There are nearly 800 circular economy community initiatives, from repair cafes and food banks to libraries of stuff and furniture stores in the Yorkshire & Humber region. Paul Jensen from Leeds University opened a recent EPIKS conference illustrating how initiatives have been mapped.  

The conference on Zero Waste-enabling the Circular Economy was held on 22nd February 2023 in collaboration with the University of Huddersfield Centre for Sustainability, Reasearch, Governance and Ethics (SURGE) and Upcycle Fashion. Nearly 100 delegates attended from the business, community and research sectors and the local authority. 

In this day-long conference, we highlighted the benefits and challenges of enabling the circular economy and showing how its relationship to ‘zero-waste’ delivers waste reduction. 

The conference focused on two key areas – food and textiles – and drew inspiration from several examples of active projects (case studies). Three workshops discussed unmet challenges in the West Yorkshire area and developed ideas for future action.  

EPIKs Director, Chas Ball said,’ The Zero Waste conference focussed attention on textiles and food where the third sector’s role in achieving zero waste is more fully recognised. Although there is clearly a need for a stronger infrastructure to tackle a wider range of materials re-use and recycling in Kirklees, we feel we made a start in promoting this aspect of waste and the value of cross-sector collaboration. Themes for future conferences could include furniture and electronics’.  

By linking zero waste to the circular economy EPIKS and its co-sponsors believes there is real scope to establish projects that deliver on jobs, quality of life and the climate emergency. There is a follow up event planned for April to discuss next steps on a “Circularity Network”. 

Conference programme download.  

Conference speakers’ presentations.  

Rob Greenland of Zero Waste Leeds gave an overview of the lessons learned on behavioural change in re-use and repair projects operating in Leeds. Presentation here.  

Adrian Barraclough of River Holme Connections showed how food production and land management can incorporate net zero practices, drawing on case studies from the River Holme Catchment and Pennine region. Presentation here.  

Julia Roebuck of Upcycle Fashion showcased local circular economy initiatives on textiles. Presentation here 

Jane Woods of Shared Goods showed how unwanted clothing and other goods are supporting refugees in Huddersfield. More info here

Kate France of the Uniform Exchange gave an overview of how reusing uniforms is an ideal way to support families as well as provoke conversations about environmental action in young people. Presentation here.  

Ian Agnew of Dark Woods Coffee illustrated a wide variety of ways the company has adjusted its working practice to limit its environmental impact and inspire others. Presentation here.  

Vic Harper of The Bread and Butter Thing outlined an innovative way to tackle food waste and provide a collaborative alternative to the traditional ‘food bank’ which was now established in 7 locations in Kirklees. Presentation here.  

Bill Macbeth of the Textile Centre of Excellence illustrated resource efficient enterprise through the Fashion and Textiles Sustainability Strategy Pilot Programme. Presentation here.  


The event was coordinated by Julia Roebuck, (Upcycle Fashion, Circular Clothing Practice & Consultancy); Dr John Lever, (Reader, Sustainable and Resilient Communities, Director of SURGE Research Centre, University of Huddersfield) and Chas Ball, (Director, EPIKs – Environment Kirklees Ltd). 

Next Steps 

Conference delegates, businesses and organisations are being consulted to establish the possibility of forming a network or partnership for Zero Waste actions in the area. We would welcome your thoughts by filling out a feedback survey here  

If you did not attend the conference, but would like to collaborate on a new local Zero Waste partnership , then please fill out the survey here 

Follow up event

Wednesday 19th April 11:30-13:30 Venue and booking tba

Lunch time presentation, discussion and networking event. Hosted by EPIKS and DrJohn Lever, Director of SURGE University of Huddersfield As well as learning about the Huddersfield Food Network, we will examine feedback and ideas on the nature of a future Zero Waste and the Circular Economy Collaboration for Kirklees.