Circular Economy – Support for Businesses and Third Sector

On this page you will find information on:

What is the Circular Economy?

In a Circular Economy, waste of all types, from all sources, is minimised to as close to zero as possible. There is a particular focus on reusing and recirculating materials which have already been through the production process and designing things to last for multiple uses, with no waste left behind.

Consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high and this is reflected in the national carbon footprint. We need to make changes to how much we buy and how we operate as a society if we want a green future. Zero Waste Scotland and Circle Economy's Circularity Gap Report (2023) reported that:

  • “Only 1.3% of the resources Scotland uses are cycled back into the economy, with over 98% of Scotland’s material use coming from virgin resources.”
  • “Scotland’s per capita material footprint is 21.7 tonnes, nearly double the global average of 11.9 tonnes.”
  • “Scotland extracts 22.8 tonnes of material per person per year, 60% of which comes from fossil fuels. The UK average is 5.5.”
  • “High consumption and extraction tie into a similarly large consumption-based carbon footprint of 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).”

What are the benefits of circularity?

The Circular Economy can help businesses by reducing costs, driving innovation and opening up new markets. 

Cutting down on business waste reduces the expense of waste disposal, making use of repurposed or recycled materials can be less expensive than virgin raw materials and switching to a local supply chain can help to save on fuel costs. Zero Waste Scotland estimates that a Circular Economy could amount to collective savings of £3 billion or more for Scottish businesses. 

Consumers are also becoming more conscious of where the products they purchase were made, what materials they were made from and how they can be disposed of at the end of their lifecycles, so there is therefore a growing market niche for businesses which can demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Operating as part of the Circular Economy can give businesses access to a wider customer base, contribute to good public relations and give them an edge over competitors.

Additionally, the recognition of the value of a sustainable economy in national policy means that circular businesses may find that they have access to new sources of funding, as well as getting ahead of the game in the green transition and more easily complying with the latest sustainability legislation and regulations.

“For your business, becoming more circular and creating more sustainable supply chains can be the key to growth and success ... By reducing waste and maximising the value of our resources, we can create a business network that is part of the climate solution.” Zero Waste Scotland

In the European Parliament’s Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0, seven sectors were identified as ‘key value chains’ with high potential with regards to contributing the establishment of a fully Circular Economy:

  • Electronics and ICT
  • Batteries and vehicles
  • Packaging
  • Plastics
  • Textiles
  • Construction and buildings
  • Food, water and nutrients.

However, it is not mandatory for a business to be operating in one of the above sectors to become 'circular'. Introducing circular practices also does not have to mean making radical changes to every aspect of how a business functions – there are many examples where businesses have made a single impactful change, such as:

  • Switching to reusable or recyclable product packaging, or getting rid of packaging altogether
  • Collecting containers or obsolete products from customers at the end of their lifecycle so materials can be reused
  • Offering repair services as part of the business model (or seeking partnership with other organisations who can provide this)
  • Switching to local and/or sustainable suppliers where possible to reduce emissions and lower the organisation’s carbon footprint
  • Being open to new products, materials and inventions that could be sustainable replacements
  • Partnering with other businesses to upcycle items or find uses for waste materials.

“Making the transition to a circular model starts with identifying which circular business model best fits your organisation and could therefore be the most promising ... Moving to a circular business model can sometimes be about making a few small changes here and there that make a huge difference in the long run. Interrogate your existing practices. Speak to other businesses operating on a circular model. Innovate. Then speak to us about how you could put things in motion.” Zero Waste Scotland

Circular Economy Directory

You can find out what local organisations are already doing as part of the Circular Economy (and suggest anything that may be missing) by visiting our interactive map (link opens in new window).

Local Business Waste

To find out about local waste and recycling options for your business, visit our Waste and Recycling webpages (link opens in new window).

Funding opportunities and further resources/information

Visit the Zero Waste Scotland website (link opens in new window).

Visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website (link opens in new window).

Visit the Circle Economy website (link opens in new window).

Visit the Circular Glasgow website (link opens in new window).

Local support for businesses and third sector organisations

The following organisations can help with networking opportunities and advice on all aspects of setting up and managing a business or social enterprise, including circularity and sustainability:

Visit the Business Gateway East Dunbartonshire website (link opens in new window).

Visit the Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce website (link opens in new window).

Visit the East Dunbartonshire Voluntary Action website (link opens in new window).

