Here are few projects showcasing best practice in circular economy funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, through their Frontiers of Engineering for Development Programme.
Circular design of emergency sheltering for Africa: A holistic approach


Francesco Pomponi, Edinburgh Napier University


  • Gama Sibanda, Biomimicry South Africa
  • Abimbola Windapo, University of Cape Town
  • Taghried I. M. Abdel-magid , Sudan University of Science & Technology
  • Bernardino D'amico , Edinburgh Napier University
  • Susan Snaddon, Former Arup
  • Lara Alshawawreh, Edinburgh Napier University

K_refugee camp.jpg

Africa is the continent with the highest number of displaced people due to wars, humanitarian crises, resource scarcity, and extreme climate events. Emergency sheltering always sets out with the best intention of being a temporary solution but, in most cases, it actually turns into a (semi-)permanent habitat. Some of the largest 'temporary' refugees' camps now host the third generation, and there are in-camp Universities which testify their long-term nature. The focus to date has been either too technical ("tents-in-a-bag", "plug-and-play-houses") or too social (e.g. by investigating inner and social needs) without however embedding the two in actual and effective solutions.

In July 2017, a joint report by Ramboll and Save the Children for
the 'Shelter and Innovation Workshop' concluded that research is needed on the full life-cycle environmental impacts of different shelter solutions and guidance on how to minimise the environmental impact is necessary to support evidence-based decision making. The report also highlighted that shelter is a process with wide and long-term impacts, and shelter and construction should be used as a tool to reduce the sense of passivity of the displaced. 

There is therefore a tension between the need for stockpiled, instantly deployable shelters and the view of shelter as a process where local communities become implementing partners in the event of a crisis with the aim of driving long-term development by empowering the community.

To this end, this project aims to address these design issues from a circular economy perspective and engineer hybrid solutions that can be instantly deployed but easily adapted or expanded by the residents as a way to achieve their social needs and their long-term empowerment. This project will:

  • Review existing solutions for emergency sheltering which are currently widely deployed

  • Identify strengths and shortcomings of existing solutions in both technical terms and social as well as cultural needs ​

  • Convene an interdisciplinary design workshop in Africa with different stakeholders to identify innovative solutions which are better suited to address the challenge of emergency holistically

  • Engineer the preferred solution to meet users’ needs in an emergency context

The proposed solutions will be assessed in terms of their environmental impacts through life cycle assessment and their social components will be evaluated with the support of local partners.

EduKid-EC: Inspiring the younger generation with circular economy


Anna Bogush, University College London


  • Adrian Jones, University College London
  • David Greenfield (Mentor), Soenecs
  • Zeinab El Maadawi, Cairo University
  • Burcu Karaca Uğural, Ege University
  • Levit Barry Nudi, Notonlab
  • Jamal Mohamed Hassan, Shambaintel Africa Limited
  • Semih Erden, Ege University
A new collaboration from the RAEng Frontiers of Engineering for Development symposium “The Circular Economy” (30 April-2 May; London); From left to right: Levit Barry Nudi (Kenyatta University, Kenya), Dr Burcu Karaca Uğural (Ege University, Turkey), Jamal Mohamed Hassan (ShambaIntel Africa Limited, Kenya), Dr Anna Bogush (University College London, UK), and Prof. Zeinab El Maadawi (Cairo University, Egypt)

A circular economy concept becomes very important nowadays due to increasing population, urbanisation, industrialisation and depletion of natural resources at an accelerating rate. One of the crucial aspects to integrate circular economy to the society is to educate and raise the new generation in the scope of that concept.

The main goal of this project is to create a hybrid (electronic and traditional learning) educational platform to promote the concept & value of circular economy to the younger generation. This project initiates an international collaboration between specialists to work together on the global challenges related to circular economy and its educational aspect.

The series of the interactive workshops using relevant learning materials & case studies based on the multidisciplinary & diverse areas of expertise from the participated researches will be designed and organised in order to disseminate the knowledge about circular economy to children in the form of breakfast/after school circular economy orientation sessions & clubs in each country involved in this project.

This project will promote knowledge exchange on circular economy between the UK, Egypt, Turkey and Kenya and will initiate it globally in the future. We hope to introduce the concept of circularity in education and hope to further develop and incorporate in various subjects. We envision a better world in the future where this and the coming generations will embrace and appreciate circular economy across all disciplines.

Wealth from waste: Value added products for Chennai waste pickers


Muyiwa Oyinlola, De Montfort University


  • Timothy Whitehead, Aston University

  • Anna Lowe, Ioinnovations

  • Siddharth Hande, Kabadiwalla Connect

  • Reza Baserinia, De Montfort University

  • Mark Prince, Aston University

  • Laura Leslie, Aston University


The informal ecosystem of waste pickers typically drives the recovery of post-consumer waste in the developing world. However, these waste pickers make very little income compared with the potential value of the waste collected. It has been identified that one novel way to add significant value to the waste is to use it to create plastic 3D printer filament, which can be used to print new products, thus closing the loop in manufacturing and truly supporting the circular economy.

This project is focused in Chennai, India and seeks to understand if waste pickers can be; empowered and enhance their skills, by converting the plastic into this high value filament. 3D printing has been tipped as a game changing technology in India, which empowers small businesses by lowering the barrier to manufacturing. Since 3D printers have no tooling costs, one printer can manufacture different parts for different applications at the same time. This provides a real opportunity to add value to the otherwise discarded plastic waste and turn it into a high value item, for direct use or resale.

This project directly builds on data collected by KC, which characterised local skills and materials, in the Chennai region. This data showed there was an opportunity to use plastic in the creation of 3DP filaments that can be produced locally.


The aim of the project is to assess the feasibility of using local skills and materials to transform waste plastics into filaments for 3D printing, which is identified as a high value item.  

This study will document the current waste materials available, and current applications for processing waste plastic and creating 3D print material. This research would set the groundwork for future studies and enable the development of new circular economy business models, underpinned with novel technological innovation. The objectives of the study are:

  1. Characterize the Chennai community of waste pickers to ascertain skills level, and waste resources available.

  2. Evaluate available methods to convert the plastic waste into high value 3D print filament.

  3. Establish the mechanical and thermal properties of the filament produced by different methods and conduct a comparison with virgin filament.

  4. Provide a co-design / knowledge sharing workshop, by which the higher earning potential of the filament can be evaluated by the wider community.

  5. Using working relationships, knowledge and outcomes from the activities, explore opportunities to extend the project through more substantive applications for funding.


The proposed solutions will be assessed in terms of their environmental impacts through life cycle assessment and their social components will be evaluated with the support of local partners.

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This is a World Circular Economy Forum side event, organised by SITRA

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