We live in the overshoot era

A global circular economy will allow us to fulfil people's needs with only 70% of the materials we now extract and use—moving human activity back within the safe limits of the planet.

Circular solutions embedded across four global systems can deliver this goal.
The Circularity Gap Report 2023: Official launch video
For the first time, we are excited to collaborate with Deloitte to explore tangible solutions and how we can collaborate across the private and public sectors to drive systemic change.
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Many businesses, cities and nations have already blazed the trail.

Discover solutions & case studies

The global economy is now only 7.2% circular

The global situation is getting worse year on year—driven by rising material extraction and use.

Rising material extraction has shrunk global circularity: from 9.1% in 2018, to 8.6% 2020, and now 7.2% in 2023. This leaves a huge Circularity Gap: the globe almost exclusively relies on new (virgin) materials.

This means that more than 90% of materials are either wasted, lost or remain unavailable for reuse for years as they are locked into long-lasting stock such as buildings and machinery.
How do we measure circularity?
Materials that are cycled back into the global economy after the end of their useful life, otherwise known as secondary materials, account for 7.2% of all material inputs into the economy—this is the Circularity Metric.

material extraction is rising every year

Each year we have smashed through the planet’s safe environmental limits. Today, five of the nine key ‘planetary boundaries’ that measure environmental health across land, water and air have been broken.
A circular economy could reverse this by reducing global material extraction and use by one-third.

This is not safe. Not for the planet, nor for people

Increasing material consumption does not always lead to better conditions for people, as it degrades the very systems we rely on to live. The take-make-waste economy saps natural resources, threatens the survival of species, fills soil and water with toxins and dangerously warms the Earth.

Our analysis finds that circular solutions across four key systems can reverse the overshoot that we now have, allowing us to satisfy people’s needs within the safe limits of the planet.
Hover over the planetary boundaries to discover how circular solutions can reverse the overshoot
Click on each section to read more
Learn more about the safe limits of the planet
To bring human activity back within the safe limits of the planet, we estimate that we would need to reduce global material extraction and consumption by one-third. This sounds like a huge task, but we can achieve it if we embed circular solutions across four key global systems.
How? With four key circular actions:
USE LESS, USE LONGER, USE AGAIN AND MAKE CLEAN
The graphic above depicts the four flows to achieve circular objectives: narrow, slow, regenerate and cycle. The four objectives are based on the work of Bocken et al. (2016)

Catering for people’s needs within the safe limits of the planet

Our circular solutions span four key global systems—Agrifood, Mobility & Transport, Manufactured Goods & Consumables and the Built Environment.

Together, these systems deliver on people’s needs but are responsible for breaching many safe planetary boundaries. There is massive potential to transform them. By implementing these circular solutions, businesses, cities and nations can cut materials use and environmental impacts like GHG emissions while upholding high standards of living.
Learn more about societal needs and wants
FOOD SYSTEM
The full set of farm-to-fork-to-bin activities along the agrifood value chain, involving the production, processing, transport, consumption and disposal of food. We do not consider activities upstream from agriculture, such as fertiliser or machinery production for farms.
BUILT ENVIRONMENT
The construction, use and maintenance of common, man-made physical structures. These include residential and commercial buildings, as well as infrastructure such as roads, bridges and dams.
MANUFACTURED GOODS and consumables
A collection of production and consumption activities related to durable manufactured goods (such as machinery, equipment and furniture) as well as consumables (such as textiles, fast-moving consumer goods and electronics).
mobility and transport
All of the activities (including fuels and vehicles) involved in moving goods and people from point A to B over land, water and air.

Food systems

Agriculture now occupies roughly half of the habitable surface of the planet. It is responsible for a third of global GHG emissions and 70% of the global accessible freshwater withdrawals. As the world population grows, we need to adopt smarter ways to produce food, focusing on these circular solutions for nutrition.
  • Put healthier, satiating foods first. Promote foods with a lower environmental impact—ideally shifting calories from meat, fish and dairy towards cereals, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
  • No more avoidable food waste. To reduce GHG emissions and waste less materials, improve transport and storage management, allow more refrigeration and plan smarter at the consumer and food service levels.
  • Go local, seasonal and organic. It can reduce the need for toxic fertilisers, heating fuels and transportation, ultimately cutting emissions and material use.
  • Mainstream regenerative agriculture. This model supports healthy soils and keeps the land arable for far longer than typical farming processes. Any meat remaining in our diets should be reared within this model.
More on circular nutrition solutions

