Auckland could make billions by adopting 'circular economy' - study

  • 10/05/2018

An economic study of how Auckland could look in 12 years' time has found the city could generate billions if it shifts to a "circular economy" model. 

Circular economy, a method of boosting economic growth by making sure the environment is looked after, could "trigger a new era of business innovation" that would prove profitable, according to the Circular Economy Opportunity for Auckland.

The study was produced by the Sustainable Business Network in partnership with Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED). The economic analysis was carried out by Sapere Research Group.

"For Auckland, and New Zealand, there is a very real need for all residents and businesses to make a contribution to becoming a lower carbon economy," said Patrick McVeigh, general manager for business, innovation and skills for ATEED.

"Auckland with its innovative, entrepreneurial business culture has the opportunity to position itself as a circular economy city for the world."

The study applies to Auckland's economy focusing on food, transport and the built environment. It suggests that Auckland could be $8.8 billion better off in GDP by 2030 if it "de-couples resource use from economic growth".  

The study says Auckland will have to maximise the life-cycle of materials, and redesign the current systems of extraction, production and disposal "to ensure natural and technical resources stay in discreet systems or 'loops'."

It draws on research from overseas, inspired by similar reports for London and Glasgow. 

"A more circular economy is inevitable," said James Griffin, who leads the Circular Economy Accelerator, for the Sustainable Business Network. "It is the only viable model for meeting the needs of a growing population within environmental boundaries.

"Applying circular economy thinking to Auckland will future-proof prosperity. It will trigger a new era of business innovation. It will radically reduce the costs of our economic activity and the material inputs it requires." 

"The only question is: how fast can we go to realise the opportunity?"

The study also highlights that by 2030, adopting enhanced methods of construction could yield $2.5 billion. This includes more reuse and high value recycling, industrialised processes and 3D printing, as well as designing for multi-purpose use.

Reducing food waste, and finding more commercial use for it - such as for bio-gas or animal feed - could yield $300 million, the report adds. 

It also encourages ride-sharing, refurbishing commercial vehicles and reducing congestion, which could yield $1.8 billion. 

The circular economy model has been around in different forms since the 1960s. But in recent decades it has been refined and more widely applied. 

It is now the model for huge areas of policy across the European Union. China passed a law for the promotion of the circular economy in 2008. The principles are now embedded in the country's national five-year planning cycle.