The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched a challenging new report that says potential savings from a global circular economy business model approach for consumer goods materials alone is around $700bn.

WRAP was asked to contribute its expertise to this report, which follows on from the Foundation’s previous publication. This second report takes the work further and presents some compelling arguments.

Our work on resource efficiency in not only food waste reduction, but also products and materials is referenced at length, demonstrating the opportunities that exist in these sectors. The number of references to WRAP research is a reflection of the important thinking and practical action we’re contributing in this area.

Featuring analysis from McKinsey, the report makes the case for a faster adoption of circular economy models, quantifies the economic benefits, and lays out pathways for action. All areas about which I am passionate, and am keen to see WRAP continue to influence.

We have been contributing to the debate about the role the circular economy can play in delivering economic growth and stability for some time, and I’m much encouraged to see the discussions continuing in such a constructive and challenging way.

We have just published our latest contribution to these discussions. WRAP’s vision for the UK Circular Economy to 2020, represents our own thinking and research on the circular economy from a UK perspective, and crucially, how our world might look in 2020. This shows that the circular model has the potential to deliver a great prize for both the economy and environment.

We’ve done some comparative work on materials flows and waste to indicate how circular our economy was in 2010, compared with 2000.This demonstrates how things have changed since we developed our first Sankey diagram.

What it shows is that between 2000 and 2010, there was 30m tonnes less direct material input going into the economy; 30m less being consumed; 70m less waste generated; 70m more materials recycling and going back into the economy; and 55m less going to landfill and energy from waste.

What then, is our vision for 2020 – how could our UK world look if we all were to fully embrace the concept of the circular economy model and build it into the heart of our thinking?

Working from a 2010 baseline, we believe that in 2020, we could have 30m fewer material inputs into our economy; 20% less waste produced (50m less waste); and 40m more materials recycled back into the economy.

This work echoes what the Ellen McArthur Foundation is saying … that is, that it is possible to get more from the resources we use and by applying a circular economy model, we can unlock value that in the past, was lost to UK plc.

Creating and stimulating economic growth has never been more important and it is my view that this circular economy is absolutely key to making it happen. The Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet: how businesses respond is up to them.

Talking about what can be done and drawing pathways that help us reach resource-efficient goals is important, but it is worthless without action, and I am looking forward to being part of not only the on-going ground-breaking new thinking here, but also the actions that result from it.

Liz Goodwin is chief executive of WRAP

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