March 23, 2023
Circular Balears explores pathways towards building a circular tourism system

Celebrated for their classic Mediterranean natural environment and culture, the Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera) welcome scores of tourists yearly, hosting 16.4 million visitors in 2022 alone. The tourism sector accounts for roughly 40% of the autonomous region’s GDP, but also requires the supply and treatment of different resources, and the political, regulatory and financial support from various entities and institutions. All these elements interact with the local society and with the environment to make up the tourism system, which is a primary driver for transforming the Islands’ economy. To reconcile the goals of economic development and environmental protection, the Balearic Islands have the ambition to become the first circular tourist destination in the world. Together with Fundació Impulsa Balears, we examined practical steps to achieve this goal. 

The biggest challenges to a circular economy in the Balearic Islands are consumption habits, lack of infrastructure and current regulations. The linear tourism system encourages overconsumption which many holidaymakers take for granted. This results in negligent water use, avoidable food waste and excessive use of private cars. Moreover, the islands lack solid waste management facilities and renewable energy infrastructure, and local regulations still largely favour linear models. 

Our analysis identified five key focus areas where circular solutions can have the most impact. These are Water, Energy, Materials, Food and Mobility. The report also shows how these focus areas interact with the Terrestrial and marine environment. In particular, it examines their impact on the land and sea and how better management of the terrestrial and marine environment can unlock the circular opportunities of each strategic direction. 

For a more circular tourism system, the Islands should focus on optimising water consumption, making it more efficient and increasing its high-value reuse. This involves reducing water use, recycling grey water, as well as creating enabling infrastructure to replenish and cycle water flows. 

Most of the energy powering the Balearic Islands comes from fossil fuels. In a circular tourism system, the region's natural resources—like sun and wind—generate renewable energy, ensuring a clean and steady supply. 

The transition towards a circular food system must centre on sustainable agricultural practices and food self-sufficiency. It will also involve a shift in consumer habits, as well as better distribution and packaging schemes to cut value loss and food waste.

Currently, the tourism system is highly dependent on material imports while generating tonnes of waste. Switching to a circular economy would imply containing material consumption through Product-as-a-Service schemes and reuse initiatives, for example. Moreover, the region is advised to develop recycling facilities to close material flows. 

To create a circular mobility, the tourism sector should optimise logistics to cut travel time, promote electric cars and shared mobility, such as carsharing and public transport, and incentivise micro-mobility options like bicycles and electric scooters. 

The tourism system’s circular transition must be led by both the public and private sectors. This will include the development of new business models and mobilising private investment to achieve impact at scale. 

Read the full Circular Balears report to discover pathways for circular tourism:

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March 14, 2023
Circular Jobs Initiative brings together key players to put people at the heart of the circular economy

On the 7th of March, our Circular Jobs Initiative hosted an interactive event, ‘Putting People at the Heart of the Circular Economy’, in the Hague with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. The event was geared towards fostering connections between crucial players from the public sector, education and industry who are working on the social impact of the circular economy. By collaborating and aligning their efforts, these stakeholders can design circular policies that promote decent work while protecting the environment. 

Casper Edmonds (ILO), Olga Ivanova (PBL) and Marie van der Zalm (Youth Climate Movement) (from left to right) discussed what is needed for a circular labour market during a plenary session. 

Ingeborg Absil, acting Circular Economy Manager at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, opened the discussion by highlighting: ‘The circular economy affects almost everyone, everywhere. That’s why we seek to make a just transition, not only in the Netherlands but also abroad. We base this on decent working conditions, affordable, useful products and fair trade worldwide’. 

Improve working conditions in the circular economy

According to Casper Edmonds, Head of Sector Unit, Extractives, Energy and Manufacturing at International Labour Organisation (ILO), the world must face some bitter truths about the circular economy of today. 

‘When we say we want to accelerate the circular economy, surely, we do not want to accelerate the economy as it exists today in so many places. We do not want to see more impoverished men and women toiling in poor working conditions, subject to unsafe work and abuse. We must advance a circular economy that is just, that benefits the environment and uplifts people’, Edmonds pointed out.

