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GAP report

How the linear economy is failing people and the planet and what we can do to close the global circularity gap

January 2018


“Moving towards the circular economy will be critical for addressing climate change and resource overuse. This report is a promising step forward in understanding our global progress on this front. Business will be essential in building momentum as we work to decouple economic growth from resource use. WBCSD’s circular economy program – Factor10 – brings global companies together to speed up the transition and deliver circular solutions, faster.”

President and CEO at World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Peter Bakker

“The traditional “take-make-dispose” economic model endangers the achievement of the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals. SDG Goal 3 - “Healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages” - is at the core of the Philips mission and relies on “Sustainable consumption and  production patterns” (SDG12) to be achieved. I therefore welcome this first step towards a global circularity metric. This will allow us to better measure the material flows of the global economy and provide insights about key levers for moving to a circular economy.”

CEO at Philips and Co-chair Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) at World Economic Forum

Frans van Houten

“The big question remains if the circular economy will enfold as a marketing opportunity or as a game changer at a systemic level. The touchstone being, if sharing, reusing, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling enables a radical reduction
in both primary resource use, waste and emissions. If this remains out of reach, a continued overstretching of global sources threatens reasonable living conditions for a majority of the global population. A successful circular economy holds manifold promises for meeting the SDGs via a concerted and integrated action. This report pushes in this direction and enables the tying up of the most crucial loose ends.”

Social Ecologist at Alpen-Adria Universität

Dr. Willi Haas

“This report gives a very concrete and tangible analysis and way forward for the circular economy and is a good contribution, supporting the efforts of many policymakers. The European Commission is very dedicated towards the achievement of the SDGs and is committed to transforming the European economy towards a more sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient future. We are convinced that we can only achieve this together through a broad collaboration of all stakeholders - across national borders - to make our systems fit for the challenges of today. This report illustrates how much more effort is still needed.”

Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness at European Commission

Jyrki Katainen

“Only 14% of all plastic packaging is recycled and vast quantities escape into the environment, resulting in a loss of USD 80 to 120 billion per year, and the possibility of more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean by 2050. We have an opportunity with the circular economy to rethink how we use resources like plastic and become a more responsible custodian of the planet. By using resources more efficiently and creating policies and economic nfrastructure that encourage recycling and reuse, we can advance both Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement.”

Administrator at the United Nations Development Programme

Achim Steiner

Marc de Wit | Circularity Gap | TEDxEroilor 2018  Cluj-Napoca


We have become very good at hiding our waste...what would happen if we made it visible again?


Our world economy is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive ‘Circularity Gap’.

This alarming statistic is the main output of this first Circularity Gap Report, in which we launch a metric for the circular state of the planet. Taking the United Nations’ Emissions Gap Report [1] as inspiration, the Circularity Gap Report provides a framework and fact-base to measure and monitor progress in bridging the gap, year on year. Being able to track and target performance via the Global Circularity Metric will help us engage in uniform goal-setting and guide future action in the most impactful way.


Closing the circularity gap serves the higher objective of preventing further and accelerated environmental degradation and social inequality. The transition to circularity is therefore a means to an end. As a multi-stakeholder model, a circular economy has the ability to unite a global community behind an action agenda, engaged and empowered both collectively and individually. Its systemic approach boosts capacity and capability to serve societal needs, by embracing and endorsing the best humankind has to offer: the power of entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration.


The circular transition thereby provides actionable ways forward to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Our linear model is effectively no longer fit for purpose, failing both people and the planet. Circular economy strategies have the potential to be instrumental in the push to mitigate the associated climate impacts, given that majority (67%) of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to material management.


The report shows how key societal needs are met and the resource reality behind the delivery. For key needs like housing, mobility and nutrition, the Report reveals the global material footprint. It shows which needs consume what resources. Our global metabolism visual illustrates what happens with products and materials after their functional use in society. In particular, it uncovers the modest flow of resources cycled back into the economy and helps us estimate how much material goes wasted beyond recovery. This exposes how deeply our linear system is still ingrained in our daily lives.


Bridging the circularity gap requires intervention across the full breadth of society and action in nations, sectors, supply chains and cities. Major trend corrections are needed to get the global economy on a pathway towards circularity. This Report identifies key levers at a global level and points to ‘inconvenient truths’ that provide systemic challenges for moving to circularity by mid-21st century

4 Action Steps



1 - Build a global coalition for action

comprised of front-running businesses, governments, NGOs and academics, that will input and convene an authoritative annual report on the circular state of the global economy and measure progress towards its implementation.

3 - Translate global targets into local pathways

for circular change, taking big-picture directions and interpreting these for nation states, individual sectors, supply chains, regions and cities to embed strategies in their specific context and align with incentives and mandates.

2 - Develop a global target and action agenda

by working with all relevant stakeholders to agree clear goal-setting and alignment with the SDGs and emission-reduction targets.

4 - Improve our understanding

of how different levers for circular change affect aspects such as material saving, value retention and climate mitigation. Also consider fully the dynamics of international trade and employment, plus implications for education, training and future skills, both for young people today and the next generations of tomorrow.

Report and Downloads


Executive Summary

Press Release

Press Kit


Marc de Wit Circle Economy
Jelmer Hoogzaad Shifting Paradigms
Shyaam Ramkumar Circle Economy
Harald Friedl Circle Economy
Annerieke Douma Circle Economy

FURTHER CONTRIBUTORS (in alphabetical order)

Andrea Brown WBCSD

Dr. Willi Haas Alpen-Adria Universitat

Markus Laubscher Royal Philips

Alberto Pallecchi World Resources Institute

Franziska Reh Accenture Strategy

Elmer Rietveld TNO

Alexandra Soezer United Nations Development Programme


Kay van ‘t Hof Circle Economy

About Us

At Circle Economy, we believe in a visionary future for our planet — one in which we do not have to compromise to achieve economic, social, and environmental prosperity. As an impact organisation, we connect and empower a global community to create the conditions for systemic transformation. With nature as our mentor, we work alongside businesses, cities and governments to identify opportunities to make the transition to the circular economy, and provide a powerful combination of practical and scalable solutions to turn these opportunities into reality.


Our mission is to empower a global community of businesses, cities and governments to accelerate the transition to the circular economy through practical and scalable insights and solutions that address humanity’s greatest challenges.

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