The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can play a key role in delivering a circular economy.
Resource Recovery and waste management are essential parts of a circular economy. Yet, when it comes to resource recovery, we are in a crisis. There is large-scale global resistance to taking accountability for the materials we use and consume.
The world’s waste is not produced equally
In 2020, the world economy was valued at an estimated US $84 trillion. More than 50% of this came from nature in the form of food, clothing, housing and raw materials for manufacturing.
The world uses over 100 billion tonnes of natural resources every year. Resource extraction has more than tripled since 1970, including a five-fold increase in the use of non-metallic minerals and a 45% increase in fossil fuels. The extraction of materials is primarily responsible for biodiversity loss and climate change. This will only worsen until we start using our natural capital in a contained and systemic manner.
As nature declines, the prospects for business success and future prosperity dwindle. Conversely, there are considerable business opportunities for those committed to restoring natural ecosystems.
Global waste generation is estimated to increase to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. High-income countries produce 34% of the world’s waste — but account for only 16% of the world’s population. Only 15-20% of the waste generated globally is recycled. In fact, compared to the countries of the Global North, the countries of the Global South have much better recycling figures.
Mismanagement of waste is not only harming human health and the environment but is also exacerbating climate change. To meet the challenge of climate change, it is essential to design ways to use and reuse our resources, preventing as much as possible from ending up in landfills and harming the environment.
Read more: Reducing waste is critical for building a circular economy: Here’s how local solutions can get us there