He continued by presenting three challenges in making a people-centred circular economy a reality. First, decent jobs in the circular economy will not appear out of thin air. There must be a massive investment in innovative business models and an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, skills and lifelong learning, waste management and infrastructure, in addition to smarter and more coherent laws and regulations. 

The second challenge is involving workers and employers in shaping the circular economy instead of just imposing new policies on them. Finally, decision-makers need to better understand circular jobs, current working conditions and how to improve them. 

We closed the event by announcing that Circle Economy, the ILO and World Bank are launching a new initiative to measure, model and monitor jobs in the circular economy. More information on this initiative will be announced in April.  

Learning from the energy transition

Due to the lack of knowledge available to facilitate the circular transition, lessons learned from the energy transition prove useful. Olga Ivanova, a Senior Researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), emphasised that decision-makers need to think ahead, creating education tracks and training programmes to cater for the labour market of tomorrow. As the energy transition has shown, not doing so may result in skill and labour shortages. Moreover, one should consider developments in all economic sectors—the circular economy may compete for the same talent as artificial intelligence and robotics, for example. Finally, Ivanonva pointed out that ‘The jobs are appearing and disappearing in completely different geographies. ‘But people are not mobile. They cannot just jump from one place to another; there should be policies to facilitate this’.  

Motivate young people to pursue practical education in sustainability 

The need to advance research and grow the knowledge base should not distract from the fact that the circular economy is mostly powered by workers with vocational skills. However, as Marie van der Zalm highlighted, vocational education has been consistently undervalued, at least in the Dutch educational system. This demotivates the young from pursuing practical careers in sustainability. 

Van der Zalm is a member of the Education Task Force at Jonge Klimaatbeweging, a Dutch youth climate movement. Together with her peers, she devised practical recommendations to improve the educational system. Jonge Klimaatbeweging proposes a project-based, interdisciplinary education: ‘the value of people and their skills can be approached much better from the perspective of competencies, talents and intentions’. Van der Zalm also called for regional educational institutions, labour market authorities and businesses to collaborate to map labour gaps and design educational programmes accordingly. 

Participants dived into the practicalities of circular employment during five parallel workshops. 

After the plenary session, participants attended thematic workshops, delving into practical solutions.

In the workshop ‘Better work in the circular economy: International trade and labour conditions’, labour rights advocates, policymakers, academics and industry leaders discussed how to ensure decent work and fair labour conditions for all and explored examples of successful initiatives prioritising fair employment.

‘I was inspired by the solutions discussed during my workshop, particularly with a focus on overlooked sectors and types of workers. We looked at, for example, ‘wisdom economy’—including elderly people who have transferable skills that we can leverage in a circular environment’, shared Katja Noordam, a consultant at Fair Change. 

In ‘Mainstreaming circular economy in businesses: How to enable HR to develop and attract talent’, facilitators prompted questions like:  ‘How will your team’s knowledge and skills change in a more circular future?’ and ‘How can people managers prepare for and anticipate those changes?’, helping participants to understand the needs of their organisations. 

The workshop ‘Education and on the job training: Tackling labour and skills shortages in the case study of the construction sector’ took the construction sector as a case study on how to tackle labour shortages and organise upskilling programmes. 

Emma Gervasi, a junior consultant at Holland Circular Hotspot, commented on the workshop: ‘For me, it was really interesting to see how you can bring people from various perspectives and use non-experts to solve the problem in a sector that has such a big impact on the environment’. 

In the workshop ‘A regional circular transition between education, businesses and governments’, it was acknowledged that the shift from linear to circular economy requires collaboration from various disciplines, including engineering, economics, social sciences and environmental sciences.

In the ‘Measuring what matters: how employment-related indicators can be used to design impactful circular economy interventions’ workshop, participants discussed why employment-related indicators must be measured and which social aspects of employment must be taken into account. 

The event was organised by Circle Economy and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, with support from the Goldschmeding Foundation.

Visit the Circular Jobs Initiative website for more information on circular jobs globally.  

Visit the Dutch Ministry website and read about the National Programme on Circular Economy 2023-2030 (Dutch only).

