Circular economy experts, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, have set out 10 circular investment opportunities to demonstrate how policymakers can ‘pave the way towards a low-carbon and prosperous economic recovery’.
Circular economy and the Covid-19 recovery highlights investment opportunities across five key sectors: the built environment; fashion; plastic packaging; food; and mobility.
Addressing the growing calls for a recovery response that is in alignment with other global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, these ‘specifically selected’ opportunities all optimise the use and circulation of assets, materials, and nutrients, according to the Foundation.
It says its report illustrates that as governments take the critical action necessary to safeguard national economies and work towards a transformation that is resilient to future global risks, the circular economy has ‘never been more relevant’.
By identifying circular investment opportunities for policymakers, the paper sets out to help enable the transition to a future which delivers economic, environmental, and societal benefits, while mitigating the risk of future crises.
The built environment
The report states that the pandemic has laid bare the ‘entrenched shortcomings’ of the built environment sector and highlighted the industry’s ‘wasteful and resource-intensive’ business models.
- Investing in renovating and upgrading buildings along circular principles, can provide comfortable, adaptable, and positive impact (low-carbon) results for the built environment sector.
- Combined with building materials’ reuse and recycling infrastructure, greater value circulation and effective use of resources can be attained, which would help lower the industry’s burden on virgin resource consumption.
These circular investments represent ‘key opportunities’ that can help shape more resilient future built environments that are safe, comfortable, cost-effective, and aligned with environmental targets, it says.
The report says that plastics have played a ‘critical role’ during the pandemic. More prevalent than ever in our hospitals, protecting frontline workers. At the same time, the pandemic has further emphasised the wasteful nature of single-use packaging.
- Investing in reuse models, alongside the growth of e-commerce, offer attractive opportunities that meet public demands, save on material costs, and reduce the need for single-use packaging.
- Combined with infrastructure for collection, sorting, and recycling, plastics can be decoupled from the consumption of finite resources while drastically reducing their leakage into natural systems.
These circular investments represent ‘key opportunities’ that can help shape an economic recovery for the plastics packaging industry that is not only competitive and resilient, but that also ensures plastics never become waste, it says.
While the pandemic has exposed what the report states as ‘the vulnerabilities[ of the current food system and strained food security in some areas, it has also reignited people’s interest in their food.
- Investing in shifting towards regenerative food production can mitigate the environmental impact of the food system while attracting consumers who have become increasingly environmentally and nutritionally conscious.
- Combined with food collection, redistribution, and valorisation infrastructure, greater value circulation and effective use of resources can be attained, which would help lower the industry’s burden on virgin resource consumption while improving food security.
These circular investments represent key opportunities that can help shape a more resilient and healthy food system of the future; enabling greater food security while allowing both people and nature to thrive.
The pandemic has ‘upended the fashion industry’, the report states, creating mass-scale supply chain disruptions and making people re-evaluate their shopping habits.
- Investing in rental and resale business models enabled by digital technologies, can offer promising opportunities to increase revenue streams per garment, and attract customers who have become increasingly environmentally and cost conscious.
- Combined with clothing collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure, greater value circulation and effective use of resources can be attained, which would help lower the industry’s burden on virgin resource consumption.
These circular investments represent key opportunities that can help shape an economic recovery for the fashion industry that is not only more in tune with its customers, but also more resilient and environmentally beneficial.