As momentum builds around calls for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, a key component must be a global transition to a more circular economy. We need to transform the way goods are made, used and managed at the end of their life – so that we keep resources in use for as long as possible, by increasing sharing, leasing, reusing and repairing.
Creating a more circular economy will reduce CO2e emissions from the production and use of goods and materials, and help to meet climate targets. Almost half of global carbon emissions currently come from creating the cars, clothes, food, and other products we use every day. In addition, only around 8 percent of the 100 billion tonnes of raw natural materials which entered the global economy were reused last year.
Global carbon emissions have to fall by at least 7.6% every year until 2050 in order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. If we are going to have a substantial impact on long-term CO2e emissions and meet environmental targets, we need a profound shift to reconfigure attitudes and approaches around the world.
The systems approach that underpins the circular economy is central to rethinking the challenges of climate change, shortening supply chains and reducing our vulnerability to market shocks like Covid-19. A circular economy can also support the creation of new, higher quality jobs, and promote more resilient, connected communities.
In London alone, transitioning to a circular economy could achieve a 60% reduction in the city’s waste and by 2036 could provide £7 billion-worth of benefits every year in the sectors of built environment, food, textiles, electricals and plastics. This isn’t a choice between a healthy environment and thriving economy – but it is a choice between the old linear, wasteful economy, and the new resilient and sustainable circular economy.
There is growing awareness among policy makers, businesses and consumers that the ‘take, make, dispose’ model isn’t working. We need collaborative action to accelerate meaningful action across the globe. A wide range of organisations and individuals are already responding to this need – from innovators transforming reclaimed materials into furniture, through to policymakers offering stimulus packages to help big business actively mould a more circular economy. But we need faster progress, and global collaboration is essential.
Circular Economy Week
As part of this drive, the London Waste and Recycling Board will host Circular Economy Week in London from 1-5 June, bringing together leaders and innovators from around the globe through a series of virtual events to advance the agenda. The focus is on cities and how they can reduce CO2e emissions from the production and use of products and materials. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas – and it is the power of cities that will drive the global development of the circular economy.
We all have a vital part to play: from policy makers building networks to accelerate progress at a national, regional and city-wide level, to the finance sector fostering innovation by investing in sustainable businesses; from individuals demanding circular products and services, to businesses and innovators finding new ways to re-use and repair goods.
Our current model isn’t working; we need a profound change, and we need it quickly. It’s up to us all to act swiftly, to mobilise and realise the opportunities of a circular economy.
By Wayne Hubbard, Chief Executive Officer, London Waste & Recycling Board