Circulate on Fridays: how the circular economy can improve our oceans

Circulate on Fridays comes to you via Malta this week, with the biggest news from the European Commission’s Our Ocean conference. Plus more insights on repair, fashion, and a thought-provoking video from Tim O’Reilly

TrioCup, one of the winners of the Circular Design Challenge

Businesses, governments, campaigners and even royalty descended on the island of Malta this week for the Our Ocean conference, and the circular economy was high on the agenda.The Prince of Wales was just one of the many speakers that highlighted the need for a systemic approach to tackle the issues of marine pollution, as well as Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO Andrew Morlet and the European Commission’s Karmenu Vella, who presented the winners from first stage of the $2 million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize. The six winners in the Circular Design category include an edible sachet to hold sauces in restaurants and a folding one-piece cup that eliminates the need for plastic lids. Fast Company picked out Evoware, featuring the startup’s seaweed based packaging that can provide our oceans with a ‘nutrient boost’. Also announced at the conference, the EU’s ambitious plan to improve the health of the oceans through 36 initiatives, Procter & Gamble and TerraCyclunveiled a new bottle made from ocean plastic, and Ocean Conservancy plan to raise $150m to address plastics issues in Asia.

The Economist has an overview of the ins and outs of repairability, and why people are fighting to defend the ‘right to repair’ everyday products. While manufacturers of phones, smart speakers and machinery state concerns about the performance of their products, as well as customer safety and privacy, campaigners such as iFixit insist that repair is essential in keeping our stuff in use for longer and combatting planned obsolescence.

We’re often told that ‘doing the right thing’ when it comes to clothing involves buying fewer, better quality items. As many of us have found, price, availability, marketing and fashion mean this is easier said than done. But the Independent features a piece from Mark Sumner this week in which he outlines “an alternative, radical approach”. Rather than trying to control the irrational forces of “fun and excitement” that come with buying clothes, “the challenge should be shifted…to finding a systemic and ethical approach to embrace them”. The answer could lie in finding a creative angle and using new technology and business models to shape the fashion industry, rather than trying to change “thousands of years of evolution in the space of a generation”

Circulate urges you to make some time to check out this interview with Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and author of WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us. There are simply too many choice concepts, references and quotes to pull out, but the point O’Reilly drives home is that we are at a crucial point in history, a point at which we can and should decide how today’s social, scientific, economic and technological trends will shape the world. 

“Our job is to imagine a better future, because if we can imagine it, we can create it. But it starts with that imagination.”

How’s that for a dose of Friday inspiration?

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The Author

Joe Iles

Joe Iles

I'm Editor in Chief of Circulate and Digital Architect at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

When I'm not discussing the circular economy, I also love talking about digital media and online trends, memes, music, bad films and good beer.

You can find me on twitter @joeiles or email joe[at]

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