£29bn: the value of a UK ‘circular revolution’

Closing the loop on resource use and moving to a service-based economy has the potential to boost the UK economy by 1.8% over a 10-year period, according to new research.

The research, carried out by Imperial College London on behalf of waste management firm Veolia, found that a fully-functioning circular economy would add around £2.9bn to UK GDP every year, as well as creating new jobs and significantly reducing the country’s environmental impact.

Veolia’s senior executive vice-president Estelle Brachlianoff said: “The world is facing an enormous challenge. Expanding populations and a rise in living standards means demand for raw materials is growing, at the same time resources are rapidly depleting.  Businesses need to wake up to the unsustainable nature of our throw-away economy and put more value on resources.

“This report examines the economic benefit of this, highlighting how a transition to a circular economy has the potential to add 1.8% to our GDP over a 10-year period. The findings of the report have exceeded our expectations – even if we only achieved a 50% shift, this would add £15bn to the country’s economic output.”

Circular growth

The report, entitled ‘The Circular Revolution’, indicates that circular business processes combined with a service rather than product-based economy would boost the economy by: –

Deriving £23.7bn through reprocessing and recycling materials from households and commercial & industrial sources
Harnessing £3.1bn opportunity of moving from a product to a service-based approach
Saving businesses £2.3bn in taxes currently paid on waste sent to landfill
Generating £1.1bn in energy from materials that can’t be reprocessed into further products
Capturing £888m of value from unwanted chemicals
Finally, the report takes into account the existing £2.2bn contribution of the waste management sector to the circular economy

The report also estimates that 175,000 jobs will be created by the circular economy, amounting to almost 10% of UK unemployment with particular opportunities for growth from plastics recycling.  This supports a study conducted by WRAP and Green Alliance earlier in the year, which concluded that a circular economy could create more than 200,000 jobs across the UK by 2030.


The Circular Revolution report’s lead author Dr Nick Voulvoulis from Imperial College London said: “The report refers to the UK’s economy ability to become circular and to grow while resource use is declining. It goes beyond resource and energy efficiency; it also includes closing the loop between resource extraction, production, and disposal, moving towards the provisions of services, where materials are valued differently; creating a more robust economy in the process. ”

In related news today (24 June), Europe’s first circular economy-focused start-up competition has been brought to the UK. The Green Alley Award, which launched in Germany last year, recognises start-ups and entrepreneurs who contribute to building a circular economy and improving the nation’s waste and recycling industry.

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie