Circular Economy

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In a Circular Economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. Waste is minimised, and when a product reaches the end of its life, it is reused, refurbished, remanufactured, or recycled to create further value. The global demand for material resources is expected to double between 2010 and 2030. The traditional linear economy, which is based on the “take-make-consume-throw away” pattern, is unsustainable for meeting this growing demand (EPRS). The Circular Economy model improves resource efficiency and reduces environmental impact on natural capital by designing products in a more recyclable way, adopting efficient technology, and turning waste into a resource.

Circular business models could generate about $1 trillion per year of materials cost savings by 2025 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) and create 25 million jobs by 2030 (McKinsey Global Institute). To realise this outlook, governments and business must adapt systemic approaches to address the remaining challenges to resource efficiency, especially in sectors such as manufacturingfood and construction.  The importance of transitioning to a circular economy is increasingly recognised by the global community. The European Union’s Europe 2020 Strategy includes the resource-efficient Europe flagship initiative to support the EU’s shift towards sustainable growth. Meanwhile, UN Environment’s International Resource Panel has focused efforts on scaling up and accelerating the global transition towards a circular economy. In 2017, the G20 established a Resource Efficiency Dialogue to improve the sustainability of natural resource use across the product lifecycle.

Relevance to the SDGs

The Circular Economy is embodied in Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 8, 9 and 12. SDG 8 promotes a sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth, within others, through the improvement of global resource efficiency in consumption and production. SDG 9, on sustainable infrastructure and industrialisation, urges industries to adopt resource efficient and environmentally sound technologies. SDG 12 addresses the sustainable consumption and production emphasise the resource efficiency and waste reduction. 


SDG 8.4
Sustainable Consumption
and Production
   SDG 9.4
Green Industry
   SDG 12.2
Natural Resource
   SDG 12.5
  Waste Management


World Economic Forum (WEF), Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE)
Newsweek Vantage, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Case Studies

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), GREEN-WIN
SEED, United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E)