FEATURE10 March 2016

Coming round to the circular economy

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Research presented in Waste to Wealth points to the potential $4.5tn that could be gained by 2030 if business adopted waste strategies. The book’s author, Peter Lacy, talks to Jane Bainbridge about the benefits of a circular economy

The concept of the circular economy has been around for decades, but Peter Lacy – global managing director, Accenture Strategy, Sustainability Services – believes it is now gathering momentum, thanks to the digital revolution and the disruptive strategies that many companies born in this era have adopted.  

He defines the circular economy as the decoupling of economic growth from the extraction and consumption of constrained natural resources – that is, scarce resources with negative footprints, such as fossil fuels and hard-to-recycle metals – where dependency creates a competitive disadvantage over time. ‘Circular’ approaches keep resources in productive use in the economy for as long as possible. 

The circular economy goes beyond the more familiar, such as recycling, and embraces the more obscure. Lacy’s book, Waste to Wealth, identifies four forms of waste: resources (materials and energy that can’t be regenerated); life-cycles (products with artificially short working lives); capability (products sitting idle); and embedded values (components and materials not recovered from ...