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February 28, 2023
Circle Economy welcomes Kitty van der Heijden and Jules Kortenhorst to its Supervisory Board

Circle Economy is announcing changes in its Supervisory Board. The Board was recently joined by Kitty van der Heijden, Director-General of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Jules Kortenhorst, clean energy expert and former CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). At the same time, Herman Wijffels, economist and former Chairman of the Executive Board of Rabobank, the Netherlands, has stepped down after serving on the Board for over eight years.

Last year, our Supervisory Board already proudly welcomed Kitty van der Heijden. Kitty brings an international perspective and a much-needed social perspective with her career path with the UN, the World Resources Institute (WRi) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including postings in North America, Asia and Africa. 

‘Circular economy is an integral part of sustainable development. We must engage nations and global communities in meaningful action to accelerate the circular transition. I look forward to guiding Circle Economy on this path and seeing what we can achieve together’, says Kitty van der Heijden.

Our newest Supervisory Board member, Jules Kortenhorst, brings a wealth of experience scaling non-profit organisations as RMI grew from 60 to over 600 people under his leadership. He is also a renowned global energy and climate change expert and was instrumental in launching the Mission Possible Partnership that addresses the hard-to-abate sectors. His background spans business, government, entrepreneurial and non-profit leadership. Before leading RMI, Jules Kortenhorst was the founding CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a member of the Dutch Parliament.

‘I am honoured to join Circle Economy’s Supervisory Board and look forward to our productive work together. In addition to the energy transition, the circular economy is crucial for mitigating climate change, and Circle Economy is one of the frontrunners in this field. I hope to make a valuable contribution to its cause’, says Jules Kortenhorst.

Herman Wijffels is recognised as one of the leading experts on sustainable development and circular economy. In addition to serving on Circle Economy’s Supervisory Board, his career highlights include chairmanship of the Executive Board of Rabobank, the Netherlands, and the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands.

Robert-Jan van Ogtrop, Founder of Circle Economy & Chairman of the Supervisory Board: ‘We thank Herman Wijffels for his contribution to good governance practices at Circle Economy and the organisation's overall success. His impeccable reputation, profound expertise and timely advice were invaluable for our continuous development and the advancement of the circular economy worldwide. We wish Herman all the best in his future endeavours.’   

‘We are lucky to have Kitty and Jules on board. With their broad experience in foreign affairs, sustainability and running successful foundations, we hope to step up our work across the globe and forge new ambitious partnerships, promoting the Netherlands as a leading circular economy nation’, adds Martijn Lopes Cardozo, CEO of Circle Economy.

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February 21, 2023
New briefing identifies circular jobs hotspots in the construction sector

A new briefing note, Jobs and Skills to Drive a Circular Built Environment, pinpoints jobs and skills needed for the circular transition in the construction industry. Based on four circular strategies in the built environment, the publication forecasts labour market shifts and outlines levers to unlock their potential. 

The European Commission declared 2023 The Year of Skills, recognising the importance of upskilling for economic development. The construction sector is essential for the EU economy and represents a major source of employment, accounting for 9% of the EU’s GDP and providing 18 million direct jobs. At the same time, circular construction aimed at reducing the value chain’s environmental impact is a major driver of labour market changes. For example, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the circular transition will eliminate 22 million linear jobs globally while creating 29 million new opportunities. 

Four circular strategies in the built environment will feed into career profiles in the coming years. These are smart material management, Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) business models, Bio-based material design and manufacturing, and Off-site, modular construction. Most of the jobs needed to drive these circular strategies and business models already exist in the workforce. However, workers may require upskilling to learn new knowledge and skills. 

For some new functions—such as digital modelling or the sourcing of sustainable building materials—there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. In some cases, existing specialists will need to shoulder these tasks. In others, the novel functions will be split across different jobs. Finally, entirely new occupations and educational tracks will be created to harness cutting-edge technologies.  

As the energy transition has shown, the lack of the right skills at the right time can hinder the industry’s growth. The report, therefore, calls for urgent action to upskill and retrain the workforce in the construction sector to achieve a circular built environment in the near future. 

Read the full report here.

