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New Zealand Missing Out On Economic Gains By Not Shifting Much Faster To A Circular Economy

Despite signs of change, Aotearoa New Zealand is transitioning too slowly to a low carbon circular economy. That’s the main finding in a ‘state of the nation’ report released today by the Sustainable Business Network (SBN).

The slow transition means we’re losing out economically. A 2018 study led by SBN showed Auckland could be $8.8 billion better off in 2030 if it shifted to a circular economy. It would also have much lower carbon emissions.

“Going Full Circle” assesses the state of the circular economy in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2021.

James Griffin, General Manager Projects & Advisory at the Sustainable Business Network, is the lead author. He says: “The state of the climate, resource depletion and degradation of nature require immediate action. Businesses need to move beyond an incremental focus on recycling to much more progressive strategies to meet these challenges.

“There are a raft of benefits for companies that incorporate more ‘circular’ practices, including business opportunities, staff retention, greater market share and enhanced brand. A growing number of people are already choosing products and services that won’t add to our waste problem. If businesses don’t start to adjust now they are putting off the inevitable.”

In response to the findings, SBN is launching the Go Circular 2025 programme in partnership with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Ministry for the Environment, Waste Management and Āmiomio Aotearoa.

The programme will provide practical tools and resources to help Kiwi businesses thrive in a low carbon circular economy. A key focus will be the creation of Aotearoa New Zealand's first circular economy directory. It will feature businesses that offer circular economy-based products and services, as well as case studies.

The programme will build on the signs of progress shown in the ‘Going Full Circle’ report.

They include work to improve packaging; growing consumer demand for products that won’t end up in landfill; more sustainable procurement policies; new business models; incorporation of mātauranga Māori in government policy; and new legislation such as a ban on single-use plastic bags.

A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. The past 80 years have been dominated by a ‘take-make-waste’ linear economy which is taking a massive toll on the environment.

Read Executive Summary of '‘Going Full Circle: six focus areas for shifting New Zealand to a low carbon circular economy”

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