As the year comes to a (welcome) close, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how the circular economy concept has emerged and evolved during this very particular year. Here are three trends that defined the circular economy in 2020, and what they might mean for the year to come.
1. Reuse is on the rise. Despite some setbacks posed by the pandemic (including misinformation about the safety of reusables peddled by industry lobbying groups), the transition from single-use to reusable packaging is building real momentum. With such proof points as Loop’s continued growth and recent $25 million Series A, Algramo’s New York expansion and the launch of the Beyond the Bag initiative, to name a few, it’s clear that reuse is taking hold at scale.
In 2021, I’ll be watching CPG and food and beverage companies, which have been scrutinized for one-off pilots and an overall failure to move quickly enough towards commitments to make all packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
If brands and retailers intend to fulfill their public commitments, we’ll need to see real investment in reuse platforms and systems in the year ahead.
2. Metrics begin to materialize. This year saw the launch of new tools and standards to calculate and track the circular nature of products, business and systems.
Notably, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development released the Circular Transition Indicators and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the Circulytics tool; GRI established a new standard on waste; and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute released the fourth version of its product standard.
The bright and shiny narrative of the circular economy’s promise will lose its luster without verified data and material evidence to show that circular is indeed better, and these tools are a step in the right direction.
Next year, I expect to see an emphasis on reporting and consistency of data behind various claims, as well as an effort to fold circular economy metrics into existing sustainability and ESG frameworks.
I also will be looking for more actionable datasets and analysis on the link between climate change and the circular economy, and opportunities to mitigate carbon emissions using circular economy strategies.
3. It’s (still) all about plastic. Plastic continues to be the star of the show when it comes to the global conversation about materials management and circular economy solutions.
The topic is top of mind for most of us given the increased demand for single-use everything amid the pandemic, which has led to a surge in plastic waste entering into waterways and oceans. But this year also offered a collective leveling-up of our data-backed knowledge and understanding about the flows and intervention points that could stem the tide on plastic pollution.
While source reduction continues to be the No. 1 solution to the global plastic waste crisis, many companies continue to solely address end-of-life management — notably in chemical recycling technologies for plastics packaging and synthetic textiles.
2021 is sure to bring continued tension between the problem of plastic waste and the problem of plastic production and use. I’ll be keeping my eye on the policy landscape and the balance between upstream action and accountability alongside downstream solutions.
This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Circular Weekly, running Fridays. Subscribe here.
Major event cancellations taking toll on Lethbridge economy – Global News
Exhibition Park is postponing its early 2021 events due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
“Obviously our hand is a little bit forced,” Mike Warkentin, the chief operating officer for Exhibition Park, said.
He added health and safety has to be the number one priority, but said they also know many businesses and organizations depend on their venue.
All those vendor transactions trickle into the community, adding millions to the local economy.
“In an average year we were generating in upwards of $70 million to $75 million of economic impact, we do anticipate that to be significantly down,” Warkentin said.
Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge said that the impact of the event cancellations will likely be felt widely in the community.
“Any of these events — whether its at Exhibition Park or anywhere else in the city — these are people that come to the city and buy meals, they potentially go to the mall and spend money in a retail store, they are often staying at a hotel,” Lewington said.
He said seeing major events delayed or cancelled slows down the whole flow of the economy.
“It’s the deals that happen during those shows, it’s the sales transactions, that’s the larger economic impact.
“You are bringing together vendors and potential customers and so, as those events get cancelled or postponed, you are also delaying some of those interactions.”
Hannah Lee with Sill and Soil is a Lethbridge business owner and past vendor at the Home and Garden Show, one of the events that has been postponed. She is giving other businesses without a storefront the chance to set up in her shop during COVID-19 while things like markets are on hold.
“It’s a really anxious feeling knowing, like what do I do with all of this stock, should I sell it, or do I stay prepared and ready to go at the drop of a hat. So it’s such a stressful feeling for sure,” added Lee.
She also said postponing can be hard for vendors trying to juggle inventory, but it’s usually a better option than cancelling. That’s something the exhibition is hoping to avoid.
“We are very cautiously optimistic things will open up a little bit and we will be able to run these events and get the nearly 600 small businesses through the park in a safe and responsible way,” Warkentin said.
He added they are taking a “wait and see” approach before announcing any further delays or cancellations.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Philippine Economy Shrinks More Than Expected in Fourth Quarter – BNN
(Bloomberg) — The Philippine economy contracted more quickly than economists expected in the fourth quarter even as more businesses reopened from a lengthy lockdown.
Gross domestic product shrank 8.3% in the three months through December from a year earlier, the statistics agency said Thursday. That compared with the median estimate for a 7.9% decline in a Bloomberg survey and the third quarter’s revised 11.4% contraction.
For all of 2020, GDP plunged 9.5%, just as economists forecast.
The Philippines was among the world’s fastest-growing economies over the past decade but now is struggling to escape recession, with analysts expecting growth to turn positive only in the second quarter of this year. The World Bank forecasts Philippine GDP to expand 5.9% this year, below pre-pandemic levels, as restrictions on movement remain amid Southeast Asia’s second-worst virus outbreak.
President Rodrigo Duterte plans to spend a record 4.7 trillion pesos ($98 billion) this year, hoping to drive GDP growth as high as 7.5%.
The nation’s vaccination program will be key to any economic recovery. The government aims to vaccinate 70% of the 100 million population by the end of 2022 to achieve herd immunity, but so far has signed deals for only about one-third of the doses needed.
