Policymakers must listen to scientists for circular economy success

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A photo of a green forest, taken from above

A report provides ten recommendations to see governments and policymakers boost success of circular economy plans.

Dr Rupert Myers, from Imperial College London’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has co-authored guidelines for governments and policymakers to implement the circular economy. This is the first review  of its kind produced by industrial ecology (the study of material and energy flows through systems).

“Scientists across the world possess a wealth of knowledge and skills on how we can manage resources more sustainably." Dr Rupert Myers, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The circular economy is a framework for sustainable resource management and can reduce the environmental cost of products – including electronics, textiles and metal – across their lifespans. 

Rupert Myers smiles at the cameraDr Rupert Myers, co-author of the report said: “Scientists across the world possess a wealth of knowledge and skills on how we can manage resources more sustainably and reduce the environmental impacts of products across their life cycles. This report shows the need for government and industry to collaborate with scientists in the UK and across the world.” 

Convened by an international collaboration of researchers from universities including University College London, Yale University and Imperial College London, the report explores how industrial ecologists can boost success by understanding materials, infrastructure and ecology alike. 

Insights to guide policymakers

Governments must use an evidence-led approach, according to the report, which explores ten insights to guide policymakers and industry professionals. 

These include:

  • A life cycle perspective: An approach that considers all impacts, from raw material extraction to end-of-life waste to ensure all impacts are fairly reduced.  
  • Early intervention to prevent waste: We can prevent waste if we plan and design systems that are efficient, with increased longevity.  
  • Impacts vary between environments: Environmental impacts change between environments, so circular economies should be adapted accordingly. 
  • Material use depends on infrastructure: Infrastructure, such as energy and transport networks, requires vast amounts of material to build and maintain and locks society into long-term patterns of material and energy use. 
  • Technology is not the only solution: Technology can be a driver of positive change, but a circular economy also needs changes in behaviour, business models and government policy. 

All ten recommendations can be read at ‘10 Insights from Industrial Ecology for the Circular Economy’, which was published by the International Society for Industrial Ecology. 

Reporter

Bryony Ravate

Bryony Ravate
Communications Division

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Environment, Sustainability, Engineering-Civil-Eng
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