For the first time, an analysis has been made of how circular Sweden’s economy is. The Circularity Gap Report Sweden is an in-depth analysis of how Sweden consumes materials, from food and consumer goods to housing and mobility. The report shows that Sweden’s economy is largely linear. The analysis has been carried out by RISE and Circle Economy on behalf of the strategic innovation program RE:Source. 

Elin Larsson, programchef
Elin Larsson, program manager.

– We work for a more sustainable use of materials and a more circular economy, but to be able to measure the change over time, a reference value is needed. That is why RE:Source has chosen to finance this important report, which many will benefit greatly from, says Elin Larsson, program director at RE:Source.

The Swedish economy is thus only 3.4% circular, which is to be compared with the global average of 8.6% and, for example, 9.7% in Austria and 24.5% in the Netherlands. Those reports have also been made by Circle Economy.

Klas Cullbrand, RE:Source.
Klas Cullbrand, innovation manager.

– I really hope that the report will be an eye opener for some. Many people tend to believe that Sweden is always a frontrunner and that the rest of the world should follow us. But we have a very large material footprint and the best resource use is usually not reuse or recycling, it is simply not to use the resource from the beginning, says Klas Cullbrand, innovation manager at RE:Source..

266 million tonnes of resources

Sweden’s circularity of 3.4% does not mean that 96.6% of the materials flowing through the country’s economy are wasted. A lot of material (40%) is stored in society in buildings and infrastructure, while about 36% of the materials consist of biomass with potential for circulation such as wood products and food crops.

But every year, more than 266 million tonnes of resources are added to the Swedish economy, which means almost 25 tonnes per person and this is a figure that has increased in recent years.

Carl Jensen, RISE
Carl Jensen, RISE.

– A contributing reason for Sweden’s high consumption is that we have a low utilization rate for many products. This applies, for example, to buildings such as offices, schools and holiday homes, but also cars, clothes and tools, which are not used much of the time. The societal needs that consume the most materials are buildings, including infrastructure, which accounts for almost half of Sweden’s total material consumption, a societal need that by its nature requires a lot of materials, says Carl Jensen, project manager at RISE. 

Vojtech Vosecky, Circle Economy.
Vojtech Vosecky, Circle Economy.

– Sweden ranks very high in many of the global sustainability ratings. But our report points out the elephant in the room – the unsustainable consumption, which is so common for the Nordics. Luckily, Sweden is also an innovative powerhouse, and there is a huge potential to turn things around, adds Vojtech Vosecky, Associate of Circle Economy in the Nordics.

Circularity can double

But there is potential to increase circularity. With the right measures, the circularity can more than double to 7.6%. It is, for example, about manufacturing and building circular, reshaping the extractive industry and having a responsible design of consumables.

Matthew Fraser 200 x 200
Matthew Fraser, Circle Economy.

– The Circularity Gap Report Sweden quantifies the benefits that a circular economy can bring to society. The report offers clear recommendations for how Sweden can double its circularity, reduce its material footprint by over 40%, and make significantly deeper contributions to its emissions targets – all while boosting global competitiveness and innovation, says Matthew Fraser, Head of Research and Development at Circle Economy.

Sweden is well equipped to become a leader in a circular transition. There is both knowledge and innovative power to drive circularity forward. 

– We really see an increase in efforts to improve resource efficiency throughout society. More companies are adopting circular strategies and recruiting circular leaders, and the same applies to the public sector. But we need to increase the pace further to achieve the climate goals, so I hope that politicians and business leaders dare to make brave and necessary decisions in the future, says Klas Cullbrand.

READ THE REPORT: Circularity Gap Report Sweden