Other key points from Thursday’s briefing:
- Compared to the previous quarter, GDP grew 5.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis in the final three months of the year, slower than the 6% expected
- The full-year figure was down from 6% growth for all of 2019
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Fed stresses its commitment to low rates as economy stumbles – North Shore News
WASHINGTON — Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve will keep pursuing its low-interest rate policies until an economic recovery is well underway, acknowledging that the economy has faltered in recent months.
The Fed said in a statement after its latest policy meeting that hiring and economic growth had slowed, particularly in industries affected by the raging pandemic, notably restaurants, bars, hotels and others involving face-to-face public contact. The officials kept their benchmark short-term rate pegged near zero and said they would keep buying Treasury and mortgage bonds to restrain longer-term borrowing rates and support the economy.
Speaking at a news conference, Powell made clear his belief that the economy will struggle in the coming weeks and months, until widespread vaccinations and government rescue aid eventually fuel a sustained rebound.
“We’re a long way from full recovery,” he said. “Something like 9 million people remain unemployed as a consequence of the pandemic. That’s as many people as lost their jobs at the peak of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession.”
The Fed statement warned that the virus is posing risks to the economy. But the officials removed phrases from their previous statement in December that had said the pandemic was pressuring the economy in the “near term” and posed risks “over the medium term.”
Powell said that language was removed because the Fed policymakers see the pandemic increasingly as a short-term risk that will likely fade as vaccines are distributed more widely. But he also cautioned that the threat remains a serious one, particularly because of the potential harm from new strains of the virus.
“We have not won this yet,” Powell said. “There’s nothing more important to the economy now than people getting vaccinated.”
As Powell spoke, a broad sell-off on Wall Street knocked more than 600 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, handing the stock market its worst day in nearly three months. The drop, which followed a recent record-setting run, came as investors focused on the uncertain outlook for the economy and corporate profits amid a still-raging coronavirus pandemic. Traders were also focused on the eye-popping surge in shares of GameStop, a money-losing video game seller that became the focus of a battle between small investors bidding it higher and big hedge funds betting it would fall.
For now, the job market is faltering, with 9.8 million jobs still lost to the pandemic, which erupted 10 months ago. Hiring has slowed for six straight months, and employers shed jobs in December for the first time since April. The job market has sputtered as the pandemic and colder weather have discouraged Americans from travelling, shopping, dining out or visiting entertainment venues. Retail sales have declined for three straight months.
Yet the Fed still envisions a sharp rebound in the second half of the year as the virus is brought under control by vaccines and government-enacted rescue money spreads through the economy. Americans fortunate enough to have kept their jobs have stockpiled massive savings that suggest pent-up demand that could be unleashed, with a big lift to the economy, once consumers increasingly feel safe about resuming their old spending patterns.
Powell was pressed during the news conference on whether the Fed should respond to the recent speculative surge in the prices of some individual stocks, notably shares of GameStop, and whether that buying frenzy suggested a dangerous bubble in overall stock prices. Powell deflected the questions by saying the Fed’s interest rate policies aren’t well-suited to address speculation in the stock market.
In addition, he said, “if you look at what’s really been driving asset prices in the last couple of months, it isn’t monetary policy. It’s expectations about vaccines and also fiscal policy. Those are the news items that have been driving asset values in recent months.”
Powell also noted that the Fed is keeping rates low and buying bonds to support economic growth. Reversing those policies to offset potential bubbles in the stock market, he said, could harm the economy.
“We don’t actually understand the trade-off,” he said. “Will it actually cause more damage, or will it help? I think that’s unresolved.”
The Fed has signalled that it expects to keep its key short-term rate at a record low between zero and 0.25% through at least 2023. Earlier this month, Vice Chair Richard Clarida said he expects the Fed’s bond purchases to extend through the end of this year, which would mean continued downward pressure on long-term loan rates.
The central bank said it will continue its bond purchases until it makes “substantial further progress” toward its goals of maximum employment and stable 2% inflation. Powell said “it is likely to take some time” for that progress to be achieved.
The Fed’s drive to keep long-term rates low have helped hold down mortgage rates and fueled home sales and price increases. Home prices, for example, surged 9% in November compared with a year earlier, its fastest increase in more than six years.
The prospect of significant more government rescue aid and ongoing vaccinations has raised some concern that as Americans eventually release pent-up demand for airline tickets, hotel rooms, new clothes and other goods and services, the economy might accelerate and annual inflation could surge above the Fed’s 2% target.
If many companies don’t initially have the capacity to meet that demand, prices would pick up. Powell, however, dismissed those concerns, pointing to several long-run factors that have restrained inflation for more than a decade, such as an aging population that tends to spend less and save more, technological developments that improve efficiency, and overseas competition.
“Frankly, we welcome somewhat higher inflation,” Powell said. The Fed believes that inflation sustainably at 2% guards against deflation, a drop in prices and wages. And since interest rates include expected levels of inflation, that gives the Fed more room to cut interest rates. “The kind of troubling inflation that people like me grew up with seems far away and unlikely.”
The Fed adopted a framework last year that calls for inflation to average 2% over time. Given that inflation has mostly languished below that level since the Fed adopted it as a target in 2012, policymakers would have to let inflation run above 2% for some time to make up for the years of below-target price increases.
Christopher Rugaber And Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
GameStop shares rally for another day, as total volume exceeds number of tradeable shares – The Globe and Mail
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