of the
Circularity Gap Report

This edition draws on five years of the Circularity Gap Report analysis to show the power of the circular economy to equitably fulfil our global needs and wants, but with radically fewer materials and emissions.

based on five years of insights, we PRESENT
21 Circular solutions for every business, city and nation.

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Half a trillion tonnes of virgin materials, our world is only 8.6% circular.

Over the six years between headline-grabbing conferences in the climate calendar, the global economy consumed half a trillion tonnes of virgin materials.

This means that between the 'COP25 in Paris', 2015, where the Paris Agreement was formed and COP26 in Glasgow, 2021, 70% more virgin materials were extracted than what the Earth can safely replenish.

This cannot continue—we only have one planet.
How do we measure the state of circularity?

Material extraction and use are climbing year on year

In only 50 years, global use of materials has nearly quadrupled—outpacing population growth. In 1972, as the Club of Rome’s report Limits to Growth was published, the world consumed 28.6 billion tonnes.
By 2000, this had gone up to 54.9 billion tonnes and as of 2019, it surpassed 100 billion tonnes.
Our take-make-waste economy consumes 100 billion tonnes of materials a year and wastes over 90%
Rising waste levels are accompanying the rapid acceleration of consumption: ultimately, over 90% of all materials extracted and used are wasted. Or, on the flip side, only 8.6% make it back into our economy. And it's getting worse: in only two years, global circularity wilted from 9.1% in 2018 to 8.6% in 2020.

Serving the global population within the healthy boundaries of the planet

Our CGR analysis connects resource use and greenhouse emissions to key societal needs and wants—how we eat, move and live—so we can formulate powerful solutions that enable us to serve the global population within the healthy boundaries of the planet. But to know how to reduce material use and global greenhouse gas emissions, we need to know where they come from.
This is because 70% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are related to material handling and use. So unless we radically transform how we use materials to satisfy our needs, we cannot meaningfully cut emissions.

21 circular solutions for every business, city and nation

Deep dive into the 21 solutions which  get the world on a 1.5-degree pathway
Learn more about
societal needs and wants
represents a societal need:
manufactured goods
housing and infrastructure

Build, Grow and Shift.

If we transform our global economy to one where waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are reused and nature is regenerated, we can:
Cut material use by 28% and greenhouse gas emissions by 39%
This because:
70% of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to material handling and use
So, satisfying our needs and wants with fewer materials can have radical impacts.
Where to start? How to apply these solutions to the context of your country
Whilst no two countries are the same, there are still obvious similarities between some of them. We devised three country profiles which can allow us to see key and common themes for each profile, allowing us to guide countries in accessing the most impactful circular strategies for their context.

Explore the country profiles

‘Build’ country characteristics

Low-income ’Build’ countries, such as India and Nigeria are home to 48% of the global population but struggle to meet their basic needs. Their economies are dominated by agriculture and they are still building basic infrastructure.
They use 19% of global resources and generate 17% of emissions.

Priority areas

  • Reforming agriculture to avoid monocropping and deforestation;
  • Applying circular principles to building projects, such as using lightweight materials like wood, clay and loam;
  • Minimising the need for motorised transport in cities by creating self-sufficient neighbourhoods and introducing electric scooters and public transport;
  • Formalising and training waste pickers and setting up recycling plants.

‘Grow’ country characteristics

Middle-income ’Grow’ countries such as China and Brazil, home to 37% of the world’s population, are industrialising rapidly and building infrastructure to lift their populations out of poverty and accommodate a growing middle class. They use 51% of resources and generate 47% of emissions.
They are global manufacturing hubs and the world’s biggest agricultural producers.

Priority areas

  • Switching to sustainable agriculture, especially for exports;
  • Mainstreaming resource-efficient, low-carbon construction materials;
  • Meeting growing energy demands with renewables;
  • Setting up infrastructure to collect, sort and process waste materials, especially construction waste.

‘Shift’ country characteristics

Higher-income ’Shift’ countries, such as the US, Japan and EU countries, are home to a minority of the world’s population but consume 31% of resources and generate 43% of emissions.
They have developed mature housing, transport and infrastructure to meet the needs of their citizens.

Priority areas

  • Reducing their consumption of animal products and cutting food waste;
  • Extending the lifespan of buildings and infrastructure through renovation, requiring the reuse of construction materials, and designing;
  • Extending vehicle lifespans, switching to sharing models such as car clubs and using digital technologies to reduce the need for physical travel;
  • Ensuring waste is properly valued to maximise its potential for reuse.
Compare different country profiles and explore relevant case studies  on Knowledge Hub

Interested in putting the circular economy into action in your business, city or nation?

