The report entitled ‘Employment and the circular economy: job creation in a more resource efficient Britain’ was unveiled today (20 January).

According to the report, developing the UK’s resource efficiency can “make a valuable contribution to improving Britain’s labour market situation” and help address regional imbalances in unemployment.

Significantly, regions where unemployment is higher, such as the North East and West Midlands could see the greatest impact in job creation, especially among low-to-mid-skilled occupations where job losses are projected for the future, the report claims.

Reducing unemployment

According to the study, on the current circular economy development path, by 2030 the sector could require an extra 205,000 jobs, reduce unemployment by around 54,000 and offset 11% of future job losses in skilled employment.

The report also considers the potential geographical dispersion of jobs by circular economy activity. It states that reuse and open loop recycling are expected to remain the least geographically concentrated, followed by closed loop recycling, servitisation (business models that increase the life of products rather than using new ones) and biorefining (extracting valuable resources from biowaste), requiring activity across the country.

By contrast, remanufacturing is likely to be somewhat more concentrated and situated near to existing manufacturing sites, where “unemployment tends to be higher”, according to the study. The development of the circular economy could create jobs for former employees of manufacturing industries in these areas, the report claims.


A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and reusing products and materials.

Examples of circular business models include designing goods to last longer, which can lead to greater reuse; greater repairability which can support the growing remanufacturing industry; and allowing for easy recovery of materials when a product is eventually recycled.

Service models, which could include product maintenance and take back schemes as well as rental and peer-to-peer sharing models, also hold much potential.

‘Golden opportunity’

Speaking at the launch of the report in London, WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said that the development of the circular economy is a major new opportunity for Britain’s economy and could deliver jobs where they are needed the most.

She also said it could lower unemployment by 50,000 and offset a “third of the expected further declines in skilled employment”.

She explained that the circular economy will create a “golden opportunity” to help the UK to recycle, repair and reuse more and use “products more intensively to reduce the need for new production”.

Goodwin added: “We’ve long been talking about the benefits of the resource efficiency agenda, working with businesses and turning ideas into action. But this report is the first of its kind that pinpoints exactly who, what and where could benefit from the implementation of the circular economy.”

Walter R. Stahel, originator of the circular economy concept, concurred with Goodwin and said “a circular economy will create skilled jobs to develop the innovative processes and technologies needed ‘to most profitably close the loops’ – innovations which can be sold abroad.”

Green Alliance director Matthew Spencer said: “At a time when many are worried about where jobs will come from in future, it is a tantalising prospect to have a sector which offers a wide range of new jobs right across the country, especially in regions with high unemployment.”

Liz Gyekye

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