What people really think about the circular economy

On 11th May 2017 we hosted a stakeholder engagement event exploring public perceptions of the circular economy that was attended by 30 high level guests, including researchers, policy makers, government officials, and heads of industry.


As businesses look to experiment with circular economy approaches, understanding how people feel about the new models, products and customer relationships involved will be crucial to their success. Social scientists from Cardiff University 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. Aiming to interest businesses, policymakers and researchers working on the circular economy, the workshop was a unique opportunity to hear about the initial findings of Cardiff’s research from Professor Nick Pidgeon and to shape their on-going analysis.

Exploring six aspects of the circular economy (products, business, ownership, community, waste and lifestyles) the event discussed the implications of the research findings for business and policy. A main outcome of the event was to identify a range of key challenges that need to be overcome in order to move towards a more circular economy. These included:

  1. How to inspire trust concerning consumer-to-business and peer-to-peer relationships?
  2. How to encourage the convenient and secure repair of products and technology often considered essential and hard to part with (e.g., mobile phones and laptops)?
  3. How to overcome categorisation of product categories as unsuitable for sharing, leasing, remanufacturing etc?

Overall, the event was extremely successful in highlighting the importance of public perceptions and attitudes towards achieving a more circular future.