Transcript: Join the Circular Economy Club, an International Network of People Making a Circular Economy Happen

SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: Join the Circular Economy Club, an International Network of People Making a Circular Economy Happen

Katherine Whalen: [00:00:36] Welcome to the Getting in the Loop Podcast! Today on the show we're getting in the loop with Anna Tari, who is the founder and CEO of the Circular Economy Club and among other accolades was a finalist of the United Nations SDG Awards in 2018. In this episode, Anna tells us all about the Circular Economy Club, a worldwide organization she founded in 2012, for anyone interested in circular economy. Anna shares what she's learned about circular economy in the years following the Club's founding. She tells us, for the first time, an exciting event they're launching later this year and explains how you can become a member and even start your own club. Before we get into today's episode, I would like to invite you to leave a review on our iTunes podcast page. What do you think about Getting in the Loop and who should we talk to next? To make sure you never miss an episode, you can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or sign up to the newsletter on the Getting in the Loop podcast website: www.gettinginthelooppodcast.com. So without further ado, now on to today's show. [00:01:40][63.6]

Katherine Whalen: [00:01:41] Thank you for coming on. [00:01:43][1.9]

Anna Tari: [00:01:45] Thank you. Thank you for having me. [00:01:46][1.3]

Katherine Whalen: [00:01:47] You are doing so much and I really can't wait to dive in. But you could just start us out by telling us what the Circular Economy Club is and how it how it came about. [00:02:00][13.3]

Anna Tari: [00:02:03] So the Circular Economy Club is a nonprofit based in London. And we have more than 3000 members at the moment based in over 100 countries. And what we're trying to do is bring together people who are working in the circular economy to make sure they are exchanging best practices. And also we are working to help each other to make this model a reality in as many cities as possible. So we have two key programs in the club. One is the mentorship program. So we have our own circular experts will give free advice, especially to the youngest people trying to do them in this great economy, either in the up or their research project. And then we have the organizers program. So we have a hundred and sixty organizers worldwide who basically open their own chapter in their cities or universities. And they are also based all around the world. [00:02:59][56.8]

[00:03:00] And it came about so it started in 2012 as a website that I set up. So I had just finished my studies and it was part of a research group in Spain and I country where I'm from. And I was researching our sustainability, more focused in tourism. And then I started to read a blog about closed loop economies. And then I came across a circular economy and the reports and it was a very initial stage of the coining of the model, let's say. And so I was fascinated because it's what I was looking for. [00:03:38][37.8]

[00:03:39] And I say that because I did a degree in business management, but I was I was always very aware about environmental issues we had. And I wanted to try to understand the model that would make companies buy into these and be environmentally responsible and socially responsible. But that was appealing to them at the same time. So when I when I read about the circular economy and it took me, it was what I was looking for in a way. [00:04:06][27.6]

[00:04:07] And so I started the Circular Economy just as a website where I was uploading everything I was finding about the model. It was when I moved to London in 2015, when the club became what it is now. More of the network but also physical space in the sense that we do within some workshops, etc. and it's when will we started to open the organizers program and the club started to pop up everywhere. [00:05:01][54.2]

Katherine Whalen: [00:05:02] Wow. So it's really taken off and you have lots of different hubs in all different countries. Maybe you could dive a little bit into what it was like to set that up because that's such a major undertaking, but also a really good way, I think, to get people engaged in the topic of circular economy. [00:05:23][20.9]

Anna Tari: [00:05:24] Yeah, yeah, definitely. So at the beginning when I started the club as a portal, where I was uploading information, I was not so clear about where I wanted to take it. I just wanted everyone to know about it. Everyone to know about the Circular economy. [00:05:38][14.1]

[00:05:39] And also people were working on it to talk to each other because at the beginning of the website, I realized that many people were doing interesting things but they didn't know about other people doing similar things or who who who could help them as to scale up, basically. [00:05:55][16.1]

[00:05:56] So I realized that there was something we could do, like from the portal and to to help people leverage our network. So I think the beginning of it before even though the just program was the idea that if we help each other and we communicate with each other, these could be Google much faster. And at the same time, there was not no many platforms talking about the circular economy. So I think the timing was perfect for the club and that's one of the reasons that it grew so exponentially. It's because there was not much yet. And then the other thing was that we I see with targeted. Space that nobody was touching on. So there was, of course, is the MacArthur Foundation and other organizations working more on top, top down approach like. Which is very needed. They are working with their CEOs in companies or consulates, in cities, national governments, etc.. And that's great. But I I saw that there was a space for the Club to be the network that was working more on a bottom up approach and allowing people to have a platform where they can they could be a visible phase in their city, a visible phase of the movement in their city, and do something to bring that to their city regardless of the title they had or regardless of who they were, they could do something. So with that in mind, we designed the organizers program and said, OK, if people can feel the ambassadors in a way of clapping their seat, these and they can do projects and actions that have locally. But at the same time, they are connected with a global network of people with the same passion and the same ideas they can learn from each other. And then we can make this happen, at least faster. [00:07:58][122.1]