Circular Economy Strategy

You can view the Circular Economy Strategy for East Dunbartonshire online (link opens in new window).

Opportunities and support

  • A Circular Economy Business Support Service is available to help companies explore circular ways of doing business. It will support organisations that are seeking to develop or implement new business models, technologies, practices, products or services that use circular economy principles. Find out more about the free service - visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).

  • The Circular Economy Investment Fund, administered by Zero Waste Scotland, offers investment for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Scotland and supports work that will deliver circular economy growth. £18 million is available as grant funding to SMEs that are helping to create a more circular economy. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).

  • Saddle up - that's the call to organisations and businesses who want to reduce the carbon impact of their transport and travel arrangements with new, more efficient alternatives. The ebike Business Loan offers interest-free loans of up to £30,000 to help with the cost of purchase. For details, visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).
  • Funding is available from the Scottish Government to tap into the potential of the low carbon sector and contribute to the positive progress already made in reducing Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions. The Heat Network Fund aims to support projects from applicants in the public and private sectors. Proposals are also invited from groups of organisations. Visit the Find Business Support website for more info (external link opens in new window).
  • The Green Heat Innovation Support Programme provides grants to Scottish-based companies or companies looking to invest to help develop new products, services or business models related to green heating solutions. The aim is to accelerate the roll-out of green heating and in doing so, help companies grow and create jobs. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window) for info.
  • Don’t let your office be a costly home for wasted paper, single-use food cartons, dripping taps and blazing heaters. A free green office guide has been prepared to help your office save money, improve environmental performance, comply with legislation and respond to the increasing environmental demands of your customers. If you’re an office worker, manager or green champion this guide could give you lots of great ideas to help you reduce waste, save energy and water, and make your office greener – and more profitable too. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window) for details.
  • The Clean Energy Transition Partnership is a competitive funding call that aims to get as many Scottish companies as possible involved in developing new clean energy solutions. The grant will cover up to 40% of the costs for a large company and up to 50% of the costs for a small or medium-sized company. Visit the Find Business Support website for information (external link opens in new window).
  • The Green Network for Businesses is a searchable database of inspirational and informative sustainability projects from across Scotland. Its members help other businesses develop sustainable practices by showing the positive steps they have taken to reduce their environmental impact. The online library of more than 300 case studies is searchable by location, sector, or type of measure, meaning the information is relevant to a wide variety of prospective projects. Visit the Find Business Support Website for more info (opens in new window).
  • The Green Heat Installer Engagement Programme provides assistance and support for businesses in Scotland to help them participate fully in the supply chain for low and zero-emissions heating, energy efficiency and microgeneration installations. It does this in a variety of ways, such as providing online resources, training opportunities, workshops, email updates, events, networking and research. The programme is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Energy Saving Trust. Visit the Energy Saving Trust website for more information (external link opens in new window).
  • The Can Do Innovation Green Heat Feasibility Call provides grants to help Scotland-based companies carry out detailed analysis and design work to assess the technical and commercial feasibility of a proposed green heat solution for Scotland's homes and buildings. Scottish Enterprise is looking for solutions that can reduce energy demand and streamline supply, installation, and operation across the full range of associated technologies. Check out the Find Business Support website for details (opens in new window).
  • Scottish businesses of all sizes can receive financial support towards the purchase of a used electric vehicle. The Used Electric Vehicle Loan for Businesses scheme is funded by Transport Scotland (an agency of the Scottish Government) and administered by Energy Saving Trust. Check out the Find Business Support website for details (opens in new window).
  • The Low Carbon Transport Business Loan scheme offers Scottish businesses up to £150,000 interest-free to help reduce the carbon impact and fuel costs of their transport arrangements through the purchase of new and more efficient vehicles. The loan is funded by Transport Scotland (an agency of the Scottish Government) and has a repayment term of up to six years. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).
  • A series of free online Green Champions training modules are available to help improve the resource efficiency and environmental performance of your organisation. The course is CPD-certified and designed to help you develop new skills and find support tools. It packs in knowledge and experience from Business Energy Scotland's resource efficiency experts. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).
  • Companies in Scotland can get up to three days of free consultancy support with an industry expert to help them move into the clean heat sector. This service is available for companies of different sizes and types, in various sectors, that are looking to grow and diversify into this market. Visit the Find Business Support website (external link opens in new window).