What is the Circular Economy?

A good economy should work to the benefit of its people, the environment and the planet.

But our economies extract too much, consume too much and waste too much.

Too often we dig up stuff from the ground, make it into stuff we use, then throw that stuff back into the ground or burn it (pictured above: a tin miner from the heavily polluted island of Bangka, Indonesia, which supplies around one-third of the world's tin).

The UK is hugely dependent on other countries’ minerals, raw materials, water and land.

So what if we could come up with a way to use our precious and limited natural resources far more cleverly?

We’re not just talking about re-using and recycling stuff. We also mean repairing it, designing it to last longer and finding more sustainable business models.

This is the Circular Economy.

Not only is it good for the planet, it makes business sense too:

  • Companies will have a secure supply of resources they need to make things
  • Consumers will be protected from price hikes caused by scarce resources
  • It will create thousands of additional new green jobs


Image ©WRAP

What’s not to like?

Some progressive companies are already leading the charge. But not all of them.

Last year we helped stop the European Commission from scrapping its work on the Circular Economy. This was after it had wobbled under pressure from powerful dinosaur businesses.

Doing more with less isn’t optional – it’s the only way we can carry on doing business on our stressed planet.

So the Circular Economy requires buy-in and leadership from governments at all levels – local, UK and EU.

And the business dinosaurs reliant on the status quo aren’t going to roll over easily.

What happens now?

The European Commission has promised new Circular Economy plans by the end of 2015.

We’d like to see:

  • A strategy for a "one planet" economy – making sure we measure our four footprints (carbon, land, water and material) and ultimately set targets to bring them down
  • High levels of waste recycling – 70% across the EU by 2030
  • An end to incineration and landfill

You can take action through our partners at Friends of the Earth Netherlands. Email Frans Timmermans - the man in charge at the Commission  and tell him what must be in the new Circular Economy package.

Take action

To hear more, follow @FoEconomics on twitter or join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/economics.resources/

A muddy-faced worker at a tin ore mine in District Sungai Liat, Bangka island