The Circularity Gap Report 2023

Here at Techbuyer, we are dedicated to the practical provision of sustainable IT solutions and computer hardware globally. As such, our new and high-quality refurbished IT parts and devices provide customers around the world with sustainable options that are designed to reduce the impact of technology on the planet. At the heart of this ethos is our belief in the circular economy. Unfortunately, as The Circularity Gap Report 2023 from Circle Economy and Deloitte reveals, the news on that front is not good. 

What is the Circular Economy? 

The traditional and still predominant way our economy works is referred to as linear - we take raw materials from the Earth, use them to make products, and, ultimately, throw them away as waste - what is described as the ‘take-make-waste' model. And waste, especially electronic or e-waste, is a serious threat environmentally, commercially, and societally, as Techbuyer is fully aware. In 2021 some 57 million tonnes of e-waste was produced and according to Statista that figure will hit 61.3 million tonnes this year, much of it ending up in landfill where it poses significant risk to ecologies and local communities. 

In a circular economy, however, the aim is to stop waste from being produced in the first place. The circular economy model is based on three primary, design-driven principles. These are: to eliminate waste and pollution; to circulate products and materials at their best value, and to regenerate nature. 

As the Ellen Macarthur Foundation puts it: “A circular economy decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. It is a resilient system that is good for business, people, and the environment.” 

Why Techbuyer Believes in Creating the Circular Economy

At Techbuyer we believe that creating a circular economy in business and implementing sustainability has the potential to fundamentally change, for the better, the way we think and operate on an environmental, commercial, and societal level. We are fully committed to the promotion and expansion of this development which, if enough people embrace it, could become a 'Circular Economy Revolution' and ensure a sustainable future for all.  

Is a circular economy realistic? At Techbuyer we believe that it is not only possible but it is vital if we are to reverse the ultimately devastating effects of the linear economy whilst meeting the needs of the present.

Is the Circular Economy Growing? 

Sadly, as The Circularity Gap Report 2023 reveals, the answer to that question is ‘no’. And the statistics are frightening: the global economy is today only 7.2% circular – that is a decline from 8.6% in 2020 and 9.1% in 2018. In other words, only 7.2% of materials that came into the economy were non-virgin / secondary materials. This could be down to several reasons such as higher levels of material extraction, more materials going into long-term stocks like homes, roads, and durable goods.  

The shocking fact is that in the six years the annual Circularity Gap Report has been running, the global economy extracted and used more materials than in the entire 20th Century. Humanity currently consumes 100 billion tonnes of materials per year. That has to change.

What Can We do to Reverse the Increasing Circularity Gap? 

As the Circularity Gap Report says, a fully circular economy can “fulfill people’s needs with just 70% of the materials we currently use – within the safe limits of the planet.” It also points out that recycling on its own is not enough to achieve the desired outcome: “A circular economy focused on recycling alone cannot keep up with virgin material use rising to unprecedented heights—we cannot recycle our way out of this one.” 

It is a problem that needs to be addressed with urgency, as the Stockholm Resilience Centre makes absolutely clear: In January 2022, 14 scientists concluded in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology that humanity has exceeded the planetary boundary related to environmental pollutants and other “novel entities” including plastics.  

To get back within planetary boundary limits, the Circularity Gap Report 2023 authors estimate that we’d need to reduce global material extraction and consumption by around 30% of current levels, which it suggests might be achieved by adopting these four underlying principles: use less; use longer; use again; and make clean. However, as the report points out, change needs to be relative to all the countries of the world and should be weighted as follows: 

  • Highest income (Shift) nations need to reduce overconsumption.
  •  Middle income (Grow) nations need to focus on new ways to stabilize and optimize their material consumption to maximize societal wellbeing.  
  • Lower income (Build) nations should focus on building infrastructure and providing wellbeing, even if this means they increase their material footprint. These countries house the majority of the world’s population but use less than 10% of the materials that Shift countries use. 

Providing a good quality of life to an increasing and dynamic population, while acknowledging the very real limits of our planet, requires a fundamental change in how we use material resources to satisfy needs. What is also needed is a shared vision that empowers humanity to work towards a common purpose. To achieve this, the Circularity Gap Report authors identify three primary priorities to guide the implementation of the circular economy that will rely on bold business strategies and institutional reform “to fulfil the higher goal of wellbeing within boundaries.” Read the full report here. 

As the authors say, without reduction, regeneration, and redistribution, the circular economy is just an empty promise.  
At Techbuyer, we are determined to do all we can to help ensure that is not the case - and working towards a truly circular economy for all is at the very heart of our ambitions. For more on our sustainable IT solutions give us a call or visit here.