From round the world sailor to ocean conservationist, Dame Ellen is making her mark




ELLEN MACARTHUR - Is not only smaller in the flesh than you expect, but also much mellower. Since her epic record-breaking solo round-the-world sail in 2004 she has taken her foot off the peddle and is making time for other interests. Having seen more of the planet than most, she is deeply concerned by the alarming rate at which we use and abuse the Earth’s natural resources. To that end she has spent nearly three years building a self-sustaining house.

“The boat that always win races is the boat that makes the best use of the available resources – wind, tide, manpower, tactics and the boat itself,” she says with some feeling. “And really that’s no different to the planet. We have to make the best use of what we have got if we are going to survive. I am really passionate about sustainability, it has become a big crusade with me. We are walking around at the moment with our eyes shut.” 





By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish by weight. A new report lays out a solution.

The steady leakage of plastic packaging into the oceans—at the rate of one garbage truck full of plastic per minute - has been aided by the lack of a unified global effort to reuse the plastic produced every year. Currently, only 14% of plastic packaging waste is recycled.

But a new initiative, introduced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a report published in advance of the World Economic Forum, proposes creating a circular economy for plastics. The New Plastics Economy presents three key platforms: creating an effective after-use plastics economy by improving global recycling efforts, reducing the leakage of plastic waste into the environment, and decoupling plastic from the fossil fuels used to create it.

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy,” the World Economic Forum’s Dominic Waughray said in a press release.

While the report concedes that the New Plastics Economy is not entirely attainable yet, it promises “an attractive target state for the global value chain and governments to collaboratively innovate towards.” But in contrast to the report’s hopeful plan, the recycling business in the United States is in a period of crisis. With the collapse of global oil prices, the largest recyclers like Waste Management have reported sharp drops in recycling revenue and stagnated recycling rates across the country.





There will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish by 2050, a new report from the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has warned today.


According to the report, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, between $80 and $120 billion of plastic packaging enters the waste stream each year, with significant environmental implications.

The report was produced, with McKinsey & Company as a knowledge partner, as part of Project MainStream - a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company.

According to the authors it provides for the first time a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed.

Assessing global plastic packaging flows the report found that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use.

The ‘New Plastics Economy’ outlined in the report envisages a fundamental rethink for plastic packaging and plastics in general – a new model based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and finding alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy,” commented said Dominic Waughray, Head or Public-Private Partnership, World Economic Forum .

“To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilise to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy,” he continued.



Rise in ocean plastic concentration




The report found that the use of plastics has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years. While plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, the report said that their value chains currently entail significant drawbacks.

“Linear models of production and consumption are increasingly challenged by the context within which they operate – and this is particularly true for high-volume, low-value materials such as plastic packaging,” said said Dame Ellen MacArthur, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“By demonstrating how circular economy principles can be applied to global plastic flows, this report provides a model for achieving the systemic shift our economy needs to make in order to work in the long term.”

The authors said that achieving the systemic change needed to shift the global plastic value chain will require major collaboration efforts between all stakeholders across the global plastics value chain – consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers, businesses involved in collection, sorting and reprocessing, cities, policy-makers and NGOs.

The report also proposed the creation of an independent coordinating vehicle to set direction, establish common standards and systems, overcome fragmentation, and foster innovation opportunities at scale.


In line with the report’s recommendations, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said that it will establish an initiative to act as a cross-value-chain global dialogue mechanism and drive the shift towards a New Plastics Economy.

“Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy – with unbeaten properties,” said Martin R. Stuchtey, McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. “However, they are also the ultimate single-use material.”

“Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry. After-use plastics could – with circular economy thinking – be turned into valuable feedstock. Our research confirms that applying those circular principles could spark a major wave of innovation with benefits for the entire supply chain,” he added.

According to the authors, the report’s findings are timely: knowledge and understanding of the circular economy among business leaders and policy-makers is growing, as demonstrated by the European Commission’s recent circular economy package and associated funding announcements; new technologies are unlocking opportunities in material design, reprocessing and renewable sourcing; developing countries are investing in after-use infrastructure; and governments are increasingly considering – and implementing – policies around plastic packaging.


One of the 40 participants that collaborated on the report was Swindon, UK based Recycling Technologies. The company has developed technology which enables unrecyclable mixed plastics to be recycled into a hydrocarbon product it calls Plaxx™. According to the company the product, which is solid at room temperature and easily transported for multiple uses, can be used as a feedstock for more plastic and is also a Slack Wax (oil and wax mixture) equivalent and can be sold globally for this purpose.

Alternatively the company said that it can be used as a low sulphur Heavy Fuel Oil, which can be used for heating, power generation or marine propulsion.

