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Artwork for episode 130 with Heather Davies

130 Heather Davies: the Re-Action Collective

It’s now 5 years since I started the podcast, and to celebrate, I’m doing a 5th anniversary mini-series. I’ve invited several guests from the Re-Action Collective, a group of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector. Over the next few episodes, we’ll be hearing from them and exploring 3 different types of circularity – sharing, repairing and repurposing.
The Re-Action Collective was formed in 2022, by Gavin Fernie-Jones and his friend, Heather Davies. We met Gavin back in Episode 72, talking about One Tree at a Time, a circular social enterprise to repurpose outdoor gear and ski-wear and to share value with the community and nature.
In this episode, we’ll meet Gavin’s co-founder, Heather Davies, a freelance sustainability-focused content creator and communications trainer. Heather is motivated by a love of nature and the outdoors, and she works with a range of organisations, helping them communicate their sustainability stories and strategies, without greenwashing. She also offers training, including carbon literacy courses.
The Re-Action Collective is all about Making the outdoors more affordable and accessible, and over the next few episodes, we’ll meet some of the member organisations, with business models based on sharing, repairing and repurposing.
Heather and Gavin formed Re-Action to challenge product marketing that tells us we need shiny new, highly technical kit to access the outdoors. They say “We live in the outdoors and we know this isn’t true. We also know a lack of access to basic outdoor kit and absence of community are barriers to people getting outside and active for the benefit of their physical and mental health.”
The Re-Action Collective wants to amplify the voice and impact of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector, for example running, cycling, climbing, surfing, sailing and snow sports. Member organisations rescue products and revive them through repair, rebranding and repurposing. They then redistribute items through resale, rental and donation and reallocate profits to regenerate the outdoors.
Re-Action is focused on community-first solutions and wants to empower citizens to be more mindful about how they buy, maintain and dispose of their outdoor clothing and equipment.
We’ll hear how the collective works in practice, and how they’ve developed ways to avoid the pitfalls of shared interest groups that end up being hard to engage with, because they generate too much information and conversation.

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast episode 125 with Walter Stahel

125 Walter R Stahel: signs of circular progress

Professor Walter R Stahel, widely acknowledged as a circular economy pioneer, talks about progress, barriers and missed opportunities. Walter is the founder and director of the Product-Life Institute in Switzerland, founded in 1982 and now Europe’s oldest sustainability-based consultancy and think tank. These days, his is a keynote speaker and author on sustainability and circular economy and says he has always been interested in what he does not know.
With over 500 publications since 1975, he holds a number of visiting professor and lecturing roles, and a long list of awards and advisory roles, including being a Full Member of the Club of Rome.
Walter sees the circular economy as a ‘changer of the globalised industrial game’, creating societal resilience and providing protection against disruptive events. Walter created the idea of the performance economy, as a way of extending the concepts of the circular economy, and says that many of the opportunities are either untapped, or criticised by those who benefit from the Rentier Economy. (If you want to know more about the problems of the rentier economy, have a listen back to ep 119 with Ken Webster.)
We talk about the business case for the circular economy, and Walter highlights some of the aspects that are often missed, especially for the future value of materials. We discuss the opportunities offered by platforms, digital twins and passports for products and materials, and why we need better ways to assess the remaining life of expensive products and components.
We discuss the need to shift from a mindset of owning to using, and the need to change how we frame things for customers and businesses. Walter describes how we might rethink designs to minimise risks and liabilities, and how caring for our things opens up lots of interesting career opportunities, especially for young people.

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast episode 117 James Rigg -a refurbishment revolution for electricals

117 James Rigg: a refurbishment revolution for electricals

James Rigg is CEO of Trojan Electronics in Wales, and has a wealth of expertise in value-adding circular solutions for electrical and electronics manufacturers and retailers. James has built on his experience across retail and more recently, leading growth across the Buy It Direct Group, and is now focussed on expanding Trojan Electronics Circular Solutions to help retailers and manufacturers recover value and at the same time, reduce e-waste. Trojan provides services to high-profile brands, and we’ll hear about some examples.
E-waste – the waste from end-of-life or unwanted electricals and electronics – is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, and is forecast to grow by 30% over this decade.
The Trojan Electronics team provides electrical repair, refurb and resell services in several ways – through their client’s own marketplace stores, through direct integration into the clients’ ecommerce stores, and through Amazon, eBay, Tik Tok, Wowcher and others.
Trojan is a £20M turnover business based in Swansea, south Wales, employing 150 staff in a purpose-built warehouse housing repairs and all its other services, and refurbishing over half a million items each year.
Ahead of our conversation, James sent me some customer research, digging into people’s attitudes to refurbished products, with some very encouraging findings, and we’ll hear more about that in the conversation. I can share a few of the standout figures now: over a third of the respondents had bought a refurbished or repaired electrical item in the previous 12 months, including smartphones, laptops or tablets, and household appliances. Only 1% of those people had a bad experience with that purchase, and almost 80% said they’d buy refurbished in the future. And even though people knew they’d bought a refurbished item, 24% of customers couldn’t tell the difference from the equivalent new product.
The survey includes some market research, highlighting predictions for the growth of refurbished electronics – the market was valued at around $85bn in 2021 and is forecast to grow at 12% each year over the next decade. James is happy to share the research, and I’ve included a link to the research paper in the shownotes.
James also shared information from Trojan’s clients who are offering refurbished products alongside new versions, and the results are very exciting. However, at some clients, attitudes are slow to change, with people reluctant to make the transition to selling refurbished products as well as new versions, and James explains some of the reasons behind this.

