How do we feel about the circular economy?

circular economy

CIEMAP’s Cardiff team joined forces with the Green Alliance on 11th May to look at public perceptions of the circular economy with a group of 30 high-level guests, writes Dr Catherine Cherry.


How would you feel about having your TV repaired instead of buying a new one? Or sharing your car with a neighbour? Changing attitudes to these types of suggestions could hold the key to unlocking a major reduction in UK energy demand and thus in CO2 emissions.

As governments and industry increasingly acknowledge the need to embrace these circular economy concepts to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, they need to understand consumer attitudes in order to formulate future policies and business models.

CIEMAP’s focus

The CIE-MAP centre is uniquely well placed to help as they adopt the EUED approach of fusing social, technical and economic research to build an overall picture of how energy demand reduction can be further embedded into the UK’s society.

A stakeholder event, entitled ‘What people really think about the circular economy’ was held at London’s St Martin’s Hall and was attended by researchers, policymakers, government officials and industry leaders to address these very questions.

Professor Nick Pidgeon, leader of the Cardiff University team says “we have conducted an extensive set of public workshops to learn how people respond when presented with ideas like sharing their hedge trimmer with their neighbour, buying their washing machine and clean clothes as a service, or taking their detergent bottles back for a refill”.

The stakeholders

Organisations represented included the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM), WRAP, The Environment Agency, Rolls-Royce, Kingfisher, Unilever, Siemens, Oakdene Hollins and more.

The London event gave businesses, policymakers and researchers a unique opportunity to hear about the findings from these workshops and gain an insight into public perceptions of the circular economy and the team’s expert analysis.


Six aspects of the circular economy, namely: products, business, ownership, community, waste and lifestyles were addressed. The event aimed to establish key challenges that need to be overcome in order to move towards a circular economy.

The resulting challenges included:

  • How to inspire trust concerning consumer-to-business and peer-to-peer relationships?
  • How to support the convenient and secure repair of products that are often considered essential and hard to part with (e.g. mobile phones and laptops)?
  • How to overcome categorisation of product types as unsuitable for sharing, leasing, remanufacturing etc?
  • How to reduce social stigma surrounding a shift towards leasing and remanufactured products?

Delegate feedback was that the event was successful in raising awareness and addressing circular economy issues. The event highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research in the energy demand field that encourages dialogue between academia, industry and industry.


More on the CIEMAP Centre

More on Cardiff’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

More about the Green Alliance

Picture via @GTBrennan