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February 10, 2023
Circle Economy acquires Sustainability Games to deliver knowledge distribution at scale

Circle Economy Foundation, an impact organisation based in the Netherlands, acquired Sustainability Games. This gamified e-learning platform addresses the green skills gap: the need for more professionals to fulfil the rapidly growing demand for circular jobs. 

The Sustainability Games platform, combined with Circle Economy’s 12+ years of research and development of circular solutions, delivers a highly flexible and scalable solution to supply knowledge to any changemaker. The platform provides a continuous learning experience composed of tracks and minigames—fun and easy yet in-depth. It can assess an organisation or a team and track their progress, raise awareness about the circular economy, help shape collective understanding, and develop and certify teams’ skills. These modular elements can be used separately or all at once, depending on the needs of an organisation.

‘Digital innovation is a strategic pillar for Circle Economy to scale and accelerate our mission: to double global circularity by 2032. The acquisition of Sustainability Games unlocks the potential to deliver our research and data insights as educational content to change-makers worldwide. We wholeheartedly welcome Thijs and his team to Circle Economy and look forward to continuing this journey together.’ says Ivonne Bojoh, COO & Director Digital at Circle Economy.

Our circular economy experts co-create learning tracks with clients to fine-tune game experiences according to the industry and team specifics. The result is simultaneous education and engagement for hundreds of people—helping close the green skills gap at scale. 

The platform can be compared to a restaurant menu with lessons, minigames and tests for dishes. This allows one to pick and choose tracks and journeys for specific purposes: from a fun activity at an event to a fully-fledged training programme for employees. Learning journeys typically consist of reading materials, videos, questionnaires and minigames, individually- and team-played. The learning tracks are well-suited for entities that are just embarking on their sustainability journey and want to make sure that all people involved are on the same page and equipped with basic knowledge.

I’m really happy that we are now part of a much larger impact-driven organisation with a flagship product like the Circularity Gap Report, many sustainability experts' content and a strong digital mindset. Circle Economy and Sustainability Games were already in strategic partnership and launched the Circularity Academy at Web Summit Lisbon last year. This is simply the next step towards greater impact.’ says Thijs Struijk-Kafchi, Founder at Sustainability Games.

Circle Economy believes that businesses worldwide, as well as local and national governments, must join hands to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and avoid climate breakdown. Closing the Circularity Gap starts with bridging the knowledge gap. With this acquisition, Circle Economy can now deliver knowledge at scale, encouraging not just education but also the adoption of circular narratives. Our objective is to educate 100 million people over the next eight years, empowering businesses, cities and nations to go circular. 

Learn more about Circularity Academy at

Learn more about Sustainability Games at

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February 9, 2023
The Role of Ceramic Building Materials in a Circular Economy

Amsterdam/Velp, 09 February 2023


In collaboration with Royal Dutch Building Ceramics (KNB), Circle Economy has reviewed the current and future role of ceramic building materials in a circular economy. Circle Economy has confirmed that ceramics are among the more environmentally friendly materials in the Netherlands and elsewhere, with good examples of the reuse of these products. However, to make the Dutch economy fully circular by 2050, the building ceramics sector still has major steps to take. Circle Economy recommends various options for improvement in its report The role of ceramics in the circular economy.

Ceramic products in the built environment include bricks, roof tiles and tiles made of fired clay. This material has a fundamental and unique role in the built environment because of its functional, aesthetic, environmental and cultural-historical values. At the same time, building ceramics are used in a relatively limited quantity, currently representing no more than 5% of the total annual volume of building materials in the Netherlands. Due to their versatility and sustainability, it is hard to imagine a circular future without ceramic building products.

Circle Economy has found that the environmental impact of ceramic products has already been reduced over the years through innovation in the sector, from more efficient heating technologies and product innovation to contributions to nature development during resource extraction. What’s more, building ceramics are produced using locally sourced clay—a renewable resource for the Netherlands, which boasts a continuous clay supply from its delta. Due to their long lifespans and low maintenance requirements, the environmental performance of ceramic products tops most alternatives, such as concrete. 

Circle Economy recommends further innovation in emission-free production techniques, new product formulas and alternative business models and partnerships. The sector is already taking the first steps along this path, with a broadening range of detachable products, increasing recycling and reuse and the development of new business models—but this needs to be accelerated.