Circular Economy Podcast - artwork for #116 Chuck Fuerst - circularity for product returns

116 Chuck Fuerst: circularity for product returns

Chuck Fuerst is Chief Marketing Officer for software provider ReverseLogix.
ReverseLogix is the only end-to-end, centralized, and fully integrated returns management system built specifically for retail, eCommerce, manufacturing and 3PL organizations. The ReverseLogix platform facilitates, manages, and reports on the entire returns’ lifecycle.
When I first worked in logistics, back in the late 1980s, for most companies, most of the time, returns were a minor issue. When e-commerce came along, starting in the 1990’s, product returns began to increase, and over the last few decades – especially as companies have moved towards cheaper products, with less reliable information on sizing for things like clothing – returns have become a major issue for many businesses – whether that’s for manufacturers and retailers, and for both B2B and B2C models.
Chuck explains how the ReverseLogix software helps companies improve the process for getting products back into the system – whether that’s from e-commerce returns, returns of faulty goods, for repairs and warranty claims, and more. We’ll hear how ReverseLogix improves the customer returns experience, saves employee time with faster workflows, and helps businesses get insights into returns data – all of which improve profits and circular outcomes.

Circular Economy Podcast 114 Daniel Kietzer: making resources discoverable & reusable

114 Daniel Kietzer: making resources discoverable & reusable

Daniel Kietzer is Director of Ecosystem Growth at Rheaply, a digital sharing platform scaling reuse by making resources discoverable, easily transferable and more valuable.
Rheaply was started in 2016, and has won lots of awards, including Most Innovative Reuse Company at the Reusies in 2021. It’s backed by a number of early-stage investors, including Microsoft and Salesforce.
Daniel Kietzer provides strategic, organizational, and technical support to Rheaply clients and their partners. He’s a circular economy and sustainability professional with 10+ years of experience designing and leading impact-focused projects with forward-thinking companies and organizations across the globe. Daniel’s speciality is reuse and recycling market development is his specialty, but he also dabbles in social entrepreneurship, sustainability in the built environment, water, carbon, and a variety of other sustainability-related efforts.
We’ll get an update on how Rheaply has evolved since my original conversation with Tom Fecarotta back in 2020, in particular how data aggregation unlocks opportunities for cost and carbon savings, as well as supporting your zero waste targets. So many organisations could be tapping into these solutions to help them do better, with less.

Circular Economy Podcast - 109 Janina Nieper – Connecting new designs to leftover materials

109 Janina Nieper – Connecting new designs to leftover materials

Janina Nieper is an Architect and Designer, working at Furnify, a design agency in the Netherlands.
Janina Nieper is passionate about concepts that promote the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants, including using the Circular Economy to help us stay within planetary boundaries.
At Furnify, a company dedicated to creating circular spaces, Janina is in charge of Business Development and Consulting, merging her expertise in spatial design and Circular Design. Janina wants to accelerate the Circular Economy through connecting, collaboration, and sharing, and she founded the Circular Economy Club in Amsterdam, with regular events to create a network of Circular Pioneers in Amsterdam.
Furnify is a design agency, designing interior spaces for office work, education, and other activities. Furnify aims to turn its client’s sustainable ambitions into a circular reality by offering 2nd life alternatives for new designs. Furnify’s offers four services: consulting, design, realization, and story telling.
We hear about how client needs are evolving and broadening. On top of the aesthetic and practical requirements around what do we need to do in this space – now, organisations want to reduce carbon, make a positive impact on other sustainability measures, and create healthier spaces for their teams and customers. That could include improving mental wellbeing, as well as reducing synthetic materials, chemicals like flame retardents and more.

Circular Economy Podcast - Episode 108 Sian Sutherland part 2

108 Sian Sutherland – fixing plastics can fix so much else…

In the 2nd part of the conversation with Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and PlasticFree.com, Sian tells Catherine Weetman why, instead of seeing a miserable picture of the future, we can reinvent a better, brighter future. As Sian says, by “fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else”
A Plastic Planet is one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering global creatives to design waste out at source.

