Just 20 years into the 21st century, we have already seen remarkable changes that we could never have anticipated. We've come up with 20 predictions that explore what the next 20 years may have in store for your organization.

The economy will have moved from a linear model to a circular one in the next two decades, where we no longer simply create, use and dispose of products. The new circular economy will protect the environment by fully extracting the value or products before reusing, repairing and sharing them to eliminate waste.  This new economy will help save the environment, improve quality of life and create new jobs.

The circular economy comes of age

We will move to a 'restorative' process of production. Innovative new products will be created from what would once have been regarded as waste, such as furniture and clothing from plastic, effectively turning trash to cash. Products will be designed to last, with materials or components reused rather than thrown away. Food waste will be recycled on a large scale into everything from compost and animal feed to fuel, reducing waste in landfills and creating jobs. And we'll see a revolution in bioplastics and biofuels in 20 years, which are made from natural resources such as vegetable starches and which will lower emissions.

In a circular economy, producing less waste reduces or removes the problem of where to deposit this trash—all the more pressing as developing countries decide to no longer accept foreign waste—mitigating the risk of environmental damage.

Regulatory change will incentivize circularity (and increasingly, make it compulsory). We're already starting to see this happen in places like the U.K., that introduced a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30 percent recycled content.1

Innovation will allow us to use resources in new ways, producing new goods without further depleting natural resources. People will feel increasingly empowered in this economic model, as they will see how the products they recycle are put back into the system, driving higher participation further increasing the economic value of recycling.

With increased business opportunities related to recycling, reusing, repairing and sharing, circular economies will be a net employment creator. Circularity, in which we move from fossil fuel to renewable energy, from landfill to reuse, remanufacturing and recycling will create an estimated 9.2 jobs created for every 10,000 tonnes of recycled waste.2

Two decades from now, we will have established the economic cost of pollution. So while an economy that favours repair, maintenance, upgrading, remanufacturing, reuse, recycling of materials and product-life extension, is more labour-intensive than both mining and manufacturing in a linear economy,3 the overall economic will be clear.

1 Introduction of Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022, gov.uk, 20 July 2021
2 The Circular Economy - An Explainer, Parliament of Victoria, Australia.
3 The Circular Economy in Cities and Regions : Synthesis Report, OECD iLibrary

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Trends, breakthroughs, milestones, and insights on our path towards making the circular economy a reality.

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