Closed loop – open opportunities
Circular economy in Poland
The world must find a solution that would reconcile the growing needs of people with the scarce available environmental resources. Could a circular economy be this solution? Calculations show that even a minimal change in the Polish economy 1 per cent savings in the cost of materials and energy – may result in an annual GDP growth of PLN 19.5 billion (EUR 4.5 billion).
The last five decades have seen populations across the world make an enormous leap in their economies and standard of living. Our life expectancy is extending, more and more of us live in urban settings, and we enjoy growing affluence. The larger and wealthier the world’s population, the more sizeable the global consumer base, particularly the middle class, whose economic power is immense. Consumption by the middle class is forecast to account for a third of the gross world product (GWP) by 2030. Until now, these social and economic trends have inherently led to adverse impacts on the environment and, consequently, on society. For as long as half a century, humanity has been overshooting the Earth’s resources, with developed countries gone deepest into the ecological overdraft. We currently consume 1.6 times more resources than the Earth is capable of regenerating. Developed countries account for most of this overshoot: if the entire world population enjoyed the same standard of living as high-income countries, our consumption of natural resources would be four times faster than the planet’s regenerative capacity.
Decoupling economic growth from consumption of resources should be at the top of global development agendas. The interdependence between economic growth and growth in consumption of materials is a result of resource mismanagement due to the global economy’s significant resource intensity, high waste generation levels, and material life cycles remaining largely unlooped. If the current social and economic patterns are maintained, while no improvement is made in the general approach to resource management, the unwelcome effects will intensify.
To successfully address this challenge, we need to switch to a circular economy (CE). The circular economy is a development strategy aimed at fostering prosperity, while reducing and optimising resource consumption. Its goals are achieved by reusing materials, extending product life cycles, and tapping the potential which currently goes down the drain with waste streams. The transition to a circular economy model may prove one of the most rewarding revolutions in the world’s contemporary history. The rewards to be reaped are enormous – according to estimates, the European Union could annually save up to 630 billion dollars net, that is approximately 3% of its GDP.
What is Poland’s path to achieving the circular economy? This report examines Poland’s situation in order to identify opportunities off ered by the circular economy. It answers the following questions: How far has Poland already advanced on the road towards the circular economy? What are the key challenges and opportunities for the Polish economy and businesses? What should Poland do to become a circular economy leader?
Report: Closed loop – open opportunities
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Introduction by Irena Pichola
The circular economy – a concept that was fairly arcane only a few years ago – is now stimulating the imagination of leaders all over the world. It is seen as an alternative to the currently dominant linear model of the economy and a way to reconcile economic growth with care for the environment.
This new perspective on the interdependencies between the environment, human activity and technological progress may yield a range of opportunities for improvement at every link of the value chain, starting from the economy as a whole, to the environment and business, all the way to society and individuals.
We are pleased to present a report on the prospects for development and growth of the circular economy, with a focus on the most promising industries and solutions, giving concrete examples and key recommendations for action in the near and long term. It is the first such study in the Polish market, presenting an economic analysis of the circular transition, including indicators of economic benefits potentially achievable by Poland. According to our calculations, a reduction in material and energy consumption by a mere 1% across all sectors would translate into 19.5 billion złoty of added value for the economy. To unlock this potential, all stakeholders need to work together and exchange information. We are aware that the subject is complex and requires additional in-depth studies. In our future reports, we want to address new issues and elaborate further on the ones discussed here, relying on an even larger group of experts, whom this report may inspire and encourage to take a fresh look at the circular economy.
We would like to thank all the companies, institutions and people who trusted us, contributing their knowledge, experience and opinions to develop this report. The fact that it was written under the auspices of the state ministries concerned in the issue makes us confident that the recommendations offered here will find their way into practical implementation.
We hope that this report will help determine courses of action and stimulate a nationwide debate – involving a wide range of public and private sector entities – on the potential of the circular economy. Importantly, it may also inspire you to think about how and where you yourselves can contribute to fully realising that potential.
Have a good read!
Table of contents
1. Introduction: Why is the circular economy important?
1.1. Global social and economic trends: A leap in economic development and lifestyles of the global population 4
1.2. Challenges entailed by the existing model of economic development: We have been overshooting the Earth’s biocapacity, with the largest ecological debt attributable to developed countries 6
1.3. Use of materials versus prosperity: Decoupling economic growth from resource use as a key global challenge 9
1.4. The circular economy concept: Circular economy as a response to the challenge facing humanity 16
1.5. European and international agenda: Circular economy milestones in Europe and around the world. Circular economy as a key solution to climate change 18
1.6. Introduction to the next part of the report: How to seize opportunities off ered by the circular economy at the national and business 21
2. Poland’s circular economy prospects: Numerous opportunities for improvements in material management in Poland
2.1. Circular economy against the 2030 Agenda: Vital role in pursuing Sustainable Development Goals 24
2.2. Material management in Poland: A wide range of opportunities to improve the use of materials 28
2.2.1. Domestic material requirement 30
2.2.2. Domestic processed output 36
2.3. Overview of the main categories of mineral resources 41
2.3.1. Critical raw materials. Current situation in Poland and Europe 42
2.3.2. Construction raw materials. Current situation in Poland and Europe 55
2.3.3. Fossil fuels. Current situation in Poland and Europe 68
2.3.4. Bioeconomy. Current situation in Poland and Europe 75
2.4. Poland’s road to the circular economy 85
2.4.1. Poland’s transition to the circular economy 85
2.4.2. Circular economy in Polish municipalities – pilot programme 89
3. Circular economy for business: open opportunities for Poland’s economy
3.1. Map of opportunities for Poland’s economy 92
3.2. Innovation as a way to advance the circular economy 100
3.3. The circular economy in practice 106
4. Supporting transition to the circular economy: Role of the state and financial institutions in overcoming barriers
4.1. State intervention in response to challenges for businesses and consumers 118
4.2. Support from financial institutions 128
5. Conclusions and recommendations
Appendix 1: List of indicators for country analysis 139
Appendix 2: Assumptions underlying an analysis of macroeconomic eff ects of Poland’s transition to the
circular economy 140