A report presented at the World Economic Forum has shown that global consumption of materials has been expanding at what the authors note is an ‘unsustainable’ rate, while the rates of recycling have actually fallen.
Humanity has, according to a report from CGRi, surpassed the 100-billion tonne-mark of consuming materials; quadruple that of 1970 rates, outpacing that of population growth which has doubled. The report shows that each person on earth is responsible for the consumption of more than 13 tonnes of materials each year.
The data was representative of the materials consumed in 2017, the latest year for which data is accessible to the authors of the report.
“Half of the total is sand, clay, gravel, and cement used for building, along with the other materials quarried to produce fertiliser. Coal, oil, and gas make up 15% and metal ores 10%; the final quarter are the plants and trees used for food and fuel,” writes the Guardian’s Damian Carrington.
“The report said increasing recycling can make economies more competitive, improve living conditions and help meet emissions targets and avoid deforestation. It reported that 13 European countries have adopted circular economy roadmaps, including France, Germany, Spain, and that Columbia became the first Latin American country to launch a similar policy in 2019.”
Forty-percent of these materials go toward housing, while food, transport, healthcare, communications and consumer goods like furniture and clothes make up the remainder of the raw, virgin materials.
The Guardian has noted that “in the last two years, consumption has jumped by more than 8% but the reuse of resources has fallen from 9.1% to 8.6%.”
Chief executive of Circle Economy, Harald Friedl said that “we risk global disaster if we continue to treat the world’s resources as if they are limitless.”
“Governments must urgently adopt circular economy solutions if we want to achieve a high quality of life for close to 10-billion people by mid-century without destabilising critical planetary processes,” he concluded.
One of the report’s lead authors, Marc de Wit added that “we are still fuelling our growth in population and affluence by the extraction of virgin materials. We can’t do this indefinitely- our hunger for virgin materials needs to be halted.”
The World Wildlife Foundation’s Christianne Close said that the “circular economy provides a framework for reducing our impacts, protecting ecosystems and living within the means of one planet,” while Chile’s environment minister, Carolina Schmidt added that “this report sparks an alarm for all governments.”
“We need to deploy all the policies to really catalyse this transformation,” she said.
The CGRi, according to its website formed in 2017 because of the fact that there was an “urgent need to accurately measure the circular economy. So far, there was no global baseline measurement on the circular state of our world or data available to truly understand how we can effectively move towards circularity or monitor progress.”
“That is why, in January 2018, the first Circularity Gap Report was published during the World Annual Forum in Davos. This first report established that our world is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive circularity gap. It also provided a framework and fact-base to measure and monitor progress in bridging the global circularity gap.”