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Circular economy on the menu at Cyrenians

Posted: 28th August 2019

One Edinburgh charity which tackles the causes and consequences of homelessness believes working in a circular economy is a natural progression for an organisation which puts people at the heart of all it does…

Cyrenians maintain their person-centred approach leads naturally towards working in collaboration with other organisations, being involved in innovative projects that almost inevitably follow circular economy thinking.

Their creative and effective projects around reducing food waste and tackling food poverty are a shining example of a circular economy in action, and they believe many more businesses and organisations could benefit from working with Circular Edinburgh to embrace the circular economy.

The way we traditionally design, build and use products means that a lot of it goes to waste. A circular economy looks to keep the flow of materials and products within the economy for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use.

Circular Edinburgh is a joint initiative delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, with funding support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Cyrenians said: “Through our FareShare Depot, which collects surplus but good quality food from retailers that might otherwise be thrown out, we redistribute food that might have been sent to landfill – over 410 tonnes of food in the past year alone.  We distribute this to over 100 community organisations and charities within the Central and South East Scotland Area, supplying almost 1,000,000 meals benefitting over 15,000 people who are living in food insecurity each week.

“Additionally, diverting this food from landfill contributes to our environment with a possible saving of over 1700 tonnes of CO2 emissions. When food does end up rotting in landfill, it emits methane, a gas many times worse for the environment than CO2. For organisations this approach immediately achieves results; the money saved from buying low-cost and high quality food means more can be spent on service delivery. This not only benefits the individuals eating the meals, but the wider community.”

Through its Food Education project, Cyrenians are educating people in reducing household waste by teaching them the skills to cook healthy meals with food that would otherwise be disposed of, contributing towards their wellbeing, food insecurity and social isolation through cooking classes within communities. As part of the course, participants are taught to budget in addition to a section on saving energy and the resultant costs.

Ewan added: “Scotland has a vision to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025 and for 70% of waste to be recycled by the same year.

“Beyond food we need to facilitate small circles within our economy – encouraging the development of local supply chains and partnerships between businesses and the third  sector. For example, using third sector training within a business reaps more than just a sense of supporting a worthy cause and providing valuable financial support to the charity; it also sends a clear message to the employees that their employer is committed to supporting their local community. These seemingly small circles are really part of a much bigger, global cycle that values food, people and the planet we share. We believe in the power of meaningful purpose as an incredible economic driver.”

Circular Edinburgh is a joint initiative delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, supported by funding from both the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the £73million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme. Circular Edinburgh delivers a programme of knowledge sharing events, workshops and roundtable discussions to promote the ‘Circular Economy’ to local businesses.

For further information please visit or contact Mayan Grace or Lauren Ridgley on 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or email

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