The next steps in Peterborough’s circular journey

An internationally renowned eco-project in Peterborough that’s helped hundreds of businesses across the city save money, cut waste and improve productivity will be entering a new phase this year as it takes on a sector specific approach, starting with manufacturing and engineering.

The Circular Peterborough project has committed the city to developing a fully circular economy by 2050, in other words, the city will have zero waste. This means much more than recycling – the circular economy encourages businesses to get maximum value from materials and resources already in use. Businesses are already saving money by making sure products last longer, processes are more efficient, and fewer natural resources are used. This encompasses redesigning products so they can be taken apart for repair or remanufacturing more easily down to whole new uses for waste streams, such as turning waste coffee grounds into bio-fuel.

Circular Peterborough is part of the city’s Future Peterborough programme, run jointly by Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough City Council. The programme was founded in 2012 when Peterborough became one of four UK Future City Demonstrators.

Initiatives like the Circular Peterborough Commitment, which brings together local partners who share the ambition to integrate circular economy principles in the city, and the launch of the sharing platform, Share Peterborough, have made Peterborough a leading voice in circular economy thinking and practice. The Commitment has had over 70 companies as signatories, and Share Peterborough has over 300 users who have together saved thousands of pounds by reducing new purchases and landfill fees, and have diverted over 220kg of resources from landfill.

“The circular economy achievements of Peterborough have really pushed the city into the international spotlight and we want to remain at the forefront,” explains Tom Hennessy, chief executive of Opportunity Peterborough.

“We hosted an international conference in January for circular economy professionals from all over England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark and even as far as Lebanon! This gave people a chance to discuss the challenges and solutions around how cities and businesses can move beyond supporting circular economy principles to actually adopting and implementing them.

“There’s a real hunger for change, but enabling and empowering that change is the difficult part. We’re essentially migrating from the old economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ to a new way of looking at our resources so we’re getting the maximum value from them and reducing the life costs of products. Some businesses already have circular practices in place without knowing it, but we want more people to consciously adopt the circular economy to support sustainable business growth in Peterborough.

“We continue to support businesses to adopt circular economy practices but we’re also looking at how we can measure the impact of circular projects and practices on the city as a whole.

“Measurement isn’t easy – the circular economy doesn’t happen in one place in isolation, there is a butterfly effect and what happens in one area has an impact in another. Through our sector workshops and partnerships with University College London and Cranfield University students, we’ve been able to develop more effective measurement systems on the impact of circular economy.”

Using existing guidance on sustainable cities from the British Standards Institute, which Opportunity Peterborough has helped to develop, the Future Peterborough team looked at approximately 75 indicators to create a baseline from which to measure progress towards becoming a circular city. This breaks down into three key areas:

  • Qualitative data for businesses and the city covering people, culture, infrastructure, digital technology, processes and procedures, and goals and metrics. In time this will become more quantitative.
  • Quantitative key performance indicators – including the amount of materials sent to landfill, resources recycled, and the amount of energy produced from renewable sources
  • Urban material flows – initially this will focus on Peterborough City Council’s supply chain – identifying major providers of goods and services, and the nature, size and movement of related materials.

Tom continues, “The way we measure circular economy may change over time – we need to be ready to adapt if there are better ways to measure progress and highlight challenges.

“Circular economy is evolutionary so change won’t happen overnight, but we want to accelerate the pace of change. At the moment we’re considering taking a much more sector focused approach so we can make a big impact in key areas like manufacturing, engineering, agri-food, and construction”

To build on Peterborough’s international reputation for its circular economy achievements, Opportunity Peterborough is currently leading on a unique new initiative called Circular by Design includes partners such as Cranfield University, Kaimai Research, the SERC Group and Cambridge University Judge Business School.

The aim is to establish a circular community with representatives from a broad range of sectors that can show the real environmental, economic and social impact of circular economy within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority area.

Members of Circular by Design will share the lessons they’ve learnt from current and past projects to develop innovative and effective circular economy projects that can be used as best practice examples and delivered at local, national and international levels.

The Circular Peterborough programme was also featured as a city level case study on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website. To read it please visit: To find out more about Peterborough Circular Peterborough programme, visit:


As submitted to the Peterborough Telegraph innovation supplement 28.03.2019.