“Our approach utilises a series of scaled chemical processes to convert residual plastic waste into Plaxx™ - an ultra-low Sulphur hydrocarbon product,” commented Adrian Griffiths, CEO, Recycling Technologies. “We hope that this will help the UK and other nations achieve the new European circulatory targets and reduce the need to import virgin oil feedstock.” 


Recycling Technologies Ltd, Unit 6, Woodside, South Marston Park, Swindon, SN3 4WA

Tel. +44 1793 827 965  Email: info@recyclingtechnologies.co.uk




MacArthur plunged into learning the intricacies of global economics; how we use energy and materials and how reliant the economy is on these. "The more I learnt, the more I realised that we had some pretty big challenges ahead of us.

"As the years went by, more reports came out. The first ones I read were predominantly about energy. It struck me that ultimately no one knows how much coal, oil and gas there is. You can't put it down to the nearest year, but what we do know is that it is finite."

MacArthur readily admits to being captivated by engineering. "I am fascinated by how we design things and how things function. I always have been. One of the elements of sailing was to understand how everything fits together and being able to fix everything from the computer to the engine.

"It was the fact that our economy is so reliant on these finite resources that was the catalyst to making the decision that I thought I would never make to leave competitive sailing and focus on creating a foundation."

The establishment of the foundation was still a few years away, first came the challenge to try and understand more. "I had never come across anything like it," says MacArthur. "It had never crossed my mind before stepping off that boat and for me it was a real turning point. I was going into the unknown.

"What fascinated me was that I could see this massive challenge, but unlike my mission to sail around the world, I had no idea how to get there. I had no idea what to do other than to use less and that didn't seem like an ultimate solution, it just brought us time. That fascinated and frightened me."


Armed with the knowledge she had accumulated, MacArthur finally established The Ellen MacArthur Foundation in September 2010, based in an old sail makers loft on the Cowes quayside. On the face of it the foundation may appear to be a departure; moving from an apparent solo effort in sailing into a true altruistic ambition. But as MacArthur points out, sailing is only an individual endeavour at the sharp end. "When I think back to the second round the world, the team was the best thing. Everything we did together: we built the boat together, we trained on the boat together; that atmosphere was phenomenal. We were like a family and that was very powerful.

"The teamwork aspect was something that was very important for me, but as you say, there are two elements of this. There is obviously the team at the foundation, which is now 25 people, but actually this is not about me or us or this, this is about the human population. It's about an economic challenge. It's way broader than anything that I have looked at before."



Ellen with Norman the border collie




The real direction for the Foundation's future came from a meeting with Walter R Stahel, who first came up with the ideas about a circular economy. The circular economy is a generic term for an industrial economy that is restorative and in which materials flows are of two types, biological nutrients, designed to re-enter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality without entering the biosphere.

The term encompasses more than the production and consumption of goods and services, including a shift from fossil fuels to the use of renewable energy, and the role of diversity as a characteristic of resilient and productive systems.

Stahel, an architect, economist and founding father of industrial sustainability, is credited with having coined the expression Cradle to Cradle, in contrast to Cradle to Grave. "He is an absolutely amazing guy and he saw a very different way for society and the economy to function, whereby you try to recycle those materials and try to close a loop," says MacArthur. "You do that through moving towards a performance economy rather than a consumer economy. So rather than buying a vehicle you would pay for the use of one. This would guarantee that the vehicle would go back and be taken apart."

This concept was continued by Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough who ran Cradle to Cradle, where they looked at the design aspect. How can we design a carpet that's made to be made again? How can we design a chair that is made for disassembly, so that we can recover the materials?

The Foundation recently produced a report with McKinsey looking at biological aspects of the circular economy around consumer goods. "We believe that if you took all food waste, human waste and agricultural waste, you could replace the chemical fertiliser used in the world 2.7 times over. If you redesign your business model you have actually got a way to maintain all products as their absolute highest value at all times, thus bringing growth to the global economy.

"We launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the circular economy as our goal; to accelerate this transition to a circular economy," MacArthur adds. "As a foundation, we chose to work in three areas - business, insight and education.

"With business we work on transition projects within the businesses that fund us to accelerate towards a circular economy and we have targeted projects of a value in excess of $1bn."


They also aim to provide insight for business, for education, for government, for economists. "What if you shift the global economy to a circular economy? If we look at manufacturing, what's this worth? Our first report was based on medium complexity goods in EU manufacturing; goods that would cycle between one and five years." The figure in the advanced scenario showed savings of $630bn per annum for Europe. That was based upon net material cost savings, excluding new business revenues from different business models.