Circle Economy’s researchers have found that reducing (fossil) energy use and related emissions will be crucial to be able to consider ceramic products circular in the future. The most promising alternatives include the use of sustainable hydrogen and, where possible, renewable electricity for microwave oven technology for clay drying.

Furthermore, Circle Economy recommends investing more in making ceramic products detachable and reusable. A significant portion of ceramic products are already technically reusable, such as paving bricks, ceramic roof tiles and more recently, dry-stacked masonry bricks. However, in practice, ceramic products are often wasted at end-of-life and reuse is often not possible due to the use of adhesives. New business models can help in both cases. With product-as-a-service offerings, for instance, the product remains the property of the manufacturer, giving it control over the total life cycle and improving its ability to innovate on reusability. Products can also be made multifunctional to increase their value: roof tiles with integrated solar panels, for example. 

Circle Economy sees supply chain cooperation as a critical success factor in the continued transition to a circular ceramic industry. Cooperation within the sector or with knowledge institutes, construction companies and other construction suppliers will be crucial—as will connecting sustainability challenges to other societal challenges. Going forward, a clear and coherent circular vision for ceramics within a circular building sector will need to be developed. 

Download the report here.

Circle Economy

Circle Economy is an impact organisation with an international team of passionate experts, These support companies, cities and countries with practical and scalable solutions to put the circular economy into practice. Circle Economy's vision is an economic system that ensures the planet and all people can thrive. To combat the climate crisis, Circle Economy is committed to doubling global circularity by 2032.


The organisation Royal Dutch Building Ceramics unites manufacturers of masonry, street and interior wall bricks, ceramic roof tiles and fired wall and floor tiles. These manufacturers innovate continuously to meet new trends and social challenges, including the energy transition and circular economy. KNB represents their collective interests in technical standards, clay extraction, environmental, energy and climate issues and is active in the field of social, economic and technical issues for the brick industry in particular. KNB is based in Velp.

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February 7, 2023
Circle Economy supports the recently established Club of Circular Entrepreneurs (Netherlands)

To accelerate the transition to a circular economy through collaboration and knowledge sharing, 20 pioneering circular companies in the Netherlands, including Swapfiets, Fairphone and Reflower, have joined forces under the name of the Club of Circular Entrepreneurs. The group is supported by 10 partners, among which are Circle Economy, ABN AMRO and CircularX. During the Dutch Week of the Circular Economy, the Club opens an exhibition to showcase circular products, services and innovations. 

Read the full press release below (in Dutch)

Amsterdam, 6 februari 2023 – Uit het recent gepubliceerde Circularity Gap Report blijkt dat wereldwijd het aandeel van hergebruikte materialen en grondstoffen in onze economie in vijf jaar is gedaald. Vanuit de overtuiging om met samenwerking en kennisdeling transities te versnellen, hebben 20 pionierende circulaire bedrijven de krachten gebundeld onder de naam de Club van Circulaire Ondernemers. Vooruitstrevende ondernemingen als Swapfiets, Fairphone, Reflower en Pieter Pot voegen zich bij de club. Vandaag, bij aanvang van de Week van de Circulaire Economie, opent het collectief een pop-up expositie in CIRCL op de Zuidas om circulaire producten, diensten en innovaties in de spotlight te zetten en een concreter actieplan te ontketenen. Sinds 2022 komt de groep van 20 circulaire koplopers bij elkaar. Tijdens kwartaalmeetings delen ze kennis, learnings en houden ze elkaar scherp op landelijke langetermijndoelstellingen. 

Met het oog op de plannen vanuit de overheid om de economie te transformeren naar een duurzame, volledige circulaire economie in 2050 streeft de club naar een aanscherping van doelen en acties met een impuls voor circulair ondernemen als gevolg. De routekaart vanuit de Rijksoverheid is nu te onduidelijk en weinig stimulerend voor circulaire ondernemers. Een circulaire economie, waarin duurzame hernieuwbare grondstoffen worden gebruikt en grondstoffen worden hergebruikt, komt alleen binnen handbereik met meer positieve financiële prikkels, een gelijk speelveld, transparantie en gedragsverandering.

