Global circular economy database launched to coordinate circular innovation
The Circular Economy Club (CEC), a nonprofit international network consisting of circular organizations in more than 60 countries and over 2,600 circular economy professionals, is to launch the world’s largest open-source database on circular economy-related initiatives.
The newly announced, expansive database – including approximately 80 press mentions and over 650,000 social media references – is a product of the CEC’s attempt to map circular economy activities around the globe. That project, called ‘Circular Economy Mapping Week’ which ran from 5-11 February this year, involved workshops coordinated by CEC organisers in more than 65 cities and 40 countries. The newly launched database outlines the findings of this outreach, drawing on information gathered from more than 2,100 participants and 3,000 circular economy initiatives operating in 100 cities and 60 countries around the world.
Using the collected data, CEC hopes to build more momentum behind the transition from a linear economic model towards a circular economy, in which resources are kept in economic use for as long as possible. There is still much work to be done on this front, with Dutch social enterprise Circle Economy’s Global Circularity Report, released in January, claiming that the world is currently ‘only 9.1 per cent circular’, meaning that over 90 per cent of the raw materials used globally do not find their way back into the economy.
Anna Tarí, founder of CEC, believes this to be the first global open source exercise of its kind in the circular economy sector, commenting: “If we aim to move towards a circular economy, we first need to understand what is already being done. It is imperative that circular economy advocates come together and clearly document what each of us knows. This database puts these abstract concepts into a tangible form that helps form a clearer picture.”
Tarí stated that she was encouraged and inspired by the responses of the workshop organizers and attendees, highlighting that they seemed determined to keep momentum for the circular economy moving forward. She also felt that the data also illuminated areas where coordination, communication and understanding can be improved.
“Something mentioned in most workshop sessions was that stakeholders are not talking effectively among themselves,” Tarí said. “We suspect this lack of communication may directly influence why certain industries — such as investment, financial and public sectors — appear to be grossly underrepresented in findings.”
In order to bridge this communication gap, Tarí said CEC is planning a global “post-mapping week” project to share database results with the CEC audience. It is hoped this follow-up event will generate the space for local organizers and participants to define the next steps for their cities: “It can be a complicated concept to implement, and this data shows we have a lot of work to do, but the great news is that people want to get involved, have a role, and help define their future and that of our economies.”
Some of the database’s key findings are that:
- Approximately 62 percent of the 3,000 circular economy initiatives highlighted in the database were based in Europe, with the remainder coming from North America (12 per cent), Latin America (11 per cent), Asia (10 percent) and Africa (6 per cent).
- A quarter (25 percent) of the circular economy initiatives cited in the database involved using waste as a resource (e.g., recycling, compost, energy from waste, etc.), which was the most common circular economy strategy reported.
- City projects (buildings, infrastructure, mobility, logistics, energy, water, waste management) saw the most frequent implementation of circular economy strategies (25 percent of respondents identified with this sector), while food and beverages came in at 18 percent.
- Most initiatives (71 percent) are associated with the private sector, while the fewest initiatives (5 percent) represent educational institutions.
The announcement is indicative of a gathering momentum behind the circular economy movement, while also recognising the vital role to be played by innovators and small businesses. As recently as March this year a similarly high-profile project was announced, as Dutch enterprise Circle Economy teamed up with the eBay Foundation to launch an online crowdsourcing platform called Circle Lab which aims to pull together an international community of circular economy experts, entrepreneurs, businesses, citizens, cities and governments to find new circular solutions to global challenges.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Green Alley Award has begun its search for participants for this year’s competition, with applications open to circular economy startups until 1 July. The award was set up by the Landbell Group in 2014 as the first European award for the circular economy, encouraging innovative startups to advance the transition from the current linear model of the economy towards one imbued with circularity.
The circular economy is also gaining traction at a political level, with governments and supranational institutions beginning to take note of the potential economic and environmental benefits of a circular economic model. Last December, a landmark agreement was finally reached – following lengthy negotiations by EU institutions – on the EU Circular Economy Package, a set of laws and actions designed to guarantee a more resource-efficient future for Europe.
After reported plans by the European Commission to axe the package in 2014, the agreement is a significant landmark, despite many of the targets being less ambitious than original proposals by the European Parliament and the European Commission. As it now stands there is a 60 per cent goal for recycling by 2030, and an agreement to introduce a limit on waste to landfill of 10 per cent by 2035, as well as requirements for the separate collection of organic waste and extended producer responsibility.