Collaboration, communication and creativity for Circular Towns in Wales

Circular towns – driving sustainability in the built environment (webinar notes)

Chair: Brian Mayne (visiting lecturer at Cardiff University, director of HJL Environmental)

Speakers:

  • Yvonne Murphy (Design Lead at MMB / Chair ICE Wales Cymru)
  • Dafydd Gruffydd (managing director of Menter Mon Ltd)
  • David Warren (Head of Circular Economy Policy Development)
  • Eifion Williams (CEO of Circular Economy Wales CIC)
  • John McCrory (director of Repair Café Wales)

This webinar could have been an eye-opening experience for us (Ruthin FoE activists) a few years ago so we thought for anyone else, who has just started this learning curve, it would be great to read a summary of this inspiring webinar. Especially that the recording will be only available for members of CIWM so anyone else attended this session please let us know if you would amend this article.

First David mentioned some examples from places, like London and Llangollen, he used to live or visited and then Cardiff. Latter has responded to the pandemic with sharing more information on social media about available resources (food, building materials, etc.) and recommended walking routes.

Businesses went online quickly and not only the retailers. Cafés for example offered bookings through their unique QR code hanging by their entrance on a sign

He also mentioned good examples through Wales (repair cafés, Benthyg – the library of things, zero waste shops) before talking about international initiatives.

Eifion highlighted the importance of moving from recycling towards a truly circular economy. This needs collaboration between all stakeholders: councils, community groups, social enterprises.

John opened the next topic:

How can repair cafés (RCs) be viable, sustainable?

Eifion seemed to be someone with system thinking and he urged that the wealth shouldn’t leave the local economy generated by not only the RC but green sheds (eg. the one in Pembrokeshire), community fridges and other initiatives.

Yvonne talked about smart cities as examples of a more efficient infrastructure where they produce less waste and services are more accessible.

To answer an attendee’s question John stated that RCW’s procedure is safe even in terms of electrical items because only those offering their help who are comfortable with repairing them and PAT testing are part of the process.

Still talking about repair cafés Dafydd mentioned that public engagement was an issue at the beginning in Holyhead and suggested to work with councils on this.

David about the transition of towns in Gwynedd: communities have been the forefront of this and the partnership between councils and social enterprises is important.

How can we measure the progress towards circular towns?

Yvonne highlighted the social engagement that helped Totnes in the implementation of a local currency and in that the town became Incredible Edible. Latter means that all plants are edible that the council plants in town.

David: the Ellen MacArthur Foundation measured the state of Peterborough in terms of circular economy.

John: however we urge local solutions but towns of a given area should work together and not like they were in a bubble.

Reactions to the results of the poll about the challenges we face to get circular towns

Dafydd who lived in several towns told us about the big difference between communities: one runs repair cafés, community fridges while others don’t even have a tree planting happening.

David pointed to the opportunity in circular towns where innovative solutions make them more attractive and resilient to such impactful things as Brexit, this pandemic and climate change. Reminded us the fact that in this year the wettest February was followed by the sunniest May.

Yvonne

  • We need to build less on a higher quality;
  • We can’t stop the climate change, we have to adapt to it

Eifion:

  • This is far more than a campaign
  • We need the combination of ideas in the same place, like a green hub with a repair café, community fridge, precious plastic recycling, green shed and also solutions for local production of food. Essential question: are we depleting or building our soil?
  • Welsh government is looking to launch a complimentary currency on the 11th of Friday (notes: the opening ceremony was held online where they introduced the Celyn! www.celyn.wales )

John: repair cafés give very tangible benefits to visitors where the education process starts that has social benefits, too.

Reactions to the results of the poll about the benefits of circular towns

Yvonne: Cardiff city centre became dead quiet in this pandemic and this is an opportunity to set up more collaboration space, shared workplaces.

Dafydd and Eifion highlighted the importance of collaboration and redesigning of the communities to deliver resilience and wellbeing that is coded into the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

John agreed that every town needed a green hub that Eifion had talked about earlier.

David: the speed of transition is more important than the achievement of calling a town a Circular Town.

Final question to the speakers: What circular gifts would you fancy?

Yvonne: free childcare

David: bike recycling initiatives

Dafydd: to get his fridge opener repaired

Eifion: to purchase a bicycle from Drosi Bikes

John: to fix his brother’s headphone

Brian already had that gift: a bottle of Scotland’s first climate positive gin

“I wasn’t sure that there was much to take away…Beyond what we are doing already that is.”

(via a Ruthin FoE member)

Check out this page where you can see that we’re already working towards our town to be a circular one => https://ruthinfoe.org/2020/06/20/initiatives/

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