Circular Malton & Norton's Story
We are a handful of enthusiasts (not environmental activists) who recognise the majority like ourselves want to make a difference in tackling climate change but hesitate to do things differently for a variety of reasons. We came together as strangers inspired by the idea of a circular economy but without knowing much about it.
Starting with someone explaining the concept of an anaerobic digester (AD), we realised we had the solution to our headlines to have "zero food waste from Yorkshire's food capital" and "have our town waste power our town" and our first project was launched: a Community AD that will take the food and bio waste from our local manufacturers, breweries, shops, schools and hotels and go "Direct to AD" to convert into heat, power, biomethane and biofertiliser for neighbouring buildings, businesses, farms and others. It is intended to be a beacon and offer sustainable advantages. It will have an educational centre so visitors can learn how waste is transformed into energy, how circular ways of working can be created in every part of our lives and ultimately create active sustainable mindsets in every family and business.
With our limited experience of funding bids, the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) has been a great partner in helping us shape our plans and deliverables with the right balance of governance.
Our stakeholder map has been extensive and ongoing - creating advocates, challengers and building relationships with the handful of people who share our vision and have the authority to help create reality - land agents, developers, council officers and technical experts.
In parallel, we have consistently shared stories and created a 2-way dialogue with residents, particularly to reach those who are not normally active environmentally. We engaged research specialists so feedback was objective, and adjusted our plans to address concerns as well as 45-minute phone calls to listen or Facebook live Q&A. We are very proud of the feedback, support and reputation we have created - most of this during the extra constraints of the pandemic. Based on this and the confidence in the impact and legacy of our mission, we took on the extra responsibility to become a CIC.
Following a comprehensive feasibility assessment for the AD concept, we secured RCEF stage 2 funds to deliver a business plan and planning permission. We are now in the exciting phase having appointed technical experts & developers, to see this implemented over the next 10 months and probably sooner. We expect our Community AD to be operational by 2023.
Looking forward, we are excited about our next town initiatives; a circular hub offering Reuse, Repair and Upcycling services which we intend to create jobs, new skills and revenue to reinvest, plus early days as we explore how to enable a business park and its tenants to benefit from becoming circular.
Useful Learnings from Circular Malton & Norton
Find a few people passionate about being bold in driving change across a town - know and leverage their skills so everyone has a part to play (speakers, project managers, reflectors, doers - are the key).
We have stated not only to become Yorkshire and possibly the UK's 1st circular market town but stated we are a pilot and want to be a showcase for the UK (that attracts interest and support).
Start with a headline - ours was "zero food waste from Yorkshire's food capital".
Reach out to experts but only work with them if they share passion for your vision - we have secured world experts, national experts and experts who happen to live locally.
Write briefs for your vision, the role of this specific fund/ tender/ activity and specifically what is to be delivered, what you will do with the outcomes, so everyone has clarity and you move forward in strides.
Be flexible with your path to delivery - we flex our intended route to take advantage of fund opportunities... community engagement, technical, desk research, pilot, feasibility study, business planning, skills - every bit helps and strengthens the next bid.
Communicate, communicate, communicate AND 2 way. Talk with people not at people. Talk as a regular person without jargon and in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the stakeholder. Listen generously for and be open about possible concerns and build real solutions into your plan (we have them on concerns about noise, odour and especially traffic). So we ensured our site choices avoided traffic movement through the town. We will ensure design and cost of installation are not compromised. We have rejected requests to build bigger - we all live locally. We stress the word Community- it must work for the community and long term.
Share progress as new stories - we have forward-planned intended headlines and always start with what we have achieved - to inspire and motivate ourselves as well as stakeholders.
Be authentic. We have built a strong and trusted reputation - the quantitative support is significantly ahead of norms for AD. Protect that as easily lost.
We followed a model for change and for engagement. Most of our time is engagement - every stakeholder, large or small, supportive, negative or neutral - we seek advocates, we ask for help, we are flexible in response to ideas. We use social media, webinars, live events, 121, newspapers, council meetings, fields and leaflets.
In execution - we prepare a thorough risk plan, agree mitigation actions and when hit a challenge, share it and ask for help from a wide range of people - the resulting solutions often provide a beneficial leap.
Our biggest challenge is time - not enough people to do the doing. We now have a model where we prioritise, set more realistic timelines, push back on challenges/ ideas lobbed in isolation. In our wider Circular strategy we insist any new ideas must be accompanied with a "doing" leader, who will write the bid, lead delivery of the project and follow our governance.
Circular Malton & Norton's Metrics
Tonnage of biowaste saved with anaerobic digestion.
Amount of renewable heat and power created.
Reduction in carbon emissions.
Number of jobs created.