Closing the Circularity Gap

October 16, 2018 | Brent Trenga, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP | Kingspan Insulated Panels

Our world is only 9% circular. Yes, please read that again and let the number sink in.
A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. In a circular economy, we would keep resources in use for as long as possible until we extract the maximum value from them, then recover and regenerate materials at the end of each resource’s life.
The circular economy exists in contrast to the linear economy. The linear economy boomed with the Industrial Revolution and certainly has progressed our culture, but it has done so at the cost of extracting natural resources from the planet. While a transition to a circular economy will not be quick or easy, it will benefit our Earth and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Seven elements have been defined as key aspects in the circular economy and were created to define a common language:
1. Prioritize regenerative resources
2. Preserve and extend what’s already made
3. Use waste as a resource
4. Rethink the business model
5. Design for the future
6. Incorporate digital technology
7. Collaborate to create joint value
Because our world economy is only 9% circular, we are left with a massive ‘Circularity Gap’. Closing this gap will reduce income inequality and improve access to everyday needs. Additionally, a more circular economy will reduce waste, drive resource productivity and help reduce the environmental impacts of our consumption.
A recent report by Circle Economy identifies four steps to bridge the circularity gap:
1. Build a global coalition for action
2. Develop a global target and action agenda
3. Translate global targets to local action roadmaps
4. Improve our understanding of circular systems
To bridge the gap, we must limit the extraction and boost the cycling of resources. The forecasted amount of extracted resources is shocking. By 2050, we may be extracting 177 billion tons of resources a year, in comparison to 84.4 billion tons in 2015, according to the Circle Economy report.
Cities will play a huge role in bridging the gap as they are tied to economic growth. Cities contribute 75% of carbon emissions while consuming 75% of global resources. Circular economy strategies that have already been implemented in cities, like car sharing, modular building and exploring new models of consumption, have proved successful and can enhance the wellbeing of its citizens.
The world is in an environmental crisis, and we need to make serious change to prevent further damage in the future. This is why Kingspan is taking steps to reduce the effects of climate change through saving more energy, generating more renewable energy and buying more renewable energy. We recently put forth a new challenge, taking us beyond our NZE 2020 goal.  Kingspan is joining the SBTi initiative to target an absolute 10% reduction of emissions by 2025 off the base year of 2017 (reducing Scope 1* and Scope 2* GHG emissions) The company is also committing to reduce absolute emissions from purchased goods and services, business travel, transport and distribution, and end-of-life treatment of sold products by 10% by 2025 (Scope 3 GHG emissions*).
Today, our world is only 9% circular, but the transformational ambition of the circular economy will lead us to grand environmental and socioeconomic change in years to come.