Sian Sutherland, an award-winning serial entrepreneur across several industries, wants to ignite social change, and. At the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), this year, Sian and A Plastic Planet partnered with the Plastic Soup to launch the Plastic Health Council. This brings expert scientists to the UN Plastics Treaty negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health.

In the 21st century, we find plastic in almost every part of our lives – but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, or only solution. Many of those people who resist the idea of a move away from plastics tell us that it’s a fantastic material, that it enables us to create a wide range of products to solve all kinds of challenges.

On LinkedIn, you can see people – mostly with roles that depend on the continued use of plastics – cherry-picking examples of plastics used in medical and safety products, such as syringes, PPE, safety glasses, life jackets and so on. But those examples don’t mean that plastics are necessarily safe in use, or at the end of use. Nor do they mean that we should go along with the continued expansion of single-use plastics.

The plastics industry spends millions on promote plastic as the perfect material for thousands of products, being cheap, lightweight, clean, and convenient. But we’re becoming more aware of serious downsides, for our health, and for the health of our living planet.

Who says we can’t find better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity? Sian is passionately pro-business and solutions focused, and believes the plastic crisis gives us all a way in to changing both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations.

In the first part, which went out in the last episode, 107, we discussed the new PlasticFree.com solutions platform for creatives, showcasing plastic-free materials and products, such as the Degenerative sneaker. We moved onto greenwash, and why Sian thinks the word ‘recyclable’ should be banned. Then, we explored the importance of understanding chemistry, especially in helping designers and material technologists get clear on the good and bad aspects of chemical processes – and we discussed some of the very new scientific advances that are shining a light on the links between plastics and a wide range of serious health conditions.

In this episode we discuss neuromarketing, some of the uses of microbeads and microcapsules that you might not know about, and why systems change is even more important than changing the materials. Sian tells us about the work of the Reuseable Packaging Coalition, founded by another podcast guest, Jo Chidley.

And we ask why big companies are finding it so difficult to break away from those last-century systems – take, make, use, and dispose – and how those businesses risk becoming irrelevant, following in the footsteps of Kodak – disrupted by better solutions.

Circular Economy Podcast - 107 Sian Sutherland - plastic is last century's material

107 Sian Sutherland – plastic is last century’s material – what’s next?

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, tells Catherine Weetman why there are compelling reasons to design plastic out of our lives, and how and PlasticFree.com helps us do that…

Plastic is embedded in pretty much every part of our lives. The plastics industry promotes it as the perfect material for thousands of products, being cheap, lightweight, clean, and convenient. But is that really true? And are there better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity?
I’ve been a long time admirer of Sian Sutherland and her work. Sian co-founded A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis, and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering global creatives to design waste out at source.
Sian is passionate about igniting social change, and creating brands and businesses with soul, and is a serial entrepreneur with a varied background across industries. In 2023 at the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, A Plastic Planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing the expert scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health.
Sian is passionately pro-business and solutions focused, and believes the plastic crisis gives us all a way in to changing both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations.
I particularly like the courageous way that Sian helps us unpack the key issues around plastics and is actively creating and powering up a range of solutions of plastic-free solutions. As Sian says, by “fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else”
I felt this was a really rich conversation. Sian and A Plastic Planet are involved in so many initiatives and I didn’t want you to miss out on any of Sian’s insights and ideas, so I’ve split the conversation into two episodes.
In this episode we talk about plastic free.com, a new systems and solutions platform for creatives, including designers technologists marketers strategists – that has thousands of case studies and proof points for plastic free solutions. We cover greenwash, vegan leathers, why chemistry is now essential for designers and makers, plus recent science on plastics and health.

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 103 Algramo - Refill is the future

103 Algramo – Refill the future

Reusable packaging startup Algramo is going from strength to strength, and we hear from Brian Bauer and Chris Baker on why customers in Chile, the US and the UK are buying into this.
Algramo’s founder, Jose Manuel Moller, came up with a brilliant idea for reusable packaging to help what he called the poverty tax, paid by people who shopped at convenience stores. Those small, local stores sell everyday groceries and household staples, but often in small format packages. That means people often paid around 40% more, per gram or per litre, for the same product they could buy in a bigger format in a supermarket.
In the last couple of years, Algramo has gone from strength to strength, and has started a trial in the UK with Lidl, a German international discount retail chain that operates over 11,000 stores across Europe and the United States.
Algramo is working with Nestle, Unilever, and Walmart in the US, and launched a user-app in 2022. It’s also won several big awards, including the Most Innovative Reuse Company for Consumer Packaging Goods, at the 2022 Reusies awards.
We hear about the Lidl trial, a new project for ‘on the go’ reusable packaging, and hear about innovative packaging and dispensers for liquid home care products. We’ll learn more about what motivates customers to choose reuse, and how reuse rates improve as the new concept becomes ‘normalised’. We also discuss the potential for gamification, and how that could help popularise reuse.