Built Environment

The built environment today contributes 40% to global emissions and misses recycling opportunities. While building more living spaces, humanity must learn from nature, our collective home that knows no waste.
  • Be as energy efficient as possible. Design circular buildings and equip them with clean energy solutions, such as heat pumps. In addition, reduce the amount of energy used, for example, by washing at lower temperatures and lowering the thermostat.
  • Make the most of what already exists. Tonnes of materials are locked into existing buildings. Reuse, repurpose and renovate them with secondary materials when possible and make new buildings ready for this in the future.
  • Prioritise circular materials and approaches. Favour organic materials such as wood, timber or CLT over steel and concrete. Utilise mainstream modular construction and lightweight frames and structures to reduce cement and steel use.
  • Reuse waste. Strive to make construction and demolition waste history, but where it cannot be avoided, maximise recycling to reduce the need for virgin materials.
More on circular built environment solutions

Manufactured Goods and Consumables

The impacts of the industrial system stem from two main factors: the scale of production (and consumption) and production processes themselves. This system encompasses a huge range of products and materials, such as steel (and other metals), paper and cardboard, chemicals, textiles, and plastics—driving land-system change and approximately one-third of global GHG emissions.
  • Eschew fast fashion for sustainable textiles. Prioritise natural and local textile manufacturing, as well as higher quality and more durable garments. On top of that, all used clothing should be reused or recycled.
  • Buy what you need. Shift to responsible buying with the support of circular policies, such as a raw material tax, and service-based business models like sharing or pay-per-use.
  • Extend the lifetime of machinery, equipment and goods. Circular business models, material substitution, or regulations over the minimum guarantee of products can lessen the costs of repairing, remanufacturing, upgrading and reusing goods.
  • Mainstream industrial symbiosis and efficiency. This will improve processes, divert scraps and reduce yield losses. Tighter collaboration within and between industries can save significant amounts of material and emissions.
More on circular consumables solutions

Mobility and Transport

While we need to often move from A to B, current transport systems are among the most impactful, globally: heavily material-intensive and high consumers of fossil fuels, they fragment natural environments, often causing harm to ecosystem functions.
  • Embrace car-free lifestyles and roads. Swap cars for bikes and ride-sharing—especially in urban areas—and boost work-from-home time to commute less.
  • Invest in high-quality public transport. Incentivise the use of trams, buses and city rails while creating safe cycling routes and car-free city centres.
  • Rethink air travel. Minimise personal air travel, especially in regions with the most demand for long-haul air travel, such as North America, Europe and Asia.
  • Electrify remaining vehicles. Aim at 100% electric public transport and 50% electric private cars.
More on circular mobility solutions

Reversing the overshoot will require different circular solutions around the world

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for the circular transition, and each country has its unique circular challenges and opportunities. Keeping this in mind, we have grouped countries into three profiles to better determine where circular solutions will have the most impact.
Learn more about country profiles

Build’ countries

Build countries house the majority of the world's population but use less than a tenth of the materials of Shift countries. Build countries have the opportunity to dramatically lift wellbeing by leapfrogging technologies and policies that support material-smart and regenerative (make clean) growth.
Case study

Grow’ countries

Grow countries are rapidly industrialising and growing to accommodate their expanding middle class. Grow countries should prioritise material-efficient development pathways that stabilise material use (use less) (use again) and maximise people’s living standards for their growing population.
Case study

Shift’ countries

While the world's most prosperous (Shift) countries often deliver high standards of wellbeing, they consume the majority of the world's materials and overshoot their fair share of planetary boundaries. These countries must focus on reducing material extraction and use (use less) (use again) to lighten their environmental burden.
Case study

Together, circular solutions applied on a global scale can:

Keep the planetary boundaries within safe limits
Limit the global temperature rise to within 2-degrees
With every business, city and nation embarking on their circular journey, we are bringing humanity back within the safe limits of our planet.

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read OUR previous cgr GLOBAL reports:

CGR 2018
CGR 2019
CGR 2020
CGR 2021
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