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University internationally recognised for promoting circular economy

Swansea University’s commitment to promoting a circular economy has led to it winning international recognition.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has named it as an exemplar university for the range of activities it carries out, not only through research and teaching but also in the way it runs its campuses.

The Foundation, set up by the inspirational yachtswoman and campaigner, aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional economy and seeks to reduce waste, to recover resources at the end of a product’s life, and channel them back into production, significantly reducing pressure on the environment.

Dr Jennifer Rudd, Senior Lecturer and climate change educator said: “The profiling of the university by the Foundation underlines our commitment to responding to the climate emergency.

“Here at Swansea, we are demonstrating an important contribution to understanding and utilising the circular economy, currently an under-researched and underutilised tool in climate change mitigation.”

The Foundation particularly recognised the number of million-pound funded research programmes led by the University. These include:

  • The Circular Economy Research and Innovation Group (CERIG), which works to connect complementary expertise and experiences to facilitate circular economy innovation and research in Wales;
  • Circular Economy Innovation Communities (CEIC) programme, which is researching the engagement of public and third sector organisations and how regional solutions to regional problems can be co-created between organisations;
  • Circular Revolution, a partnership between Riversimple, Swansea and the University of Exeter to assist organisations in transitioning to circular business models;
  • SUSTAIN (Strategic University Steel Technology and Innovation Network) which leads grand challenge research projects in carbon neutral steel and iron making and smart steel processing; and,
  • ACCEPTED (ACceleration of Circular Economy for Printable Photovoltaics Through Eco-Design) and LCA4CE (Life Cycle Analysis for Circular Economy) which research lifecycle analysis and product lifecycles.

The University’s teaching on the CEIC programme, led by Dr Gary Walpole and part of the executive education offering at the School of Management, was highlighted as an exemplar of circular economy education.  Additionally, the College of Engineering offers circular economy modules in its undergraduate learning.

Away from the lab and the lecture theatre, the University’s commitment continues to its campus management which has a variety of successful initiatives up and running. These range from its award-winning SWell programme which encourages and rewards staff for living in a more sustainable way through to its participation in the TerraCycle and NappyCycle schemes.

The Foundation also singled out the zero waste, plastic-free shop on the Singleton campus – the first opened by any Welsh university – as an example of how Swansea is leading the way.

Dr Emily Bacon, Lecturer on CEIC said: “The Foundation is regarded as pioneer in this field. It is at the forefront of research, education and action to highlight and promote circular economies. To receive this recognition really shows the impact our work is having and how we have now also developed an enviable reputation.”