EU circular economy worth £330bn

8th November 2013

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European businesses could save £330 billion by 2020 through more efficient use of resources, says Wrap

Extending product lifecycles, considering materials recovery in product design and a better recycling infrastructure, could transform the EU into a circular economy and reduce the bloc’s environmental footprint by an area the size of France, according to Wrap.

Outlining what it believes is possible by 2020, the waste advisory body says that adopting a lifecycle approach to resources will save organisations £330 billion in materials and waste management costs, prevent 500 million tonnes of carbon being emitted and save 190 million tonnes of raw materials from being sourced.

It also predicts that the bloc could prevent 220 million tonnes of waste from being generated and boost the amount of materials being recycled by a further 350 million tonnes.

However, Wrap’s CEO Dr Liz Goodwin acknowledged that making the transition to a circular economy would not be an easy one.

“Understanding the potential for the circular economy is one thing, achieving it is something far more complex and challenging,” she said. “Our challenge and opportunity is to go one step further, and understand how we can turn ideas behind the circular economy into positive action.”

According to Wrap, the food, built environment and manufacturing sectors have the greatest opportunity to make savings. Priorities must be to reduce manufacturing waste through better product design, and tackling the amount of food being wasted across supply chains and in homes, it says.

Amanda Sourry, chair of Unilever UK & Ireland said: “The concept of a circular economy is hugely relevant to sustainable living [and] it is critical that we tackle waste. I believe significant progress can be made through greater public and private sector collaboration.”

Wrap’s EU vision for 2020 was published as Defra confirmed it would be cutting the body’s funding by a further 40%. Wrap, which is co-funded by devolved governments, had its support from Defra slashed from £56 million in 2009/10 to £26 million in 2013/14. From 2014/15, it will receive just £15.5 million of support.

The reduction follows a review of Wrap’s operations and a public consultation by the environment department, which concluded that “a further concluded that savings of £10 million” could be found.

As a result, Defra is halting much of its funding for Wrap’s work on construction waste; ending its funding of the industrial symbiosis programme; halving support for the re-use and recycling industry; and reducing support on food waste by £3.6 million.

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