• Anthony, L. (2022) Rounding the Corner: Towards a Circular Economy in Canada. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

In 2021, over 100 billion tonnes of materials were consumed globally for the first time. Much of this material—construction, plastics, textiles, and electronics—will become waste, piling up in landfills or incinerated, taking a toll on the environment and human health. Canada repeatedly ranks in the top ten waste-producing countries globally: the 2022 Global Waste Index reported that Canadians disposed of 706 kg of waste per capita, with the majority of this waste ending up in landfills.

Excessive waste is a hallmark of a modern, linear economy with an ethos of “take, make, and waste.” By 2050, annual global waste generation is projected to grow by 70% to 3.4 billion tonnes, and global consumption demands are estimated to require the resources of three Earths.

The need for an alternate path forward is clear as the environmental costs mount. A circular economy minimizes waste and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which improves sustainability and tackles climate change, while also allowing for economic growth and development.

The transition to a circular economy will require transformational, systems-level change. Circular economic practices are being explored in Canada and, in some instances, implemented with success. These pockets of circularity, in places like Guelph, Ontario and Trail, British Columbia, offer lessons for policymakers and businesses.

This paper presents eight key opportunities for governments and policymakers to explore, test, and adopt towards building a circular economy:

  • Develop circularity strategies at the federal, provincial, and local government levels.
  • Harmonize legislative frameworks and improve standardization across economic sectors.
  • Reduce economic incentives that maintain a linear economy.
  • Advance critical infrastructure to support a circular economy.
  • Increase support for economic organizations that drive the adoption of circular practices across sectors and within value chains.
  • Incentivize the private sector by adopting circular procurement practices and recycled content mandates.
  • Improve awareness and education about the circular economy.
  • Improve measurement of the circular economy.

Report Sections

  • Section 1 provides an overview of the concept of circularity, including its benefits and examples from abroad.
  • Section 2 reviews three circular case studies in Canada with a focus on success factors and obstacles.
  • Section 3 highlights key opportunities for policymakers and recommendations for a Canadian transition to a circular economy.

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