The circular economy: a powerful force for climate mitigation

Reusing plastic and metal could help keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and allow the EU to go emission free by 2050, according to new research on the burgeoning circular economy. Upping the ante on circular economy efforts by increasing recycling could more than halve the EU’s industrial emissions, a new study by Material Economics has concluded. Instead of focusing purely on decarbonising the supply side of industry, which includes greening energy sources and increasing the use of renewables, the study insists that industry demand could hold the key to big gains. By reusing and recycling four of the most emission-intensive materials (steel, plastics, aluminium and cement) to a greater extent, the EU could reduce the carbon footprint of its industry by 56%, which is roughly equivalent to 300 megatons of CO2 a year by mid-century. Recycling and reuse alone could reduce annual emissions by 178 Mt, while more efficient processes and retooled business models could add a further 56 Mt and 62 Mt, respectively.