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The circular economy and bringing countries toward a safe and just space

We must apply a social lens to the circular economy transition so that it does not perpetuate the same mistakes of the linear economy. Only then can we truly reach a socially just and ecologically safe space.

There is a steep development curve of countries: as they become more affluent and build better economic systems which can satisfy the needs of their populations, such as education and healthcare, their environmental impact also rises.
Countries all exist on a spectrum, which we measure along two dimensions: the Human Development Index (HDI) and Ecological Footprint (which measures humanity’s demand on ecosystems).

In an ideal world, all countries would have strong HDI scores and a low Ecological Footprint—providing for the needs of their citizens within the means of the planet. Some countries are close, others are far away; each starts from a different point on the map, but all have a distance to go.

We believe the circular economy can help close the distance countries have from the safe and just space—but getting there will look very different for different stakeholders and nations.

make your business, city or nation circular

While we've analysed circularity on the global scale, businesses, cities and nations all have a vital, yet different, role to play in advancing circular solutions. Transitioning to a fully circular economy within a generation will require urgent and large-scale actions from all parts of society.

FOR businesses

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Businesses hold the power to reimagine products, services, packaging, experiences and engage in business-led collaboration & disruptive innovation. This is key for building a circular economy with benefits throughout society.


Circularity is not just common sense. It also makes good business sense. The circular economy can tackle inevitable linear risks, such as price volatility, resource scarcity, and the fact that GDP can rise while social inequalities deepen.

how we work

Using the Circle Scan approach, which is underpinned by data, we guide businesses—from startups to multinationals—in identifying circular strategies to improve product design, service design and business model innovation. The result is a clear circular roadmap to convince stakeholders that the circular economy should be at the core of the business. We also can lead businesses in tracking circular performance with our expertise in metrics and measurements, among other offerings.

Learn more about how we help businesses put the circular economy into action
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FOR cities

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Cities are centres of innovation, manufacturing and business, and have high potential to change the way resources are managed to achieve multiple benefits for people and the planet.


For cities, a circular economy yields great benefits. These range from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, savings on landfilling costs and improved security of materials, to new livelihood opportunities and local value creation.

how we work

Our Circle San for Cities  takes cities on a journey of five steps. We begin with a baseline analysis to identify where circular action should be focussed then use a Material Flow Analysis (MFA) to map the local economy’s resource flows and identify patterns. This facilitates the development of a circular strategy and a step-by-step roadmap that city stakeholders can take real action from. Lastly, we work with and train local stakeholders to enable the circular transition.

Learn more about how we help cities become more circular
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FOR nations

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Countries are leading change agents for the circular transition. They have the mandate to develop national legislation, can create an enabling environment and incentives to drive the transition, and are the leading actors in supranational and multilateral coordination. As lead investors in infrastructure, government buildings and assets, their procurement strategy can kick-start circularity at scale.


On the national level, a circular economy allows for more competitive economies with improved living conditions for growing populations. It will also help countries meet emissions targets and avoid deforestation.

how we work

We have adapted our method of measuring global circularity in the Circularity Gap Report to fit national and regional economies. By measuring circularity in this way, national and local governments can track their circular performance over time and put trends into context, as well as guide future action. Following an MFA analysis, key industry- or sector-focused paths the country can take to become more circular are presented.

Learn more about how we help cities become more circular
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Digital products are needed to scale the adoption of circular economy

To scale the circular economy around the world, we need a digital revolution.
This is why we have created Ganbatte.
Ganbatte is our new digital product that hosts thousands of global data sets. It supports nations to take the next step in their circular journey providing them knowledge, data-driven insights and tools to activate local circular development planning and implementation and the networks they need to connect to peers around the world.

Currently, we are working with four pioneering nations (with Be’ah from ARA from Austria, Zero Waste Scotland from Scotland and Circular Norway from Norway) to build the first product that spearheads circularity nations. The first public product launch is scheduled April 2022.
Register below and be among the first to use Ganbatte and make your country more circular.
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Are you interested in joining the collaboration process, working with pioneering nations, putting your nation on the map for circularity and leading the charge globally?

You will receive first-hand data on your country’s state of circularity, unveiling powerful levers for the transition. The next co-creation process of digital product development begins in April 2022.
Contact us, and join the pioneering nations that have already started future-proofing their country.
Contact us

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cgr GLOBAL reports

Looking for inspiring circular city initiatives from around the world?
Explore relevant city case studies on the Knowledge Hub.
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Contact us to learn how the circular economy could help you future-proof your country, city or business.