The circular economy

The circular economy offers an unparalleled opportunity. It’s good for the economy, good for society and good for the planet. Supporting the transition would save lives and create employment, accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and reducing the tension between lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet. 

This graphic describes a range of promising circular economy interventions for developing countries, alongside an indication of the benefits that they offer. For more information, check out our ‘Bending the Curve’ report below.

Bending the curve (PDF 458 KB)

Bending the curve front cover final

This report summarises in-depth reviews in five areas of the circular economy: 

  • the sharing economy 
  • e-waste 
  • agricultural waste 
  • urban waste 
  • industrial symbiosis. 

These reviews allow a deeper analysis than previous approaches based on case studies. The authors identify a range of development interventions that are proven and replicable in a variety of low- and middle-income contexts. 

Cost-benefit assessment of community-based recycling and waste management in Pakistan (PDF 866 KB)

Cost benefit assessment front cover

This joint paper with the Institute of Development Studies, assesses a community-based approach to waste management in Islamabad, Pakistan. The approach is found to offer ten dollars in benefits for every dollar invested in establishing it. The benefits include reducing premature deaths associated with burning waste, reducing diarrhoeal diseases, mitigating climate change and creating jobs. The waste management centre became self-financing in its third year (based largely on user fees) and reduces the need for more expensive, centralised waste management facilities by up to 90 per cent. It is a possible model for replication in other contexts.

The sharing economy in developing countries (PDF 606 KB)

The sharing economy in developing countries front cover

This report from Tearfund and The Institute for Sustainable Futures is the first to consider the role of sharing apps in reducing poverty. Our research suggests that sharing apps could drive sustainable development, and recommends investment in technology and support for the most pro-poor applications, as well as identifying the barriers to further expansion of the sharing economy in developing countries.

Going full circle: Tackling resource reduction and inequality (PDF 357 KB)

Going full circle front cover

In 2017 just eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. Inequality is about a broken economic system, but there is an alternative. Through a fair circular economy, better and more jobs are created. Health is improved. Those normally marginalised from the economy are valued for the vital role they play. In this joint paper with the St Paul’s Institute, we explore the role policy-makers, businesses, researchers and non-governmental organisations can play in achieving this fair circular economy.

How will Europe’s Ecodesign measures affect the circular economy in low-income countries? (PDF 862 KB)

Europe ecodesign measures front cover

In developing countries, millions of people already make their living from circular trades such as repair and recycling. The way we design our products in the EU - the toxic chemicals we permit and the ease of repair that we require - has a strong influence over their livelihoods. These impacts are not currently considered as part of the EU’s Ecodesign process, and this paper explores how the EU’s design standards could be used to enhance rather than endanger these people’s lives.

Smoke Screen (PDF 1.4 MB)

Smoke screen front cover

This report explores why the UK should turn its back on incineration and embrace the circular economy as a solution to the global waste crisis.

Why advocate on waste and a circular economyEnglish (PDF 1.7 MB), Portuguese (PDF 750 KB)

Why advocate on waste and a circular economy front cover

Our current approach to resources is creating mountains of waste, which is killing people and the planet. This booklet sets out why advocacy on waste is so important, and provides ways of helping individuals and organisations do it at a national or local level, through the church and local communities.

How waste can save lives and create jobs - the virtuous circle 

In the developing world there is a huge and growing waste problem. Currently, 9 million people die every year due to the mismanagement of waste and pollutants. That's 20 times more people than die of malaria. If we ignore this waste problem, we will miss a key opportunity to save lives and create jobs for people living in poverty. 

The circular economy is a new way of thinking about the world. Our current way of doing things is linear: we take natural resources, make items, use them and then throw them away. At this end point all the energy, water and materials used in making the items are thrown away too. The circular economy, however, keeps resources in use for as long as possible. Many items, such as cars, can be shared rather than left sitting idle. They can also be repaired or rebuilt rather than being thrown away when they break. This creates new job opportunities and reduces health-damaging waste. 

We are working to help communities around the world to embrace the circular economy - creating jobs and saving lives. By reducing waste, you can be part of this new way of working too.

Virtuous circle (PDF 867 KB)

Virtuous circle front cover

A paper jointly published by Tearfund and the Institute of Development Studies, outlining the triple win that the circular economy offers for low and middle-income countries. 

Closing the loop – summary

Closing the loop front cover

An executive summary of Tearfund's research report on the benefits of the circular economy for low and middle-income countries. 

English (PDF 655 KB)
Portuguese (PDF 385 KB)

Closing the loop – full report 

Closing the loop front cover

The full version of Tearfund's research report on the benefits of the circular economy for low and middle-income countries.

English (PDF 721 KB)
Portuguese (PDF 726 KB)