The second report came out in January of this year. This looked at the consumer goods sector, for which the saving was $700bn globally through redesigning packaging and clothing and manufacturing food waste. Without a doubt impressive numbers.

The third area of work is in education. "We have successfully piloted a global education project here in the UK. By this September we will have reached 2,200 UK secondary schools and that's through teachers at those schools being trained by our team of field officers who take the materials that we have produced over the last two and a half years in design and technology. We have produced a piece called 'The Future of Energy' for STEM."

Today the Foundation employs 25 people, with support from a veritable who's who of global business including B&Q, BT, Cisco, National Grid and Renault. "We are very pleased with where we are today," says MacArthur. "To think that we only launched two and a half years ago and now there have been four events in the circle economy and world economic forum with a global alliance of businesses across the world taking this on.

"Although we are really pleased with where we are we have only done a fraction. We have the goal to accelerate the transition to a circle economy and there aren't any bigger challenges. Whatever role we can play in that we will be very happy to do so, but you can feel good about something that happened and feel that progress is great and then look at the scale of it."

The view from the Foundation's offices sweeps over the town's harbour and the Solent beyond filled with boats of all sizes. For MacArthur it is a reminder of her past. "Do I miss it? Yes, I will always miss it because from a child it is the one thing that I wanted to do. I made the hardest decision of my life to say that I am going to leave all of this behind me. People say 'don't you want to go round the world again?'. Yes, I would love to, but I won't do it because what we are doing here has no finish line."

She adds: "I don't regret having made that decision in the slightest because this is the most extraordinary project and I end up talking to amazing people about amazing things. The conversations are fascinating and I have never used my brain to the capacity that I am at the moment."







Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur, DBE (born 8 July 1976) is a retired British sailor, from Whatstandwell near Matlock in Derbyshire, now based in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

MacArthur is a successful solo long-distance yachtswoman. On 7 February 2005 she broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, a feat which gained her international renown. Francis Joyon, the Frenchman who had held the record before MacArthur, recovered the record again in early 2008, beating MacArthur's record by nearly two weeks. Following her retirement from professional sailing on 2 September 2010, MacArthur announced the launch of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that works with business and education to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.


Ellen was born in Derbyshire where she lived with her parents, who were both teachers, and two brothers Fergus and Lewis. She acquired her early interest in sailing, firstly by her desire to emulate her idol at the time, Sophie Burke, and secondly by reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of books. She has since become the Patron of the Nancy Blackett Trust which owns and operates Ransome's yacht, Nancy Blackett.

Her first experience of sailing was on a boat owned by her aunt Thea MacArthur on the east coast of England. She saved her school dinner money for three years to buy her first boat, an eight-foot dinghy, which she named Threp'ny Bit even though decimalisation had taken place before she was born. She sellotaped a real 'threepenny bit' coin onto the bow.

MacArthur attended Wirksworth County Infants and Junior Schools and the Anthony Gell School and also worked at a sailing school in Hull. When she was 17, MacArthur bought a Corribee and named it Iduna; she described the first moment she saw it as "love at first sight". In 1995 she sailed Iduna single-handed on a circumnavigation of Great Britain.

In 1997 she finished 17th in the Mini Transat solo transatlantic race after fitting out her 21 ft (6.4 m) Classe Mini yacht Le Poisson herself while living in a French boatyard.

She was named 1998 British Telecom/Royal Yachting Association "Yachtsman of The Year" in the UK and "Sailing's Young Hope" in France.

Asteroid 20043 Ellenmacarthur is named after her.




MacArthur first came to general prominence in 2001 when she came second in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world sailing race in her Owen Clarke/Rob Humphreys designed Kingfisher (named after her sponsors, Kingfisher plc), and subsequently MacArthur was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport. At 24, she was the youngest competitor to complete the voyage.

In 2003 she captained a round-the-world record attempt for a crewed yacht in Kingfisher 2 (a catamaran formerly owned by Bruno Peyron and known as Orange), but was thwarted by a broken mast in the Southern Ocean.

A trimaran named B&Q/Castorama (after two companies in the Kingfisher group) unveiled in January 2004, was specially designed by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret for her to break solo records. The 75-foot (23 m) trimaran was built in Australia, with many of the components specifically arranged to take into account MacArthur's 5-foot 2 inch (1.57 m) height.

Using the yacht, her first significant record attempt in 2004 to break the west–east transatlantic crossing time failed by around one and a quarter hours, after over seven days of sailing.

