Circular economy isn’t a magical fix for our environmental woes

Read the full story in The Guardian.

One of the tenets of the circular economy is the idea that closing material and product loops will prevent primary production. But recent research published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology concludes that circular economy activities can actually increase overall production, “partially or fully offset[ting] their benefits”.

This suggests that the circular economy suffers from a similar rebound effect to energy-efficiency strategies. Just as more efficient coal plants can lead to lower coal prices and therefore higher demand for coal, more efficient use of materials can make products cheaper and therefore more appealing. While technical changes succeed in lowering the per-unit impact, overall the environmental benefit is largely offset by economic growth.

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