Circular thinking from Davos and our 2020 vision

Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP

On Tuesday, I was in a Geneva, sharing a platform with UNEP, FAO and their partners, helping to launch the global Think.Eat.Save campaign to reduce food waste.

Today, I’m blogging from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where high on the agenda are the topics of economic growth and environmental sustainability. The issue of food security and waste, of course, plays into both.

I’m here in Davos at the invitation of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for the launch of a challenging new report - Towards the Circular Economy Vol.2: Opportunities for the Consumer Goods Sector www.thecirculareconomy.org. This says potential savings from a global circular economy business model approach for consumer goods materials alone is around $700 billion.

WRAP was asked to contribute its expertise to this new report, which follows on from the Foundation’s previous publication (the first macroeconomic report into the size of the prize for business in the transition to a circular economy). This second report takes the work further and presents some compelling arguments.

Our work on resource efficiency in not only food waste reduction, but also products and materials (including a focus on textiles, electrical goods, packaging and furniture) is referenced at length, demonstrating the opportunities that exist in these sectors. The number of references to WRAP research is a reflection of the important thinking and practical action we’re contributing in this area.

Featuring analysis from McKinsey, the report makes the case for a faster adoption of circular economy models, quantifies the economic benefits, and lays out pathways for action. All areas about which I am passionate, and am keen to see WRAP continue to influence.

We have been contributing to the debate about the role the circular economy can play in delivering economic growth and stability for some time, and I’m much encouraged to see the discussions continuing in such a constructive and challenging way.

Today, we published our latest contribution to these discussions. ‘WRAP’s vision for the UK Circular Economy to 2020, represents our own thinking and research on the circular economy from a UK perspective, and crucially, how our world might look in 2020.  This shows that the circular model has the potential to deliver a great prize for both the economy and environment.

We’ve done some comparative work on materials flows and waste to indicate how circular our economy was in 2010, compared with 2000.This demonstrates how things have changed since we developed our first Sankey diagram.

What it shows is that between 2000 and 2010, there was 30 million tonnes (Mt) less direct material input going into the economy; 30Mt less being consumed; 70Mt less waste generated; 70Mt more materials recycling and going back into the economy; and 55Mt less going to landfill and energy from waste

What then, is our vision for 2020 – how could our UK world look if we all were to fully embrace the concept of the circular economy model and build it into the heart of our thinking?

Working from a 2010 baseline, we believe that in 2020, we could have 30Mt fewer material inputs into our economy; 20% less waste produced (50Mt less waste); and 40Mt more materials recycled back into the economy.

You can see on our website more detail about this, but what I will say is that this work echoes what the Ellen McArthur Foundation is saying … that is, that it is possible to get more from the resources we use and by applying a circular economy model, we can unlock value that in the past, was lost to UK plc.

Creating and stimulating economic growth has never been more important and it is my view that this circular economy is absolutely key to making it happen.

The Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet: how businesses respond is up to them. Talking about what can be done and drawing pathways that help us reach resource-efficient goals is important ….

But it is worthless without action, and I am looking forward to being part of not only the on-going ground-breaking new thinking here at Davos and beyond, but also the actions that result from it.  I firmly believe WRAP has real expertise and experience in building the route to the circular economy.

With this in mind, we welcome the opportunity of continuing to work with the Ellen McArthur Foundation and other partners on circular economy initiatives.

Given the potential savings from the global circular economy business model approach for consumer goods materials alone is around $700 billion -  just think about the potential for job creation and growth if that were re-invested … a prize surely worth pursuing.

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