The World Is Getting Less Circular – Can Reporting Help?

Apr 2, 2019 9:15 AM ET
Article

The world is going backwards when it comes to circularity – we’re addicted to the linear take-make-waste economic model. That’s the conclusion of the second annual Circularity Gap Report, released by Circle Economy in January during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

According to the report, “Our world is only 9% circular and the trend is negative.” In the year since the first report was published, the global increase in resource extraction has continued, leading Circle Economy to conclude that “the problems of a linear economy are 'baked in' to the global economy and we are heading in the wrong direction.”

In order to accelerate our shift to a circular economy, we need to rethink the way we see waste. At GRI, we see reporting playing an important role in that fundamental chang

At the Beyond Next conference, held on 7-8 February 2019 in Amsterdam, Circle Economy presented the report, pointing out some of the key findings. For example, we use 34kg of stuff every day, and 31kg of that goes to waste. And our recycling efforts aren’t as good as they could be: 34 percent of the plastic in a product escapes into the ecosystem, and only 2 percent returns to the product through recycling.

The circular economy isn’t about incremental improvements to recycling, it’s a fundamental shift in our approach to the economy and the way we make and use products. Materials are constrained, so we need to be more thoughtful about how we use them.

At GRI we are currently revising the Waste Standard, which will help companies look more critically at their waste management processes and performance through the lens of the circular economy. By measuring and analysing their performance on waste, companies will be able to track their progress against targets and move towards a more sustainable future.

This is in line with one of the four recommendations that came out of the Circularity Gap Report:

“Develop decision metrics and a measurement framework. This will encourage goal-setting, evaluations and peer review, which will, in turn, serve to benchmark performance and track progress against longer-term global ambitions such as the Paris targets and the SDGs.”

The Standard aims to help companies understand and reflect on how they procure, use and dispose of materials; they will be able to understand how materials move through their value chain and where they turn to waste. With the Waste Standard, companies will also be able to take opportunities to prevent waste generation at source, understand how they can manage waste that’s been created and understand profile of their waste.

The draft of the GRI Waste Standard is currently being finalized and is expected to be available for public comment in the coming months. To find out more and receive updates, you can visit the website.