Circularity has dropped globally: Study

By Outlook Planet Desk February 25, 2023

Circularity Gap Report 2023 reveals that circularity has decreased as the overall rate of material extraction has accelarated globally

Circularity has dropped globally: Study
Circular economy may lessen the need for global resource extraction. DepositPhotos

The world's circularity has decreased from 9.1% to 7.2% of all material inputs in just the last five years, underlines the Circularity Gap Report 2023, released by Circle Economy in collaboration with Deloitte. The reduction in circular economy can’t be attributed to less cycling. The reason behind it is more extraction of raw material as we are increasing the consumption of infrastructural, housing, and durable goods.

This research analyses the effects of circular materials management on waste, natural degradation and loss, air and water pollution, and other factors.

The report has four major aims: updating the circularity measure and a number of other critical indicators pertaining to global material flows; locating important circular solutions that are based on societal demands and have an impact on a number of planetary boundaries for clean air, water, and land; showcasing the effectiveness of these circular economy solutions; showing which circular solutions, based on economic, social, and environmental differences, are most appropriate for various country profiles in order to help them achieve their objectives.

With a circular economy, we can satisfy people's needs while using only 70% of the materials we currently consume. The safe limits for the planet are being breached by our current economic model. Because of the effects of the linear "take-make-waste" economy, five of the nine important "planetary limits" that gauge environmental health across land, sea, and air have been breached today.

The report shares the amount of circular inputs, renewable inputs, non-renewable inputs and non-circular inputs.

The report cites, “The potential share of renewable materials put into the economy are measured as renewable inputs. These are divided into Ecological cycling potential (21.2%)—carbon neutral biomass—and Non-renewable biomass (3.8%)— biomass that is not carbon neutral. Together, these represent approximately 25% of all material inputs.”

With non-renewable inputs, they represent about 15% of total inputs to the global economy and are composed of metals and non-metallic minerals.

In 50 years, the amount of metal ores has expanded more than 3.5 times, reaching 9.4 billion tonnes, although they still only account for one-tenth of all extraction. The growth of the manufacturing and built environment sectors, as well as the switch to clean energy—a essential but resource-intensive process, especially for metals—are all to blame for this very rapid increase.

Non-circular inputs that comprise pure fossil fuel energy sources, account for 14.6% of all global economic inputs.

Along with highlighting problems, the report also offers solutions, outlining how essential human needs and wants—like dietary demands, movement, housing, and access to basic goods—can be met while still respecting important ecological boundaries.

The paper outlines 16 circular solutions which focus on ideas that can result in a sharp decrease in the extraction of new materials and a better and longer use of the materials we already have. It also underscores the need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and toxic materials to regenerative ones. They increase the utilisation of secondary resources as well. The circular economy as we define it attempts to maximise the use of resources for everyone's welfare. To minimise the negative effects on the environment, it emphasises circular materials management and reducing consumption to sufficiency levels where necessary.

The 16 transformational circular solutions are spread across four key systems—food systems, the built environment, manufactured goods and consumables, and mobility and transport.

The report highlights that it is not bound by political, economic, or social processes.

The need of public-private cooperation in realising this audacious future vision is highlighted in Chapter 5 of the book. Circular business ideas, such as mobility-as-a-service for resource-intensive cars that sit idle for 95% of their lifecycle in the shift countries, can result in significant tangible savings.

Fundamentally, this study suggests that implementing a circular economy might reduce the requirement for material extraction globally by around one-third while also reversing the overshoot of planetary boundaries. This decrease is a result of the elimination of fossil fuels, particularly coal, from the global energy mix as well as a decline in the demand for high-volume minerals like sand and gravel, which are used primarily in construction of homes and infrastructure.

By enforcing Extended Producer Responsibility and setting high goals for active mobility in cities, policy can significantly amplify such business initiatives and control potential rebound effects.