Circular Economy News July 2021

Posted on 30th July 2021


Welcome to July’s Circular Economy News, keeping you in the “loop” on all things circular from The Rediscovery Centre: Ireland’s National Centre for the Circular Economy. July’s installment not only highlights the usual industry and social enterprise updates, events and funding opportunities from Ireland and around the world, but we have also dedicated a special focus on circular design at The Olympic Games.

Get set, go!


Asao Tokolo 3D prints Tokyo 2020 podiums from donated plastic waste
This year’s Tokyo Olympics event marks the first Olympics to go carbon neutral, with the event running entirely on renewable energy. Even though the Olympics has been accused of greenwashing (the event still results in of 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – more than the entire city of Copenhagen emitted last year) there are still some fantastic examples of upcycling and circular design to be seen at the games. These circular innovations can also be recognized as a positive step for the Olympic Games considering the waste issues that afflicted Rio de Janeiro’s Games in 2016.

  • Uniforms worn by torchbearers are made from recycled plastic bottles. Design director Daisuke Obana collaborated with Coca-Cola to create the unisex Olympic uniforms from plastic bottles that were collected by the soft drink brand. Furthermore, Nike’s designs for skateboardingbasketball and soccer uniforms are made from recycled polyester and nylon.
  • The Olympic flame itself is also circular. The Nendo designed Olympic flame is powered by Hydrogen, while the Olympic torches, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, are made from recycled construction material from temporary housing used in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
  • Among the newly constructed buildings, Kengo Kuma’s Japan National Stadium is built from timber in a bid to limit emissions, while the temporary structure of the Olympic Village Plaza by Tokyo studio Nikken Sekkei is built using 40,000 pieces of wood that were “borrowed” from local governments across Japan.
  • The Olympic medals, created by Japanese designer Junichi Kawanishi are made from recycled tech products donated by the public. Furthermore, the Olympic podiums, shown in the video above, are 3D printed from donated plastic waste by designer Asao Tokolo.
  • Finally, the (now infamous) Olympic bedding is completely circular. The 18,000 bedframes are modular, made from recycled cardboard and designed to be extremely light and easy to assemble. Furthermore, the mattresses comprise three polyethelene blocks that are arranged inside a zip-up case.
Olympic committee unveils 2020 medals made from recycled smartphones


The last month has been a pivotal one for Ireland’s future as a climate leader. With the government’s ambitious Climate Bill signed into law, the state has legally committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. With 73% of the Irish public knowing “a lot or a moderate amount” about climate change and 75% wanting more action, these circular and sustainable developments are coming at a welcome time for the Irish public. Let’s take a look at some of the most important circular economic developments over the last month.


Joe O’Brien & Eamon Ryan launch the Pilot Bike and e-Bike upcycling Initiative


  • COVID has increased reliance on Single Use Plastics across the EU: The implementation of COVID measures has led to a significant increase in consumption of single-use plastics, particularly for PPE; imports of face masks into the EU more than doubled in early 2020, leading to increased emissions from the production of face masks. Approximately 53 million disposable face masks are sent to landfill every single day in the UK.
  • New Academic journal on the Circular Economy launches. Springer Nature has launched a new academic journal dedicated to the circular economy, with its first issue hosting 32 peer-reviewed open access articles.
  • The World Economic Forum’s has published a Future of Reusable Consumption Report that examines three primary actors of systems change: consumers, business and the public sector, and asks how to make reuse both viable and scalable. The report concludes by considering three potential scenarios for the development of a reuse economy by 2030.
  • RREUSE has published its annual report for 2020, which analyses the role that resilient social enterprises played in bringing about a more circular world, in spite of the challenges that the pandemic brought about.
  • McDonalds pilots its first take back scheme for cups in the UK. The project will see the introduction of returnable coffee cups on the menu with a £1 deposit, which will help customers in Northampton save more and waste less.
  • Lego has created its first prototype bricks using recycled PET plastic from discarded bottles.: Lego has set out to produce all products from sustainable materials by the year 2030. Recently they have created their prototype brick using PET plastic from bottles. The biggest challenge is to ensure the recycled material is compatible with Lego’s rigorous quality standards.
LEGO’s recycled PET plastic bricks


Circularity in North America

Circularity in Latin America

Circularity in Africa

Circularity across emerging markets

  • Emerging markets provide circular economy model in managing e-waste. In emerging markets e-waste is seen differently than it is in developed markets. There is an opportunity to use e-waste to reverse engineer products from the “waste” parts exported to these countries, allowing them to sell second-hand, rebuilt electronics, a model that developed countries can learn from.
The role of insects in a circular economy for food

Events & Key Dates

That’s all from us!

But before we go, if you’ve got something you would like us to include in future updates, give us a call, or email us at