Circular roadmap: six opportunities to halve resource use in Northern Ireland and double its circularity
Nurture a circular food system
Material consumption reduced by 16.5%
The material footprint of Northern Ireland's agri-food sector is high: large quantities of biomass are imported for animal feed, and while emissions-intensive meat and dairy products are exported, these foods also feature high on the menu.
To reduce the high environmental footprint of the agri-food sector, we recommend that Northern Ireland overhauls its food system by consuming food within a healthy range, promoting healthy diets (i.e. reducing consumption of meat and dairy) while putting sustainable food production into practice (i.e. prioritising low-input agriculture and, where possible, growing food organically, locally and seasonally).
Build a circular built environment
Material consumption reduced by 10.5%
Northern Ireland's built environment consumes vast amounts of materials as the country's growing population, geography and low population density exert pressure on the need for housing and infrastructure.
To reduce material consumption, we recommend that Northern Ireland makes the built environment sector more circular by optimising its building stock expansion (i.e. using secondary materials and increasing retrofitting and renovation), making resource-efficient construction the norm (i.e. cutting construction losses and using durable and lightweight elements) and increasing building occupancy (i.e. incentivising co-housing and multifunctional spaces).
Champion circular manufacturing
Material consumption reduced by 8.2%
Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector has a substantial material and carbon footprint. Innovation efforts largely focus on decarbonisation, while strong strategies backing material efficiency and new business models are lacking.
To reduce consumption, we recommend that Northern Ireland implements resource efficient manufacturing (i.e. improving industrial processes and reducing virgin inputs for key manufacturing industries) and employs R-strategies for key industries (i.e. increasing services such as remanufacturing, repair and maintenance) to cut the sector’s resource use as well as strengthen its competitiveness and resilience.
Power clean mobility
Material consumption reduced by 5.9%
Car use in Northern Ireland is high and penetration of low emission vehicles is the lowest in the UK, while the appetite for bigger cars is growing and a reliance on private transport prevails.
To reduce the material footprint of transport and mobility, which is highly dependent on fossil fuels, we recommend that Northern Ireland embraces a car-free lifestyle through an improved modal shift and flex work (i.e. by promoting car-sharing to optimise vehicle use, while reducing compulsory travel to work) and prioritises efficient vehicles and electrifies the fleet (i.e. driving smaller, more efficient cars and electrifying buses and private vehicles).
Leverage public procurement
Material consumption reduced by 2.9%
In Northern Ireland, the public sector makes up a substantial part of the economy and wields major spending power. But, despite the public sector holding huge power to drive sustainability and circularity through public procurement, opportunities go largely unfulfilled.
The public sector can become a strong driver of circularity by making the management of public building stock more circular (i.e. through the (deep) retrofitting of older public buildings) and by ensuring that publicly procured food supports a circular food system (i.e. prioritising healthy and sustainable diets in public locales like hospitals and schools, with food waste minimisation).
Welcome a circular lifestyle
Material consumption reduced by 13.5%
In high-income nations, the overconsumption of products and services ranging from textiles and electronics to plastics and travel has a massive environmental and social impact.
By embracing a 'material sufficiency' lifestyle, such as only using circular textiles, adhering to a minimalist lifestyle for furniture and home appliances, using non-market and community-based services for repairs, and heavily reducing consumption of plastics, Northern Ireland can cut its material consumption by a massive 13.5%.