About the author: The Circle Economy is an Amsterdam based organisation that is guided by a simple vision: an economic system that ensures the planet and all people can thrive. They publish every year a report in order to make available a global baseline measurement on the circular state of our world in order to truly understand how we can effectively move towards circularity or monitor progress.
The key takeaways: Rising material extraction has shrunk global circularity: from 9.1% in 2018, to 8.6% 2020, and now 7.2% in 2023. This leaves a huge Circularity Gap: the globe almost exclusively relies on new (virgin) materials. These decreasing figures are driven by rising material extraction and use.
Today, five of the nine key ‘planetary boundaries’ that measure environmental health across land, water and air have been broken but a circular economy could reverse this by reducing global material extraction and use by one-third. Solutions should focus on four key global systems—Agrifood, Mobility & Transport, Manufactured Goods & Consumables and the Built Environment because these systems are responsible for breaching many safe planetary boundaries and there is massive potential to transform them.
The built environment today contributes 40% to global emissions and misses recycling opportunities. While building more living spaces, humanity must learn from nature, our collective home that knows no waste.
Be as energy efficient as possible. Design circular buildings and equip them with clean energy solutions, such as heat pumps. In addition, reduce the amount of energy used, for example, by washing at lower temperatures and lowering the thermostat.
Make the most of what already exists. Tonnes of materials are locked into existing buildings. Reuse, repurpose and renovate them with secondary materials when possible and make new buildings ready for this in the future.
Prioritise circular materials and approaches. Favour organic materials such as wood, timber or CLT over steel and concrete. Utilise mainstream modular construction and lightweight frames and structures to reduce cement and steel use.
Reuse waste. Strive to make construction and demolition waste history, but where it cannot be avoided, maximise recycling to reduce the need for virgin materials.