Independent research released today (23 June) from Imperial College London, commissioned by Veolia, has found that the UK could reap significant economic benefits if it fully embraced the circular economy.
The research found that a combination of “closing the loop” on resource use and moving to a service rather than product based economy has the potential to add 0.18% – equivalent to £2.9bn per annum – to UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year, circa £29bn over 10 years by:
- Deriving £23.7bn through reprocessing and recycling materials from households and commercial & industrial sources
- Harnessing £3.1bn opportunity of moving from a product to a service-based approach
- Saving businesses £2.3bn in taxes currently paid on waste sent to landfill
- Generating £1.1bn in energy from materials that can’t be reprocessed into further products
- Capturing £888m of value from unwanted chemicals
- Finally, the report takes into account the existing £2.2bn contribution of the waste management sector to the circular economy.
The report, entitled “The circular revolution”, also estimates that 175,000 jobs will be created by the circular economy, amounting to almost 10% of UK unemployment with particular opportunities for growth from plastics recycling. It also reveals that while the size of the waste management sector has fallen in tonnes it has risen in value pointing to the importance of the increasing value of resources.
“It goes beyond resource and energy efficiency; it also includes closing the loop between resource extraction, production, and disposal, moving towards the provisions of services, where materials are valued differently; creating a more robust economy in the process”
Estelle Brachlianoff Senior Executive Vice-President UK & Ireland said: “The world is facing an enormous challenge. Expanding populations and a rise in living standards means demand for raw materials is growing, at the same time resources are rapidly depleting. Businesses need to wake up to the unsustainable nature of our throw-away economy and put more value on resources.
This report examines the economic benefit of this, highlighting how a transition to a circular economy has the potential to add 1.8% to our GDP over a 10 year period. The findings of the report have exceeded our expectations – even if we only achieved a 50% shift this would add £15bn to the country’s economic output.”
The report’s leading author Dr Nick Voulvoulis from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London said: “The report refers to the UK’s economy ability to become circular and to grow while resource use is declining.
“It goes beyond resource and energy efficiency; it also includes closing the loop between resource extraction, production, and disposal, moving towards the provisions of services, where materials are valued differently; creating a more robust economy in the process.”