Over 200,000 jobs could be needed as the circular economy grows, according to new study

21st January 2015

Over 200,000 new jobs could be needed across Britain from the continued development of resource efficient activity to 2030, such as recycling, reuse and remanufacturing, according to a study by WRAP and Green Alliance.[1]

The report Employment and the circular economy: job creation in a more resource efficient Britain indicates that development of resource efficiency, unlike other industrial transitions, requires more labour.

Significantly, regions where unemployment is higher, such as the North East and West Midlands[2] could see the greatest impact in job creation, especially among low to mid skilled occupations where job losses are projected for the future.[3]  

On the current development path the 2030 the sector could:

·         require an extra 205,000 jobs

·         reduce unemployment by around 54,000

·         offset 11 per cent of future job losses in skilled employment

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and reusing products and materials.

Examples of circular business models include designing goods to last longer, which can lead to greater reuse; greater repairability which can support the growing remanufacturing industry; and allowing for easy recovery of materials when a product is eventually recycled.

Service models, which could include product maintenance and take back schemes as well as rental and peer-to-peer sharing models, also hold much potential.

Walter R. Stahel, originator of the circular economy concept, said:

“A circular economy will directly create numerous jobs with a broad diversity of skills at local and regional level, and give rise to new SMEs exploiting opportunities in the local loops.

In addition, a circular economy will create skilled jobs to develop the innovative processes and technologies needed “to most profitably close the loops”, innovations which can be sold abroad.” 

Professor Stephen Machin, UCL said:

"Creating jobs with decent pay as innovative technologies evolve is a challenge given the UK's traditional difficulties in generating good jobs for workers with low and intermediate skills.  This report emphasises the need for this kind of job creation especially given the decline in jobs in the middle tier of the labour market."

Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP said:

“We’ve long been talking about the benefits of the resource efficiency agenda, working with businesses and turning ideas into action. But this report is the first of its kind that pinpoints exactly who, what and where could benefit from the implementation of the circular economy. This signals a major new opportunity for Britain’s economy, and could deliver jobs where they’re needed the most.”

Matthew Spencer, Director, Green Alliance said:

“At a time when many are worried about where jobs will come from in future, it is a tantalising prospect to have a sector which offers a wide range of new jobs right across the country, especially in regions with high unemployment.   To be able to stimulate these new jobs in remanufacturing and reuse we will need government to play its part in setting higher standards for product and resource recovery. The biggest opportunity to do that is in the EU circular economy package which is being renegotiated this year, but the UK will have to become an active champion of higher ambition or we could end up with no new policy drivers for investment.”


Notes to editors

[1] Employment and the circular economy: job creation in a more resource efficient Britain by Julian Morgan and Peter Mitchell, January 2015, Green Alliance/WRAP

Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Founded in 1979 “to inject an environmental perspective into the political life of Britain” it has been inspiring and influencing change for 35 years. www.green-alliance.org.uk.

First established in 2000, WRAP is a registered charity.  WRAP works with UK Governments and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency. 

WRAP is a registered Charity No. 1159512 and registered as a company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No. 4125764. Registered office at The Old Academy, 21 Horse Fair, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 0AH. Find out more about our work in our Business Plan

[2] Office for National Statistics, Regional labour market statistics, June 2013.


[3]  UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Working futures 2012 – 2022, evidence report 83, March 2014.



Kirsty Warren
Direct 01295 819924
Mobile 07815 509022
Email Kirsty.Warren@wrap.org.uk

Paul Saville
Direct: 01295 819638
Mobile 07540 515602
Email: paul.saville@wrap.org.uk             

Karen Crane

Green Alliance
Direct: 020 7630 4519
Email: kcrane@green-alliance.org.uk


Kirsty Warren

Communications Executive Corporate PR
01295 819924

Paul Saville

PR Manager
01295 819638