This report promotes the concept of the circular economy as a new approach to the use of resources. We use examples based on current resource issues by examining three crucial inputs to our economy: metals, phosphorus and water. The way we use them demonstrates the overwhelmingly ‘linear’ nature of our current economy, with its problems and future risks.
We make the case for a more circular economy, as a way of avoiding at least some of the impacts of ever more extraction of natural resources, and to avoid the worst impacts of generating waste. This concept has influenced economic policy in both China and Japan and is gaining traction in many other countries.
We concentrate on the role of economic instruments. Although adjusting prices and adding economic incentives is just part of the package of measures, both regulatory and voluntary, that we need to achieve better resource stewardship. We highlight that a large part of the shift to a more circular economy may need to come from our values and behaviour, which might be independent from, or else reinforced by, an economic motive.