unctad.org | Circular Economy in Developing Countries
Circular Economy in Developing Countries
27 November 2017
Room XXV, Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland

Key Issues


Since industry replaced artisanship as the main means of production, markets have been moving resources on one single direction: extraction, transformation, marketing, utilization and disposal. This can be illustrated by some interesting facts: Manufacturing uses 54% of the world’s total delivered energy every year. This happens especially in energy-intensive industries: 322 million tons of plastic, 59 million tons of aluminum – 53% of that by China alone - and 240 million tons of paper and paperboard are produced each year in the world. The similarity among those is that much this production target markets outside the producing regions, and much of it is not recycled: every year, 1.2 billion tonnes of garbage are produced by 3 billion urban residents alone.

As supply of recycled, reused and remanufactured products increase, circularity reduces demand for raw materials from nature. By keeping things longer in the economy –transistors, metal structures, complex plastics, textile fibers – materials can be mantained in their higher possible value and avoid their loss to landfills. An old t-shirt, a rusty container or an obsolete mobile phone are examples of “waste” that contain many valuable materials.

They required a great deal of energy, time, land and capital to be produced. While the technology in those products gets obsolete, the materials with which they are built do not. The economic rationale for the circular economy is a powerful commercial diplomat, as it appeals to developed and developing countries alike. Potential economic gains are estimated at over a trillion dollars a year. Least Developed Countries like Lao PDR are exploring circular strategies (UNDP, 2017). Recent assessments for India, Laos and the EU estimated savings of USD 624 bi and EUR 320 bi respectively (UNCTAD, 2016; EMF, 2017). China has launched an ambitious circular economy strategy in 2017. Ultimately, greater resource circularity could reduce depreciation of physical capital in the economy - creating income and jobs in the process.


Event Overview

Following up on a multi-agency event at COP23, UNCTAD is delighted to present a lineup of cases highlighting economic opportunities for multiple countries which are considering economic circularity in their development strategies. The event on 27 November in Geneva have invited delegates from government bodies and international institutions, the private sector, and experts to attend. There will be space to ask questions and engage in a discussion with the invited speakers.

Event Partners

A number of organizations engaged in the discussion of the benefits of the promotion of circularity models in the international community will be involved in this event. In special, the event will be joined by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. McKinsey & Company – a knowledge partner – will also join. In 2016 the Foundation together with UNCTAD presented a study on Circular Economy in India: Rethinking Growth for long term prosperity.


Co-organized with:Ellen MacArthur Foundation in cooperation with UNCTAD and the Government of the People’s Republic of China
Mr. Henrique Pacini henrique.pacini@unctad.org
Related Sites:

TED branch, home page
Trade and Environment, Climate Change and
 Sustainable Development.
Circular Economy in India: Rethinking growth for long-term prosperity.
12 December 2016, Geneva

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

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