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Quebec is 3.5% circular

Quebec’s economy consumes 32 tonnes per capita per year—exceeding the Canadian and European average.

The circular economy could triple Quebec’s circularity and slash resource consumption by 50%.
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Circularity metric

A Snapshot of Quebec’s material footprint

Typical for a developed trade nation, the material footprint of Quebec’s societal needs and wants originates, to a large extent, from outside of the province within its imports. And even though Quebec fully functions on renewable energy it still relies heavily on imported fossil fuels for transport.

The agricultural sector produces unusually large amounts of waste, little of which is currently reused or recycled, and the goods and services the government invests in through public procurement are highly-resource intensive.

These components of the economy are reflected in how resource use is allocated across the province’s needs and wants: Services is the second-highest contributor to the material footprint—on par with Nutrition—while Housing leads the way.

In total, Quebec’s population of 8.5 million consume 24 tonnes of materials per capita yearly, earning them the sixth place globally. For metal ores, the province shoots to second place, only trailing behind Australia, with an extraction rate of 12 tonnes per capita.


The Quebecois economy is currently largely linear, but the province has strong potential to reduce its reliance on linear practices and, importantly, reduce its very large material footprint.

To close the Gap we explored six ‘what-if’ scenarios that apply core circular strategies to transform the economy.

The impact of each scenario is limited, but when combined, Quebec can become 9.8% circular—nearly a threefold increase—and, crucially, cut its material footprint by nearly half (48.2%), to 16.6 tonnes per person.

Design circularity into stocks
By implementing interventions focused on using less, cycling more, championing natural, lightweight materials and decreasing residential energy use, this scenario can bump the Circularity Metric from 3.5% to 4.4%, and reduce Quebec's material footprint by 11%, to 241.2 million tonnes. 
Prioritise conscious consumables, 
Eliminate all food waste from farm-to-fork and reduce the material intensity of fishing and aquaculture through responsible sourcing. Stop importing selected food products and instead, consume only domestically produced meat, dairy and cereals for food and feed. Source all biomass related to food systems sustainably and responsibly.
Strive for circular agriculture
Making agricultural production circular by using waste as a resource, shifting the Quebecois population towards more plant-based diets, consuming less and eliminating waste throughout the supply chain, and valorising organic waste are crucial strategies in ensuring a circular agricultural system. This scenario could bump the Circularity Metric from 3.5% to 4%, and lower the material footprint by a huge 12.3%, to 237.6 million tonnes. 
Leverage government procurement
This scenario would see the government's public procurement become more circular, prioritising goods with extended lifetimes and high recycled content. Resource efficient procurement and public health care are also crucial strategies. This scenario would deliver an increase in the Circularity Metric of 0.5 percentage points, bringing it from 3.5% to 4%, and a reduction in the material footprint of 7.9%, lowering it to 249.6 million tonnes. 
Make manufacturing circular
Improvements in manufacturing processes, material substitutions and a commitment to sustainably sourced biomass are crucial to realising this scenario, which can bump Quebec's Metric from 3.5% to 3.8% and reduce it's material footprint by 9.1%, bringing it down to 246.4 million tonnes. 
Make mobility clean
The scenario proposes reducing the vehicle fleet by championing ride sharing and public transport, traveling less, designing more circular, lightweight vehicles, improving the cycling of vehicle components and electrifying transport; this could boost the Metric from 3.5% to 3.7% and bring the material footprint down by 6.6% to 253.1 million tonnes.

opportunities and limitations

Quebec’s economy is full of potential, but limited in how much  its Circularity Metric can increase

The province’s consumption rates drive a huge amount of local virgin resource extraction and waste. It also sparks extraction and waste abroad as it consumes imported goods and managing the circularity of imports is difficult.

Quebec's continued expansion of infrastructure such as roads and (renewable) energy limits short-term opportunities to become more circular. So, even by increasing the Metric from the current 3.5% to 9.8%, the economy will need to undergo massive change.

It’s also crucial to note that the way we measure circularity is complex and has many components: our scenarios result in massive changes to the economy—including almost halving the amount of resources it uses to fuel the needs of the province—that are not reflected in our Circularity Metric.

Our global Circularity Gap Report 2021, for example, found that we only have to double the globe's circularity, reaching a Metric of 17%, to limit global warming temperature to well below 2-degrees. So, in moving from 3.5 to 9.8% circular, Quebec in fact will see its economy transform.

Build Back Better

The circular economy can help Quebec make ‘building back better’ a reality.

When realigned, Quebec’s economy can meet circular ambitions. It is already nearly entirely sustained by renewable energy, and it has state of the art infrastructure, a skilled labour force, high government spending power and a thriving community of circular grassroots organisations to help drive the transition.

The region also boasts immense regenerative capacity, due to its swathes of forest land that continuously sequester carbon and offer the region a competitive advantage.

Our analysis can assist the Quebecois government and relevant stakeholders in crafting a bold and full plan for a circular economy; all part of rebuilding a robust, resource-efficient and circular post-covid-19 economy.

The circular economy is a means to an end.

Closing the Circularity Gap serves the higher objective of preventing accelerated environmental degradation and social inequality, on both a local and global level. The circular economy is a means to achieving the end goal of a world that is ecologically safe and socially just.

Measuring matters

Measurements are critical to understanding the world around us. As it becomes more urgent to adapt our economic system to become more circular, we need to provide a tactical approach to measuring the transition—which can seem abstractor complex. In the first edition of the global Circularity Gap Report in 2018, Circle Economy presented the Circularity Metric for the global economy. Since then, the Metric has formed a milestone for global discourse on the circular economy. This current analysis adapts the Metric to suit a regional profile. By measuring circularity on various levels, we improve our understanding of the circular economy, allowing businesses and governments to track their circular performance over time, put trends into context, as well as engage in uniform goal-setting, guiding future action in the most impactful way.

Read the methodology


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Sonia Gagné
President and CEO,
The circular economy and resource conservation being at the heart of RECYC-QUÉBEC's mission, we felt it was necessary to provide Quebec with a first reference point to allow us to track our efforts and measure the results. We need to reduce waste and move away from the traditional take-make-waste model. This is where the circular economy comes in. It is a model for the future and an invitation to businesses, citizens, organizations and institutions to rethink consumption and production patterns in order to contribute to the fight against climate change.
Minister of the Environment
and the Fight against Climate Change
The first circularity index of the Quebecois economy is a concrete, effective and balanced measure that demonstrates once again that the economy and environmental protection are compatible. I commend RECYC-QUÉBEC’s leadership in this area and invite all sectors of Quebec’s economy to work together to rise to the challenges that have been identified.Together, we must develop a long-term vision that will ensure our natural resources are managed in a way that respects the environment, the health and quality of life of the population, while drawing inspiration from best practices worldwide.
President & CEO, Quebec Business Council
on the Environment (CPEQ)
Post-covid-19 economic recovery represents an unprecedented opportunity to make the transition to a more circular economy. From the extraction of raw materials to the management of residual materials,Quebecois enterprises are showing ingenuity and creativity to develop innovative solutions in this regard. They will be present to ensure a large-scale deployment of the circular economy.
Executive Director,
Chantier de l’économie sociale
The strong presence of civil society organisations noted in the report is an important asset for reconciling economic, environmental and social issues at the territorial level and over the long-term. These actors—including the social economy movement—are key to deploying the circular economy to serve both individuals and communities.

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