The Growth Within report – the subject of a nine-month study – presents a vision of how the circular economy could look for three of Europe’s most resource-intensive sectors: food, mobility and the built environment.

It claims that transition would generate a primary resource benefit of €0.6trn per year, with an additional €1.2trn in non-resource and externality benefits.

This would be accompanied by better societal outcomes including an increase of €3,000 in household income, a 16% reduction in congestion, and a halving of carbon dioxide emissions.

What it would look like…

For food, the transition would feature, among other things, more peri-urban farming with local supply chains reducing transportation impacts. Drones and other technology will help to improve crop yields reducing the need for pesticides and fertilisers. Legislating to eliminate food waste (currently around 30%) will also be a priority.

For mobility, a circular transition would centre around the electrification of transport and the end of the traditional model of everyone owning a car. The average European car is parked 92% of the time.

Instead, highly-utilised, driverless vehicles would carry multiple passengers, minimising congestion. The circular system would also make better use of materials by designing-in durability to vehicles and emphasising remanufacturing.

The final focus would be on improving the circularity of the built environment. This would start with optimising building use – even during working hours, only 35-40% of European offices are used. Likewise, 49% of UK homes have two or more empty rooms. Fully utilising this space would free up inner-city land for other uses and save money spent heating and cooling empty space.

The report also recommends investing in modular design techniques, where structures are built in factories then put together on site, reducing construction costs and material waste by up to 50%.

Growth v resources

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “The economy is undergoing profound transformation as the technology revolution reaches scale. This report has shown that by applying circular economy principles we can catalyse this change, achieve a real system shift, and open a new era of growth and development, decoupled from resource constraints.”

The report comes as the EU commission considers its circular economy strategy and consults with stakeholders in order to develop a circular economy package by the end of the year.

The report authors hope Growth Within will act as a fact-base for European leaders on the costs and opportunities involved in a transition to a circular economy.

Research from Imperial College London earlier this week, valued the a UK ‘circular revolution’ at £29bn.

Brad Allen

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