Katherine Whalen: [00:08:48] So can anyone start a club in their own city? How does that how does that work? [00:08:53][4.7]

Anna Tari: [00:08:54] Yeah. So they apply through the website. There's like a form and they apply basically saying, who they are, what have they been working on? Why are they interested in circular economy? And just to give us some background to see that person is really serious about trying to bring these to their cities. So we screen all that and then we complete the applications and then they start. So we send them all the branding and everything and all the toolkits we have on them step by step guide for them to have kind of an orientation of what to do, how to start. And then they get started. [00:09:39][45.2]

Katherine Whalen: [00:09:41] It's really great. And I had a chance to go to the Circular Economy Mapping Week last year in Copenhagen. So maybe you could tell a little bit about what kinds of events you you organized centrally. [00:09:53][12.0]

Anna Tari: [00:09:54] Yes. Yes, I can. Good question. Because so they as you are saying, the sector organizers define their agenda for their cities, basically. But then at the global level, we do what we call global weeks of a specific topic and that that's usually twice a year. So, for example, last February, what you're referring to, their Circular Economy Mapping Week. [00:10:15][20.9]

[00:10:16] What we did is we thought, OK, there's always there's always challenges to implement the super economy. Right. So we the challenges that we see are very similar. And so we said, OK, let's bring together everyone and try to solve the challenges at the same time and then exchange all the information that comes out from that. So what we realized last year is that many people was asking about case study solutions, things that we're working on already to see what whether really this circular economy means in real terms. So we said, OK, all the members of the team and the advisers know many things about the circular economy. So we said, let's bring together everyone and dried them out. And so that's what we did. [00:11:01][45.4]

[00:11:01] So this economy mapping week took place in 65 cities worldwide and in total, there were around two thousand attendees. And basically people were working in teams recording what they knew was happening in their city related to circular economy. And then the organizers sent all that information to the core team and the club. And we released that database of 3000 projects in all of those countries. [00:11:29][27.2]

[00:11:30] And so that was very useful information. But it was really useful for for us and for everyone to realize about what the term of the Circular economy means and in real life what the challenges are of defining it in real life. Because some projects it's hard to to determine whether they are circular or not. And is there a better solution than the specific example of Circular Economy? So it was very useful for us to understand better how the term meant in reality. And it was useful for our members to be part of a global network and tried to solve something together. [00:12:19][49.4]

Katherine Whalen: [00:12:20] That is a really big sort of hub of knowledge that you that you guys created. Is it publicly available online? [00:12:30][9.2]

Anna Tari: [00:12:32] Yes. [00:12:32][0.0]

Katherine Whalen: [00:12:33] OK. And could you give some insights into some of the the takeaway is that you had from this? I know you've hinted a little bit at, you know, circular economy means different things to different people. [00:12:45][12.4]

Anna Tari: [00:12:46] Yeah. So the key ones so we could see which countries were more active. So the Netherlands, Finland and the UK, especially Scotland, where in the top of that. And when we realized this, that what we kind of knew before. But it is great to see things in real life and confirm. One thing is that there is need for more funding. And people incentivizing the framework. Participants could come up with projects. But it was more like start-ups or people they heard about, but not about real big pushes from governments, for example. And so that was interesting, we thought. Well. We we need more of those incentives and we also need those incentives to be better communicated because we knew about many projects from governments that were not mentioned. So we said that that's a key takeaway, right. Like for some things there's not support and sometimes there is support, but it's not well communicated. And then people don't know. [00:14:01][75.2]

[00:14:02] So that was a key takeaway. I think people like we were very clear on what Circular economy means in real life. But what is hard to determine sometimes is what to call a circular. So that was a big challenge that we we didn't have a tool to say, how could I use this, is this 50 percent circular or 70 percent circular? But anyway, there's more indicators coming up, and that's going to be helpful. And then we also saw that there's lots of startups working on many different issues. So I think connecting startups to corporates is a good area for people to focus on. This I mean, from the club, of course, where we're trying to help in that sense. But yeah, it's a good area because I think there's many clever people working on very specific problems that the bigger companies that maybe can focus on every single solution for their supply chain, all are the ones they can collaborate with startups while solving those issues already. [00:15:26][84.7]

Katherine Whalen: [00:15:27] All right. Great. I'm going to have to check out the report and then all of the resources that you have online from that session, and I know that there are a lot of other types of resources that you have on the Circular Economy Club website. We talked a little bit about the mapping week, and what kinds of events can we be anticipating for this coming year of 2019? [00:18:03][156.0]

Anna Tari: [00:18:05] So this year we're organizing a global. This is a first, I would say publicly. So consider a launch. I'm excited that we're launching the Circular Economy Local Strategies Week. Now, this, you say, may change to city strategy to up, but anyway, is them. So what do we want to do is bring together everyone who wants to be an organizer basically in their city and have them bring together and the stakeholders that can have action and implement the circular in their cities and start a sit in that session. We want that session to be a kickoff of our local strategy and circular economy, because like our mission is to bring this economy to the major cities in the world, minimum. [00:19:01][56.3]

