The Circular Economy in Action in Wales

14th November 2013
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation turns spotlight on Wales for  circular economy  regional report
  • Wales  ‘ideally placed’ to ‘upgrade to the circular economy’ and secure leadership position
  • Brains, Orangebox and Metech among companies demonstrating circular economy in action

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focused on Wales for a regional study into the benefits of the circular economy and how to unlock them. Wales and the Circular Economy: Favourable system conditions and economic opportunities is published today (14 November) and available to download free of charge at

The report, which was commissioned by WRAP on behalf of the Welsh Government, finds that the circular economy could deliver ‘manifold’ benefits for Wales, including the potential for job creation, a positive economic climate and cost savings throughout industry.1

Under certain circumstances, the saving could be as great as £2 billion a year in material costs alone – although this would be throughout the whole supply chain, including those parts which are outside Wales.2

It also outlines recommendations on how to make the Welsh economy more circular and highlights Welsh businesses which are already demonstrating circular economy thinking in their work. These include Courtauld Commitment3 and Hospitality and Food Service Agreement4 signatory SA Brain Ltd, furniture manufacturer Orangebox and waste electricals specialist Metech.

The report’s publication marks WRAP Cymru’s Circular Economy in Action conference, chaired by Sustainable Futures Commissioner Peter Davies, at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium today.

Over 150 business leaders are expected to take part in the debate about how Wales can benefit from the circular economy and hear from speakers including WRAP CEO Dr Liz Goodwin, Welsh Government Finance Minister Jane Hutt and the European Union’s Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who will open proceedings with a video address.

To follow the day’s events or join the conversation on Twitter use the hashtag #CEinAction


Notes for editors
1 Page 6
2 Page 5
3 The Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery sector. Phase 3 was announced in May 2013 and runs until December 2015; the results of Phase 2 will be published 14 November 2013
4 The Hospitality and Food Service Agreement is a voluntary agreement to support the sector in reducing waste and recycling more. Research by WRAP in 2011 indicated that if avoidable food waste was prevented and unavoidable food waste diverted to anaerobic digestion (AD), the potential savings to industry would be more than £720 million a year.

Welcome for Wales and the Circular Economy

Welsh Government Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies:
‘Rethinking waste as a resource offers Wales tremendous opportunity.  It offers the potential for Welsh businesses to make savings in their supply chains and to create jobs, whilst we make better use of our natural resources.  I know the WRAP conference will showcase many innovative Welsh businesses who are already leading the way. 

‘I recently launched a consultation on the Environment Bill White Paper, which will help to stimulate the circular economy in Wales by increasing the amount of high quality recyclate available.  You can visit the Consultations page of the Welsh Government website to give your view on the White Paper.’

Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO Jamie Butterworth:

‘We’ve seen fast growing interest from regions looking to the circular economy as a way to regenerate economic activity and industry. This study outlines the strong commitment already made by Wales towards effective resource management, and shows that the country is ideally placed to capitalise on these fertile system conditions to kickstart a new cycle of economic development through circular practices’

WRAP Director Steve Creed:

‘The circular economy will deliver significant benefits for Wales, as this report illustrates. Indeed its benefits are already being felt by businesses such as SA Brain, Orangebox, Metech and many more.

‘I’m looking forward to meeting some of those businesses at the Millennium Stadium today, to learn how they’re demonstrating the circular economy in action and discuss how WRAP Cymru grants and guidance can help more Welsh SMEs cut costs, expand and create new jobs.’

Welsh businesses demonstrating the circular economy in action

Founded in Cardiff in 1882, Brains brewery now has a presence in over 270 pubs, bars and hotels across Wales and the West of England, and is a Regionally Important Company in Wales. Along with others in the industry, SA Brain already leverage ‘closed loop’ solutions for many of their waste products, cascading them along the value chain to provide spent grains for cattle feed, yeast for yeast extract or pig feed, and organic liquid waste for land injection as fertiliser. The company avoids price distortions created through fluctuating markets by selling their byproducts (spent grains are by far the most valuable) to a third party merchant at a fixed price, who then benefits from a variable selling incentive and deals with standards and accreditation issues as the products re-enter the food chain. SA Brain has also reduced their transport and delivery costs by feeding in to a national provider who coordinates and optimises deliveries across the country.

Orangebox is a Welsh SME and UK leader in the design and manufacture of office furniture, with a factory in Hengoed, Mid Glamorgan.Their award-winning success has been a result of their front-end design process, where their products are designed with material sustainability and longevity in mind. They work hard to eliminate any toxic materials from their value chain, use recycled materials wherever possible (‘waste as food’), and emphasise reuse or repair of their products at ‘end of life’ stage. The Do chair was designed for disassembly, its material inputs reduced, and as a result achieved a reduction in raw material as well as embedded energy and production costs. It is their fastest selling chair to date. Over the past three years, Orangebox has nearly doubled its turnoverand is selling an increasing percentage of premium products. They have recently piloted a more vertically integrated approach, setting up a recycling centre at their factory to provide customers with a take-back service. 

Metech Recycling is a global waste management company with an arm based in Aberdare and dealing specifically with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Metech Recycling (UK) manually assess, repair and dismantle waste equipment, selling repaired PCs and laptops via online and other reuse platforms and recovering as much material as possible – particularly components containing economically important materials, EU14 critical materials and hazardous materials. By directing these on to suitable refining processes or for safe disposal the economic, resource conservation and environmental benefits of recycling are maximised. They work with both public and private sector clients including health trusts, provide certification of secondary materials, data wiping, and where possible offer a rebate to their suppliers. By harvesting parts, Metech can provide significant savings to clients' maintenance budgets. Since using Metech’s services, Sony UK TEC’s factory in South Wales have eliminated a £20,000 per annum cost for waste, which is now neutral as waste costs are offset by reimbursements; Metech has recently signed a contract with some of the trusts in Wales, which is also set to be cost neutral. Since one of their customers relocated their factory back to Wales, they have been able to return valuable internal capacitors (worth £25 each) to be reused in new products, saving the company on raw materials and original manufacture costs. In contrast to some larger waste outfits where shredding is the norm, Metech’s dismantling and sorting process enables them to valorise products and components at the highest possible quality. 

About WRAP:
WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably; we work in partnership to help businesses, individuals and communities improve resource efficiency. Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Learn more about WRAP’s work in Wales at or follow @WRAP_UK on Twitter.

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was formed in 2010 to inspire a generation to rethink, redesign and build a positive future. The Foundation believes that the circular economy provides a coherent framework for systems level redesign and as such offers us an opportunity to harness innovation and creativity to enable a positive, restorative economy. For more information, please visit

The circular economy is an economic model that aims to decouple economic development from virgin material inputs, by design. Materials flows are classified in two types: biological materials, designed to re-enter the biosphere safely, and technical materials which are designed to circulate at high quality without entering the biosphere. Waste is designed out of the system and materials or components no longer required in their place of origin are ‘metabolised’ elsewhere in the economy.


Ian Palmer

PR Officer, WRAP
01295 819 677

Paul Saville

PR Manager
01295 819638