De groep circulaire bedrijven in Nederland is nog groeiende en door samen op te trekken wil de club een krachtig geluid laten horen en versnelling van de transitie aanjagen. De groep bedrijven vinden ook wederhoor en worden gesteund door 10 partners, zoals Circle Economy, ABN AMRO en CircularX. Richard Burger, medeoprichter en Sustainability Director van Swapfiets: “Op vele fronten zien we dat de lineaire economie onhoudbaar is, en niet in lijn met een duurzame toekomst. Om de klimaatdoelen van 2050 te behalen moet het nodige veranderen. Als Club van Circulaire Ondernemers roepen we daarom op om van circulair ondernemen de status quo te maken, opschaalmogelijkheden te creëren voor bestaande ondernemers, wetgeving hierop aan te passen en disruptief te kiezen voor blijvende systeemverandering met positieve financiële prikkels. Samen laten we zien dat de oplossingen er al zijn, maar de drempels moeten lager om meer doeners te stimuleren tot circulair ondernemen.”

Expositie tijdens Week van de Circulaire Economie

6 februari t/m 11 februari staat in het teken van de Week van de Circulaire Economie waarbij ondernemers, netwerkorganisaties, kennispartners en overheidsinstellingen kennis en kunde delen om circulair ondernemerschap van de grond te tillen.“Circulair ondernemen floreert nog niet, terwijl Nederland wel daartoe in staat is en een groot deel van de oplossingen zelfs al bestaan. Daarom laten we met onze pop-up expositie zien dat er al een hoop doeners zijn die werken aan systeemverandering. De tijd van netwerken en onderzoeken is voorbij en daarom leggen we de focus op de bedrijven. Wij zijn de doeners en weten wat er nodig is om circulair ondernemen te stimuleren”, aldus Ellyne Bierman, oprichter van Reflower. 

De pop-up tentoonstelling van Nederlandse circulaire producten, diensten en innovaties vanuit de Club van Circulaire Ondernemers is van maandag 6 februari tot en met vrijdag 10 februari tussen 09:00 uur en 17:00 uur voor iedereen toegankelijk en gratis te bezoeken in CIRCL te Amsterdam.

Over Club van Circulaire Ondernemers

Sinds 2022 hebben 20 circulaire bedrijven de krachten gebundeld om samen op te trekken in de transitie naar de Nederlandse circulaire economie in 2050. Tijdens kwartaalmeetings komt de groep bij elkaar om kennis te delen, learnings uit te wisselen en een versnelling van de transitie aan te jagen. De club bestaat uit 20 bedrijven: Swapfiets, Fairphone, Repeat Audio, Reflower, CIRCLE CLOSET, BIYU, Pieter Pot, Chainable, Tiny Library, NORNORM, Moyee Coffee, Speeltegoed, Homie, MUD Jeans, Roetz Bikes, Aectual, Still, Firmhouse, Buurman Utrecht en Kairos Furniture. En wordt gesteund door 10 partners die nauw verbonden zijn met een circulair ecosysteem: Copper8, Impact Hub, Circular Finance Lab, Circle Economy, CircularX, Dutch Academic Network for CE, Circo, Change Inc., Blyde Benelux en Innoboost.

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January 16, 2023
Cutting material consumption by one-third is key to tackling climate change: study

Of the landmark 100 billion tonnes of virgin materials extracted from Earth annually, only 7.2% make it back into the economy. A more circular world could reduce material consumption by one-third, tackle climate change and bring the world back within safe planetary limits. 

16th January, Davos—Reducing global material use through circular solutions, such as reuse, repair, and recycling of items, can limit global warming to 2-degrees and bring human activities back within safe planetary boundaries1, according to a new report by impact organisation Circle Economy, in collaboration with Deloitte. The report was launched today in Davos, at the World Economic Forum. 