[00:19:02] So I think this is the first global event that is going to be a regular taking place every year so that every year it's going to be the last week of October. We'll have workshops in cities and people can have their input and start a local strategy in their cities. [00:19:30][27.5]

Katherine Whalen: [00:19:31] I'm excited for that. This is a really big undertaking! [00:19:35][3.9]

Anna Tari: [00:19:36] Yeah. So the main outcome for the Circular economy local strategies week is for people who can have an influence on this making it happen to be together in the same room and commit to it. So we are still shaping up that the outcome of it or what it would be. But, the following year, they would meet again and see and report what they have done and work together to make it happen. [00:20:31][54.6]

Katherine Whalen: [00:20:32] So it's really trying to have some goals that you set forward and and if it's happening every year to really try to see it through and actually and actually make it happen. [00:20:44][12.2]

Anna Tari: [00:20:45] Yeah, and also track the impact and how cities are doing. And I think it's going to be very interesting. That's why we're thinking about the outcome itself on culture reported on the website, because I think it'll be very interesting because cities wouldn't be able to see how others are doing. And and hopefully that creates a sense of we need to be fostered. We need to be foster because we need this change. And I think that's going to motivate people and it's going to be more fun to be part of. [00:21:21][36.1]

Katherine Whalen: [00:21:22] Yeah, definitely. You mentioned in the beginning of the call that the Circular Economy Club has two sort of main focuses and we've talked about the the the aspect of the club that's doing organization and and working more with individuals and industry. And I believe you referred to the other focus, which is education. Could you tell us more about what the club is doing on that front? [00:21:47][24.9]

[00:21:47] Yeah. So what we're trying to do is get people in universities. Both either students or professors to bring the circular economy to education. [00:22:07][20.0]

[00:22:47] So one is promoting education, of course, like the platform and the other one is the mentorship. And we feel it's very important for people who have expertise in implementing the economy to share with people what trying to do it. So we have 50 mentors that are giving mentoring. And then we have two guest mentors per year. So last year, we had a Walter Stahel. So we did the competition online and people have to apply with their projects. And then they had the chance to have a mentoring session with Walter Stahel. [00:23:26][39.0]

Katherine Whalen: [00:23:27] That's amazing. [00:23:28][0.9]

Anna Tari: [00:23:29] Yeah, that was really cool. And then now we have Michael Braungart and I'm very excited about about that. So we're sharing information on educational programs that are ready, the work that we are doing with the mentor program and then the university organizers. [00:23:53][24.6]

Katherine Whalen: [00:24:10] That's a really nice way. If you're having these different groups of people at universities who are involved in circular economy not only do they have an ability to find each other, but also to share experiences with other universities and other people who are working in education all over the world. That's really impressive. [00:24:33][23.0]

Anna Tari: [00:24:36] Thank you. [00:24:36][0.0]

Katherine Whalen: [00:24:39] I am looking at the time and I'm seeing that it's almost time to start winding down the interview. But one of the wrapping up last questions that I ask all of the guests is about the type of In the Loop Event Card they would create in the In the Loop game. The Event Cards are one of the most memorable parts of the game because they change the market conditions of different materials and they also affect what's what's going on in the game. So is there a specific focus of an event that you would be interested in creating if you had the chance to create your own Event Card for the game? [00:25:20][40.5]

Anna Tari: [00:25:26] I think you have something already, but I think that the key one is the extended producer responsibility. And I think that's one of the ones I'm most passionate about. And because I think we need to build incentives from many different angles for companies to to make them choose a way of operating that is beneficial for the environment and for the society. So I think I think this and the producer responsibility is a very important way to make companies realize that they have a responsibility not only to give their product to the consumer in the base and with their lowest environmental impact, but also to see what happens with that rather than the end of the use and see where, for example, where packaging ends up because usually ends up in landfill lowering emissions. And so I think having companies realized and work towards extending that responsibility until the end of the use of their products is a key one. [00:26:34][68.0]

Katherine Whalen: [00:26:34] Yes, I really think that's a very good event. Thank you. Where can listeners go to learn more about you and the Circular Economy Club? [00:26:44][10.3]

[00:26:46] The URL is www.circulareconomyclub.com and many, many social networks. I invite them to read and think about it and see how they could help bring this, because I think everyone can find their way of helping making this happen. [00:27:31][45.1]

Katherine Whalen: [00:27:32] Yes, I would definitely encourage the listeners to do that as well. Either find your local club or start one if there isn't one in your area. [00:27:39][7.0]

Anna Tari: [00:27:40] Exactly. [00:27:40][0.0]

Katherine Whalen: [00:27:49] That's it for this episode of Getting in the Loop. Thanks to an Anna Tari for joining us. Show notes for this episode and other episodes can be found at www.gettinginthelooppodcast.com. And while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week! [00:27:49][0.0]

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About the Show

Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.