Our linear take-make-waste economy is creating global waste at increasing rates, driven by:
- Population growth
- Economic development
At least 33% of this waste is then mismanaged through open dumping or burning.
Without action, global waste will increase by 70% on current levels by 2050.
Waste in Industry
2 million tonnes of waste is produced by the UK’s hospitality industry annually
The e-waste produced annually is worth $62.5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries
More than one-third of the UK’s annual waste is produced by the construction industry
One of the greatest threats to the environment is our dependence on plastic – we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic each year.
Around half of this is used only once before being thrown away and only 9% of plastic is recycled.
- It can take 450 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade
- Plastic bag sales in major supermarkets have decreased by 86% since a 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in 2015
The circular economy looks beyond the linear economy to a closed loop which minimises waste and repurposes resources.
A fully circular economy could reduce natural resource use by 28% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 72%.
- Annual materials savings from the circular economy will be worth $1 trillion by 2025
- The UK circular economy has an estimated value of £40 billion
Recycling prevents the waste of useful materials and reduces the consumption of fresh raw materials.
This then decreases:
- Energy use
- Air pollution from incineration
- Water pollution from landfill
- 270 million tonnes of waste are recycled across the world each year
- UK household recycling levels have quadrupled since the turn of the century but have stagnated at 45%
How many times materials can be recycled before losing quality
Materials Recycling Facility
Countries with the highest recycling rates
Case Study: Germany
Germany’s 65% recycling rate is the result of strict waste management policies:
Household waste sorting
Green Dot System
A green dot on packaging means manufacturers contribute to recycling costs and it must be accepted by recyclers
A deposit paid as part of the price of a drinks bottle which is reimbursed when the container is returned to a vendor
Reuse is higher in the waste hierarchy than recycling because:
- It does not require additional energy to reprocess materials
- It does not create environmental pollution during reprocessing
About 32% of bulky waste, e.g. large furniture, is reusable. This increases to 51% if items which require slight repair are included.
Emissions saved when wood products are recycled or reused, rather than landfilled
Globechain is a reuse marketplace which connects businesses with charities, SMEs and individuals to reuse unneeded items.
With over 10,000 members, it works with some of the largest companies in retail, medical, commercial and construction sectors.
- 5,226,140 kgs of items have been listed on Globechain for reuse
- 7,447,050 kgs of carbon dioxide emissions have been saved by the reuse facilitated by Globechain
Business in the Community & WRAP: https://www.bitc.org.uk/sites/default/files/smart_growth_economic_case_circular_economy_may_2018.pdf
World Economic Forum: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ENV_TowardsCircularEconomy_Report_2014.pdf; http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_A_New_Circular_Vision_for_Electronics.pdf; http://www3.weforum.org/docs/White_paper_Circular_Economy_in_Cities_report_2018.pdf
World Bank: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/09/20/global-waste-to-grow-by-70-percent-by-2050-unless-urgent-action-is-taken-world-bank-report; http://datatopics.worldbank.org/what-a-waste/
National Geographic: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/ ; https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment/2019/03/burning-plastic-waste-good-idea; https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/04/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-plastic-and-recycling/
UN Environment https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/plastic-recycling-underperforming-sector-ripe-remake
Wrap: http://www.wrap.org.uk/food-drink; http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/UK%20bulky%20waste%20summary.pdf; http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/A%20recycling%20guide%20for%20the%20hospitality%20industry.pdf; http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Reducing%20your%20construction%20waste%20-%20a%20pocket%20guide%20for%20SME%20contractors.pdf
GOV UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plastic-bag-sales-in-big-seven-supermarkets-down-86-since-5p-charge
Circle Economy’s Global Circularity Report 2018: https://www.circularity-gap.world/
Defra Report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/142019/Carbon_Metric_-_final_published.xls
McKinsey & Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Report 2015: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/EllenMacArthurFoundation_Growth-Within_July15.pdf
HM Government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Environment Agency: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/765914/resources-waste-strategy-dec-2018.pdf
Image from Eunomia: https://www.eunomia.co.uk/countries-reporting-highest-recycling-rates-challenged-by-new-research/
Image from SUEZ https://www.suez.co.uk/en-gb/our-offering/communities-and-individuals/what-happens-to-waste/recycling/materials-recycling-facility
Icons from FlatIcon: https://www.flaticon.com/