The circularity gap of nations: A multiregional analysis of waste generation, recovery, and stock depletion in 2011

Aguilar-Hernandez G A, Sigüenza-Sanchez C P, Donati F, Merciai S, Schmidt J, Rodrigues J F D, Tukker A (2019)

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Resources, Conservation and Recycling 151:104452


Due to increased policy attention on circular economy strategies, many studies have quantified material use and recovery at national and global scales. However, there has been no quantitative analysis of the unrecovered waste that can be potentially reintegrated into the economy as materials or products. This can be interpreted as the gap of material circularity. In this paper we define the circularity gap of a country as the generated waste, plus old materials removed from stocks and durable products disposed (i.e. stock depletion), minus recovered waste. We estimated the circularity gap of 43 nations and 5 rest of the world regions in 2011, using the global, multiregional hybrid-units input-output database EXIOBASE v3.3. Our results show the trends of circularity gap in accordance to each region. For example, the circularity gaps of Europe and North America were between 1.6–2.2 tonnes per capita (t/cap), which are more than twice the global average gap (0.8 t/cap). Although these regions presented the major amount of material recovery, their circularity gaps were mostly related to the levels of stock depletion. In Africa and Asia-Pacific regions, the circularity gap was characterized by a low degree of recovery and stock depletion, with high levels of generated waste. Moreover, we discuss which intervention types can be implemented to minimize the circularity gap of nations.

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