The world is just a great big onion

THE world is just a great big onion, as the wonderful Marvin Gaye once said. And in economic terms that is where I’d like to be: a world of circles. When I was invited to take part in Circular North-east, the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s new initiative to tap into the £300m of value that a circular economy could create in the North East, it wasn’t onions but langoustines that grabbed my attention.

Plastics have rightly become a national obsession, grabbing the headlines, filling

Facebook with terrible images from across the globe, truly creative ideas for dealing with it and public unhappiness with increased incineration and landfill as the solution. We have to get smarter with waste.

Turning it on its head, waste is really untapped wealth and when as a nation or a species have we baulked at turning a buck? Even age is no barrier:

So coming back to our crustacean friends, we produce a lot of food waste, in the oceans as well as the fields, and from processing, packaging, then letting it run past its sell by date. Another way to see it is as opportunities for innovation and enterprise at every step, for cost savings, diversification and the creation of new businesses and there is financial support to make it happen. Circular North-east is a new initiative aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses identify and capitalise on circular economy opportunities. And here’s the crunchy bit, where that help has supported the creative urge.

CuanTec is a blue biotechnology company creating a circular economy where waste from processing of the fisheries industry is put to good use. The business has created a process to breakdown waste langoustine shells via natural fermentation to produce chitosan, a valuable material used in the agriculture, food and medical industries. There is no waste from the process. The chitosan is used to make various products and the resulting liquid, which is rich in protein, can be used to make feed for salmon.

The first product CuanTec is developing with chitosan is an anti-microbial, compostable food contact material packaging which reduces spoilage and prolongs shelf-life of fresh food. Initially this will be aimed at the seafood sector as a perfect example of circular economy. Future sources such as crab, shrimp and mushrooms are also being investigated.

How brilliant is that? If you want to do something, are inspired by this bit of lateral thinking, if you have an idea for a start-up or an existing business that needs help with waste, then please visit Circular North-east via the Chamber website, or contact and start your adventure!

I have another ask. Various groups in the City from civic bodies like Aberdeen Beautiful to activists and local think tankers like Common Weal Aberdeen are trying to bring communities, wannabe entrepreneurs and existing businesses together with agencies like the Chamber that can help grow a new enterprise or product in the circular economy. If you are interested in being part of it, please get in touch with me: and let’s get something moving.