-8146300


A circular economy is one in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

The circular economy has become a policy priority of the European Commission in recent years, with a package of measures and legislative proposals adopted in 2015. There is also a growing business and social enterprise interest in adopting circular economy practices. The European Commission’s plan was published in 2015, Closing the Loop: An EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy. The EU Circular Economy Action Plan contains 54 measures concerning consumption and production processes and products, across priority sectors:  including plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, biomass and bio-based products, construction and demolition. It includes financial incentives for research and innovation within the structural funds (5.5 billion) and Horizon 2020 (650 million), combined with a suite of regulatory and legislative actions aimed at changes to product design, production processes, waste management, consumption, procurement, boosting the market and monitoring..[1] The Action Plan measures are in the implementation stage, while the legislative provisions are now with the European Parliament and Council of Ministers for final approval.

Case Study Organisations

  • Wisetek, based in Cork recondition and remanufacture IT equipment through the Wisetek Market, reducing what goes to landfill and creating income. The company employs nearly 200 people.
  • Enrich Environmental in Meath is one of Ireland’s leading manufacturers of peat-free compost and soil products and employs 18 people.
  • Ecocem produces low carbon cement and employs 30 people in Ireland, the Netherlands and France with import facilities in the UK and Sweden. Ecocem upcycles materials that would otherwise go to landfill.
  • Boomerang Enterprises is a social enterprise based in Cork that disassembles and recycles mattresses in order to divert for re-use and/or recycling. It has diverted over 7,000 mattresses from landfill to date.
  • The Rediscovery Centre located in Ballymun Dublin, is an environmental education and research social enterprise dedicated to providing education and community employment and training through reuse, repair, resource efficiency and life cycle design in furniture, paint, bicycles and fashion (
  • Exergyn, based in Glasnevin Dublin, has been developing a technology for converting the low-grade waste heat available in hot water into energy (electricity or motive power) and employ 15 staff in total.
  • Wellman International, located in Cavan, is a leading manufacturer of polyester staple fibre made from post-consumer and post-industrial recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). The company was founded in Ireland in 1973 and currently employs approximately 270 people.
  • SMILE is Ireland’s Industrial Symbiosis programme with support from the EPA, Waste Regions and County and City Councils. It provides a platform through which synergies can be created between businesses that have surplus or unwanted materials and businesses that have a need for those materials. As of quarter 1 in 2017, the platform has almost 1,500 members. To date, the successful synergies represent 22,172 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill, with cost savings to businesses valued at approximately €4,439,021.[2]
  • Perch and Orangebox-Perch is a Dublin based product design company that specialises in furniture design with particular strengths in research-led and applied human movement. Still at an early stage in relation to circular design, they are working with larger manufacturing companies in Ireland that are among the leaders in design for the circular economy, such as Orangebox.
  • The sharing economy represents one case study and includes: Sharing Economy Ireland is an advocacy group for the sharing economy in Ireland. It is a membership organisation made up of Irish based companies operating within the sharing economy. Ireland has some strong early adopter of models of the sharing economy and has managed to implement these very successfully.
    • Food Cloud is a social enterprise that matches food retailers with surplus food with charities. It uses a digital platform to stream the matching process. They also redistribute food via warehouses in Dublin, Cork and Galway from 100 Irish businesses including supermarket distribution centres and food producers, and deliver it to charities around the country. To date they have redirected 8,300 tonnes of food.
    • Go Car car-sharing company began as a pilot in 2008 in Cork but now has 190 cars in Dublin and Cork. Dublin City Council allows Go Cars to park free of charge in a range of locations.

About the National Economic and Social Council (NESC)

The National Economic & Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973.  Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, sustainable development and the achievement of social justice.  The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.  It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments and six independent experts.


[2]    EPA (2017) Towards a Resource Efficient Ireland: Ireland’s National Waste Prevention Programme Annual Report for 2016. Dublin: Environmental Protection Agency. P. 14

To view the report click here

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