She began her attempt to break the solo record for sailing non-stop around the world on 28 November 2004. During her circumnavigation, she set records for the fastest solo voyage to the equator, past the Cape of Good Hope, past Cape Horn and back to the equator again. She crossed the finishing line near the French coast at Ushant at 22:29 UTC on 7 February 2005 beating the previous record set by French sailor Francis Joyon by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds is world record for the 27,354 nautical miles (50,660 km) covered. This is an average speed of 15.9 knots (29.4 km/h).

On 8 February 2005, following her return to England, it was announced that she was to be made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition of her achievement. It is believed that she is the youngest ever recipient of this honour. Coming immediately after the event being recognised, rather than appearing in due course in the New Year's or Birthday Honours lists, this recognition was reminiscent of accolades previously bestowed upon Francis Drake and Francis Chichester when reaching home shores after their respective circumnavigations in 1580 and 1967. MacArthur was also granted the rank of Honorary Lieutenant Commander, Royal Naval Reserve on the same day.

In recognition of her achievement she was appointed a Knight (Chevalier) of the French Legion of Honour by President Nicolas Sarkozy in March 2008. She is a fluent French speaker.

In 2007 MacArthur headed up BT Team Ellen, a three-person sailing team which includes Australian Nick Moloney and Frenchman Sébastien Josse.

In October 2009 MacArthur announced her intention to retire from competitive racing to concentrate on the subject of resource and energy use in the global economy.

On 2 September 2010, she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity focusing on accelerating the transition to a regenerative circular economy. The Foundation works in three areas:

* Education – inspiring a generation to re-think the future
* Business – catalysing business innovation
* Insight – the opportunity for a re-design revolution






In June 2000, MacArthur sailed the monohull Kingfisher from Plymouth, UK to Newport, Rhode Island, USA in 14 days, 23 hours, 11 minutes. This is the current record for a single-handed woman monohull east-to-west passage, and also the record for a single-handed woman in any vessel.

MacArthur's second place in the 2000–2001 edition of the Vendée Globe, with a time of 94 days, 4 hours and 25 minutes, is the world record for a single-handed, non-stop, monohull circumnavigation by a woman.

In June 2004, MacArthur sailed her trimaran B&Q/Castorama from Ambrose Light, Lower New York Bay, USA to Lizard Point, Cornwall, UK in 7 days, 3 hours, 50 minutes. This set a new world record for a transatlantic crossing by women, beating the previous crewed record as well as the singlehanded version.

In 2005, MacArthur beat Francis Joyon's existing world record for a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation. MacArthur in the trimaran B&Q/Castorama sailed 27,354 nautical miles (50,660 km) at an average speed of 15.9 knots. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds beat Joyon's then world record time by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds. She had no more than 20 minutes' sleep at a time during the voyage, having to be on constant lookout day and night. On 23 November 2007 Joyon set off in IDEC 2 in an attempt to beat MacArthur's current world record for a single handed circumnavigation. He achieved his goal in 57 days, 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds. Some questioned whether the technology at MacArthur's disposal somehow lessened her achievement but Robin Knox-Johnston still described it as an "amazing achievement".




Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust

In 2003, MacArthur set up the Ellen MacArthur Trust (now the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust), a registered charity, to take young people, aged between 8 and 24 inclusive, sailing to help them regain their confidence on their way to recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other serious illnesses.

In 2008 MacArthur joined forces with other sports celebrities to launch an appeal to raise £4 million for the Rainbows children's hospice. The aim is to give terminally ill young people their own customised sleeping unit to enable children in separate age groups to have their families stay with them.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

After retiring from sailing, MacArthur founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the aim to accelerate the transition to a regenerative, circular economy. The idea of a circular economy synthesised a number of existing strands of work and specifically enabled the analysis and communication of its broad economic potential. The Foundation, as part of its educational mission, works to bring together complementary schools of thought and create a coherent framework, thus giving the concept a wide exposure and appeal.




MacArthur was also the last record holder on Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car on the BBC's Top Gear television driving programme until the eighth series, when the car and rules were changed, and previous records were removed. The competition was a timed lap of a racetrack in a Suzuki Liana. She completed the lap in 1 minute 46.7 seconds, beating Jimmy Carr by 0.2 seconds. Dame Ellen MacArthur won Top Gear's Fastest Driver of the Year award in 2005.

She also took part in 2011 TV series Jamie's Dream School.




 KINGFISHER - One of her earlier boats, this mono-hull was nevertheless very competitive.





Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Sail Loft
42 Medina Road
Cowes, Isle of Wight
PO31 7BX, United Kingdom
T +44 (0) 1983 296463

Email: info@ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/circulareconomy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllenMacArthurFoundation

Charity Registration No.: 1130306
OSCR Registration No.: SC043120
Company No.: 6897785








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