39% less CO2: Climate is central subject of circular economy.

39% less CO2: Climate is central subject of circular economy.

Thomas Reiner | 09.04.2021

Circular economy strategies can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. That’s according to a recent report by the impact organization Circle Economy. The causal link between the circular economy and climate protection is clearly evident. This will have an impact on upcoming regulations. Circular economy is more than recycling. We must anchor the climate issue as a central component in our strategies.


Circular economy strategies can be an effective tool for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. A recent report by the impact organization Circle Economy in January 2021 put the potential to reduce CO2 emissions at 39 percent.

The report’s findings reinforce and highlight the positive link between the circular economy and climate change mitigation. This will be a signal to legislators. We can look forward to further and far-reaching legislation to expand and optimize the circular economy. In the EU’s Green Deal, the circular economy is already anchored as a top priority.

Learning for industry: Circular economy is more than recycling – and recyclability alone will not be enough. We need to broaden our focus and include the issue of emissions. Circular economy and climate protection go hand in hand.

Key facts from the report

Circle Economy’s report, titled Circularity Gap Report 2021, states:

  • More than 100 billion tons (Gt) of material is consumed by global society each year. Only 8.6 percent of that is reused!
  • Climate emissions from new product manufacturing reached a record high of 59.1 Gt in 2019. According to the 2020 UN Emissions Gap Report, these emissions must decrease by 15 Gt by 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. To reach the safe limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, reductions of 32 Gt are needed.
  • At 41.37 Gt, 70% of all climate emissions come from the extraction, processing and remanufacturing of our goods and products – from clothing to phones to food.
  • 22.8 Gt of these could be eliminated through the use of circular strategies, dramatically reducing the consumption of resources such as minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass.

Circular economy and climate change mitigation correlate

Circular economy is emerging as a powerful tool for climate action. This will be reflected in policy and legislation. Circular economy is not monothematic and recycling is not everything. It is time for industry to make climate protection an integral and central part of their circular strategies.

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