The report finds that a transformation of our relationship with materials, away from the linear “take-make-waste” economy, would maximize benefits for people and minimize the pressure on the nine key planetary boundaries.
It identifies 16 transformational circular solutions across four key systems that center on the principles of use less, use longer, use again, and make clean.
The annual Global Circularity Gap Report, published by Circle Economy in collaboration with Deloitte, warns the global economy is now only 7.2% circular. “A global circular economy,” it argues, “will allow us to fulfil people’s needs with only 70% of the materials we now extract and use,” within the safe planetary limits. The report presents circular solutions embedded across four global systems that can deliver this goal.
Launched on 16 January, at the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the report highlights that as the global economy increasingly relies on materials from virgin sources, more and more materials are going into stocks such as roads, homes, and durable goods. This leaves fewer materials to cycle back into the economy.
The report finds that a transformation of our relationship with materials, away from the linear “take-make-waste” economy, would maximize benefits for people and minimize the pressure on the nine key planetary boundaries, five of which – climate change, biodiversity loss, land system change, chemical pollution, and cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus – have been broken. The study suggests that “adopting a circular economy could not only reverse the overshoot of planetary boundaries, but it could slash the global need for material extraction by about one-third” – a reduction rooted in removing fossil fuels, especially coal, from the global equation and in lowering demand for high-volume minerals.
The report identifies 16 transformational circular solutions across four key systems that center on the principles of use less, use longer, use again, and make clean:
- Food systems: 1) put healthier, satiating foods first; 2) go local, seasonal, and organic; 3) mainstream regenerative agriculture; 4) no more avoidable food waste;
- The built environment: 5) be as energy efficient as possible; 6) make the most of what already exists; 7) prioritize circular materials and approaches; 8) reuse waste;
- Manufactured goods and consumables: 9) mainstream industrial symbiosis and efficiency; 10) extend the lifetime of machinery, equipment, and goods; 11) buy what you need; 12) eschew fast fashion in favor of sustainable textiles;
- Mobility and transport: 13) embrace car-free lifestyles and roads; 14) invest in high-quality public transport; 15) rethink air travel; and 16) electrify remaining vehicles.
The study acknowledges that depending on its circumstances, each country’s progress towards reversing environmental overshoot while fulfilling people’s needs will occur at a different pace. It calls for purpose-driven collaboration between the public and private sectors, which is essential to reverse the overshoot and achieve well-being within safe limits.
Underscoring the need for a shared vision, the report formulates three principles to guide business leaders and policy makers:
- Reduce: from efficiency to sufficiency, resilience, and adaptiveness;
- Regenerate: from extraction to regeneration; and
- Redistribute: from accumulation to distribution.
The Global Circularity Gap Report aims to provide key players that can implement the circular economy with the insights, data, knowledge, and network to accelerate change. Circle Economy launched the Circularity Gap Report series in 2018. [Publication: The Circularity Gap Report 2023] [Publication Landing Page]