The global economy is measured to be 7.2% circular today—dropping from 9.1% in 2018 when Circle Economy first calculated the figure.2 It means that of the landmark 100 billion tonnes of virgin materials extracted from Earth annually, only 7.2% make it back into the economy in the form of recycled materials. Over the past six years alone, the global economy has extracted and used almost as many materials as over the course of the entire 20th century, finds the Circularity Gap Report 2023

Matthew Fraser, Head of Research and Development at Circle Economy, said that this low level of circularity ‘demonstrates how reliant the global economy is on new, virgin materials. There is huge potential to increase the global economy’s use of secondary materials.’

Current linear processes don’t just sap the planet’s finite materials—they also produce tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste, a considerable part of which can be prevented. According to the study, key societal needs—such as nutrition  and housing—could be fulfilled with just 70% of the materials the world economy currently consumes. Crucially, cutting material extraction by 30% will hugely improve environmental health across land, sea and air. The key to this reduction lies in the transition from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources and lowering demand for high-volume minerals, such as sand and gravel, which are largely used for housing and infrastructure. In practice, it means boosting renewable energy and renovating old buildings and infrastructure instead of constructing new ones, in combination with other measures. The most appropriate approaches will vary significantly between geographies given the just transition imperative acknowledged in the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

The potential reduction of material use will look different across global regions, some like the USA and EU member states, must radically reduce their material extraction and use, as they currently consume 31% of materials. While others such as China will need to stabilise their material consumption. 

‘The linear economy has a number of detrimental effects on the environment that significantly affect peoples' wellbeing. Our research shows that by adopting circular economy practices, we can cut material extraction, continue to prosper, and return to living within the safe limits of this planet,’ points out Martijn Lopes Cardozo, CEO at Circle Economy.  

This graph illustrates how key materials flow into different parts of the economy—including additions to stock and waste—and highlights where the circular strategies (narrow, slow, regenerate and cycle) may be most appropriate. 

Delivering more benefit with fewer materials

According to the Circularity Gap Report 2023, four key global systems account for the lion’s share of global emissions and waste—the Built environment, Food systems, Mobility and transport, and Manufactured goods and consumables. 16 ambitious circular economy solutions implemented across these systems can reverse the current overshoot of five planetary boundaries, ensuring safety for land, air and water and limiting global warming to below 2-degrees. 

The food system now occupies roughly half of the habitable surface of the planet. It is responsible for one-third of global GHG emissions, 8–10% of which relate to the production of lost and wasted food. Transitioning to a circular food system would include cutting food waste by improving transport and storage management, supporting healthy soils to keep land arable for longer and focusing on local, seasonal and organic produce to reduce the need for toxic fertilisers, fuel and transportation.      

The built environment accounts for roughly 40% of global GHG emissions, with cement production alone contributing around 7% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere globally. Boosting building’s energy efficiency and repurposing existing building stock are just some of the ways this could be improved.     

The mobility and transport system is a major driver of climate change and ocean acidification, responsible for approximately 25% of GHG emissions globally. In a circular mobility system, walking, cycling and remote work would be key, as would investment in high-quality public transport and a transition to electric vehicles.     

Manufactured goods and consumables imply highly energy- and material-intensive industrial processes. The Circularity Gap Report 2023 estimates that over one-quarter of global solid waste generation is industrial waste. This could be improved with more sustainable fashion practices, promotion of responsible buying and extending the lifetime of machinery.      

Dieuwertje Ewalts, director Circular economy and sustainability at Deloitte, commented: ‘These findings reinforce that we have reached a point where the planet cannot keep up with the human demand for material goods. Circularity offers us the opportunity to reduce planetary pressures. Involvement from business and the creation of more circular products going forward will be key in creating a positive impact for both the planet and society.’ 


1Nine quantifiable and interrelated planetary boundaries within which humanity can safely continue to thrive: crossing these boundaries increases the risk of causing irreversible environmental changes, threatening human life on Earth. Developed in 2009 by Johan Rockström, former director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, together with 28 world renowned scientists. Find out more on the Stockholm Resilience Centre website.

2Circle Economy has improved its methodology each year, with 2023 marking the most significant modification to our calculations. While this allows us to make more accurate accounts, it also means that this year’s Circularity Metric can’t be directly or accurately compared with previous years. Nevertheless, we can say with certainty that the rising rate of global material extraction and use is causing the rate of circularity to shrink.

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