Why it is important to adopt a circular economy

In a circular economy, waste is reduced, reused, recycled or converted.

If the world adopts a circular economy approach, municipal solid waste could be reduced from more than 4.500 billion tonnes per year to less than 2.000 billion tonnes by 2050, according to a new United Nations report.

The World Economic Forum's circular economy initiative, Consumers Zero Waste, aims to eliminate the problem of plastic waste by encouraging the use of reusable packaging.

Waste from homes and businesses is increasing, including waste from food, packaging, electronics, furniture and clothing. A new report shows that more than 2 billion tons of this type of municipal solid waste is produced worldwide each year, an amount that reaches to the moon and back.

As the economy and population grow, this waste is expected to increase by more than 50%, reaching 3.800 billion tons per year by 2050. This is bad news for the Earth because waste contributes to the “triple crisis.” of the planet”: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. That is why the circular economy is so important.

What is the circular economy?

In a circular economy, products and materials are designed to be reused, recycled, recovered or repurposed so that they last in the economy as long as possible. Losses are avoided or minimized. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions and the unsustainable use of the planet's resources are reduced.

The Global Waste Management Outlook 2024, published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), emphasizes the critical role of an economic circularity approach in waste reduction.

The report analyzed three scenarios:

1. Continue using current waste generation and management methods.

2. Improve management and reduce waste.

3. Aim for a circular economy model in which 60% of total municipal solid waste (garbage collected by local authorities from homes and businesses) is recycled and the rest is managed safely.

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How the circular economy can help reduce waste

According to the report, if the world adopts the third scenario, the circular economy approach could reduce municipal solid waste from more than 4.500 billion tons per year to less than 2.000 billion by 2050.

In the same scenario, waste stored uncontrollably or burned in fires is also destroyed and emissions decrease by more than 40% to 630.000 tons in 2050.

This will not only help solve the climate crisis but also improve people's health.

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The health argument for a closed approach to waste

Waste from consumer products such as toys, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, food additives and plastic waste can pollute the environment with toxic compounds that enter waterways and food chains.

According to the report, the contaminants include compounds that mimic, block or interfere with the action of the body's hormones, known as endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors, such as cadmium, asbestos, and arsenic, increase health risks, including cancer, cognitive decline, obesity, and reproductive disorders, in both women and men.

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Practice cheaper waste recycling

The report shows that a circular economy approach to urban waste management will also generate significant savings. Continuing current waste management practices will cost more than $417 billion annually by 2050, or an increase of $165 billion over 2020 costs.

In a circular economy scenario that includes reducing waste and increasing recycling, the estimated cost would be less than $255 billion a year.

According to the report's authors, such a circular approach would avoid “exorbitant waste disposal costs” and “dramatically improve environmental outcomes.”

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World Economic Forum projects support the transition to a circular economy

The World Economic Forum has launched a number of circular economy initiatives, including the Circular Industry Initiative, which goes beyond waste management and includes broader changes to industrial systems. According to the Forum, cooperation is essential to ensure circularity in the industry. This includes collaborating on the exchange of knowledge on circular economy, practical research, products and materials.

Another of the Forum's circular economy initiatives is the Zero Waste Consumer initiative, which aims to eliminate plastic waste from the world by promoting the use of reusable packaging.

The initiative is supported by a community of consumer companies, startups, nonprofits and governments, including Coca-Cola, Greenpeace, Walmart and the US Environmental Protection Agency.


With information of: https://es.weforum.org/