To accelerate progress towards a circular economy, the report calls for addressing the root causes of linear impacts.
It recommends changing the “rules of the game” in favor of circular practices and proposes a strategy to unlock capital, roll out policies that are bold but contextually appropriate, and close the sustainable and circular skills gap.
The 2024 edition of the Circularity Gap Report, published by Circle Economy in collaboration with Deloitte, finds that global circularity rate has decreased from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2023. That means the share of secondary materials consumed worldwide is in decline. The report recommends policy, finance, and labor reforms that can reshape global systems to promote circularity.
The report reveals that in the last five years, the world consumed 500 billion tonnes of materials – almost as much as was consumed during the entire 20th century. And while the volume of discussions, debates, and articles about circular economy has almost tripled over the same period, consumption continues to grow.
To accelerate progress towards a circular economy, the report calls for addressing the root causes of linear impacts. It recommends changing the “rules of the game” in favor of circular practices and proposes a strategy to unlock capital, roll out policies that are bold but contextually appropriate, and close the sustainable and circular skills gap.
The report recommends different solutions based on country income. For high-income countries (HICs), the report urges a “shift” to radically reduce material consumption while upholding well-being. Middle-income countries (MICs), it argues, should “grow” to stabilize their material consumption, while low-income countries (LICs) should “build” to increase their material consumption to meet their populations’ needs.
The report shows how policies and legal frameworks can incentivize sustainable and circular practices. Examples of impactful regulations in HICs include: incentivizing retrofitting and reusing buildings and their components; developing certification and warranties for secondary building materials; setting standards for product durability; and strengthening the Right to Repair legislation.
MICs, according to the report, should prioritize fostering circular agriculture and manufacturing by, among other actions, introducing public bans and limits on pollution, mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, and requiring a minimum amount of recovered materials for all new production while directing funds to regenerative farming.
A top priority for LICs should be sustainable development, achieved through circular policies in construction and agriculture. Examples of policies include relieving debt and improving access to development and transition capital, securing smallholder farmer rights, and incentivizing the use of local, organic, and secondary materials in construction.
To unlock finance in HICs, the report recommends rethinking accounting standards and practices and increasing the price of unsustainable products through taxation. In MICs, it suggests governments shift subsidies away from polluting practices in agriculture and manufacturing towards clean, regenerative activities. Regenerative farming and smart urban planning are among the recommendations the report puts forward for LICs.
To enable a just transition, the report calls for, inter alia, bridging labor and skills gaps by including green disciplines and skills in education curricula and short-term courses.
Circle Economy launched the Circularity Gap Report series in 2018. The series aims to provide decision makers with structured evidence about circular strategies and their economic, environmental, and social
impacts, to enable them to adequately consider the quality of life and well-being of people and the planet. The 2024 Circularity Gap Report was released on 24 January. [Publication: Circularity Gap Report 2024: A Circular Economy to Live Within the Safe Limits of the Planet] [Publication Landing Page] [Circle Economy Press Release] [Deloitte Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Circularity Gap Report 2023]