IKC3 and CircBio Cluster Address the Oireachtas Joint Committee Discussion on the Circular Economy as it relates to the food sector

Dr Helena McMahon, Director of Ireland’s Knowledge Centre for Carbon, Climate and Community Action (IKC3) and Head of Department STEM Munster Technological University Kerry Campus and James Gaffey, Co-Director Circbio Research Group were honoured to be invited to Leinster House on 21st May to speak at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment and Climate Action on the topic of circular economy as it relates to the food sector. They were invited as witnesses along with representatives of the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, the Environmental Protection Agency, Food Drink Ireland and Food Cloud.


James Gaffey ready a joint statement to the committee which highlighted the role that circular bioeconomy can play in improving the sustainability of Ireland’s agrifood and marine sectors and the continued need for investment and regulatory support. 

“The development of circular economy within the food sector is a growing trend, demonstrated by the growing number of food companies adopting circular solutions to create more sustainable value chains and bringing new products to market. This has been driven by a combination of innovation, technology commercialisation and enabling policies such as the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and Irelands Circular Economy Strategy and Bioeconomy Action Plan.” James Gaffey stated. “Through adoption of circular bioeconomy models, Ireland’s primary producers can achieve more sustainable food production, including waste reduction and valorisation, nutrient recycling and renewable energy production, diversifying farm incomes and reducing imports and farm emissions.”


James continued to speak about the projects the CirBio Research Group have developed to assist producers to achieve more sustainable food production including biorefineries “Another area of enormous potential for upscaling the circular economy across the food sector is deployment of biorefineries. These biomass processing facilities convert biomass and waste streams from all sectors of the food system – e.g. grass, dairy, tillage, meat, marine and municipal waste into innovative high value sustainable biobased products with export potential.”


He went on to speak about the opportunities to create bioeconomy value chains through clusters “Clusters, such as the Circular Bioeconomy Cluster Southwest at CircBio, can play a key role as brokers in a circular economy, helping to foster networking and facilitate opportunity scoping towards new value chain development, working on an All Island basis with projects such as BioDirect which aims to create all island circular bioeconomy value chains and Cirbiocitywaste which is converting municipal waste water into biofertilser and bioenergy.”


James highlighted that “the skills gap is a critical issue and potential bottleneck in the scaling of the circular economy.” and further discussed the opportunitues available through MTU and the IKC3 project by “delivering sustainable education from the Springboard-funded Certificate in Circular Economy and Masters in Bioeconomy with Business, to the micro-credentials of the HCI3 funded IKC3 project delivering micro-credentials in climate entrepreneurship leadership made circular for industry, public sector, primary and secondary students.”


Read the full statement here 

View the video from the Oireachtas Joint Committee Discussion on the ‘Circular Economy as it relates to the food sector’ here
(James Gaffey and Helena McMahon’s statement can be viewed at 2:03:16)