Closing the circle Circular economy Opportunity for the welsh built environment

This report outlines a model demonstrating how circular economy principles may be applied to the built environment, the size of the economic opportunity, material priorities, challenges and recommendations to how the principles could be implemented across the sector to realise he benefit.

This report outlines a model demonstrating how circular economy principles may be applied to the built environment, the size of the economic opportunity, material priorities, challenges and recommendations to how the principles could be implemented across the sector to realise he benefit. Our current linear “take-make-dispose” practices rely on large quantities of easily accessible materials, energy and landfill and it is reaching its physical limits. Notably in Wales the sector is the largest producer of controlled waste (EAW Survey, 2005).

The concept of a circular economy was inspired by the functioning of natural ecosystems where “nothing is lost and everything transformed”. It is a development strategy that enables economic growth while optimising consumption and resources. The circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. It aims to decouple economic development from resource consumption, whilst enabling key policy objectives such as generating economic growth, creating jobs, and reducing environmental impacts, including carbon emissions. Our model demonstrates how the principles of the circular economy can be applied to the sector to realise the potential benefits turning theory in practical application.

Our research has demonstrated a potential economic opportunity of an additional £1 billion per annum by 20352. This is an increase of 12.5 per cent in the turnover of the Welsh built environment sector3 and generating 7,300 jobs (gross). This figure is consistent with a growing body of research that identifies the economic opportunity and the importance of the sector in delivering. The built environment sector has a high environmental impact, retained financial value and potential for reuse4. The EU Exit provides an opportunity to move away from EU classifications of waste and develop national strategy to decouple waste generation from economic growth and accelerate a transition to a circular economy. Focus is needed to develop the right conditions to enable Wales to make the most of the opportunity presented. Key to making the transition between linear and circular economies will be the ability of the sector to collaborate and innovate within its supply chain and across other industry sectors, working to design out waste at all construction stages, redefine waste as a resource and integrate circular economy principles into practice.

Download: Closing the circle Circular economy Opportunity for the welsh built environment