Current low costs of raw materials, further enabled by cheap oil, are increasingly being cited as a factor holding back progress towards circular economy models, most notably in the secondary materials market, where companies like Closed Loop Recycling have struggled to stay operational. However, Dutch bank ING has now suggested that for many businesses, cheap material prices represent an advantage in terms of making the shift to a circular economy.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s recent Growth Within report found that Europe was heavily reliant on imported materials and resources. It also revealed that there were significant opportunities for businesses and governments in Europe to change their mode of growth by maximising existing assets. In Growth Within, circular economy models were combined with the impact of technological developments to reveal an additional 7% GDP growth compared with the current developmental path, and a €1.8tr net benefit.
Recent reports from ING Bank have suggested that cheap material prices should not be relied upon in the long, or even medium term. Their focus is on the product design phase, where they perceive the greatest opportunities to be.
In their most recent report, reflecting on low metal prices, they argue that an increase in recycling rates is not enough, but instead it will be crucial for products to be designed in a way that makes remanufacturing and recycling of the core materials simple.
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