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Global economy reuses just 9% of material

A report launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos shows that global material use has approximately tripled since 1970, causing a widening ‘circularity gap’ that must be reversed.

Released at the annual meeting of world leaders at Davos, the Circularity Gap Report 2019 highlights the “vast scope” to increase efficiency by applying circular principles - reuse, re-manufacturing and recycling - to manufacturing and other sectors. 

Despite a greater emphasis on resource efficient business models in recent years, global resource extraction and materials use is actually increasing. Just nine per cent of the 92.8 billion tonnes of minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass that enter the global economy annually are currently being reused.  

The report establishes seven key elements of a circular economy:

  • Design for the future: Adopt a systemic perspective during the design process, to employ the right materials for appropriate lifetime and extended future use
  • Incorporate digital technology: Track and optimise resource use and strengthen connections between supply-chain actors through digital, online platforms and technologies
  • Sustain and preserve what’s already there: Maintain, repair and upgrade resources in use to maximise their lifetime and give them a second life through take-back strategies, where applicable
  • Rethink the business model: Consider opportunities to create greater value and align incentives through business models that build on the interaction between products and services
  • Use waste as a resource: Utilise waste streams as a source of secondary resources and recover waste for reuse and recycling
  • Prioritise regenerative resources: Ensure renewable, reusable, non-toxic resources are utilised as materials and energy in an efficient way
  • Team up to create joint value: Work together throughout the supply chain, internally within organisations and with the public sector to increase transparency and create shared value.The report calls on governments to “wake up” to the potential of the circular economy by abolishing financial incentives which encourage overuse of natural resources, raising taxes on excessive waste production, and lowering taxes on labour to encourage labour-intensive parts of the circular economy such as take-back schemes and recycling. The UK is starting to action in these areas through the government’s recently-published Resources and Waste Strategy

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