Great Lakes Report
May 21, 2020

Creating a Circular Economy in the Great Lakes Region

Transitioning from a linear, take-make-dispose economy to a closed loop, zero waste circular economy encourages businesses to design longer lasting, reusable, and more easily recyclable products. This evolution can also result in the expansion of reuse and remanufacturing sectors as well as new value chains and markets. While engagement in the circular economy is becoming commonplace in Europe, more evidence and support are needed to build and illustrate the North American business case, along with practical steps and actions to mainstream circularity.

This report by Navigant – A Guidehouse Company and its research partner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, describes the economic and environmental benefits and winning strategies for businesses to put the circular economy into practice in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region (GLR).1 In particular, the quantitative research in this report focuses on three core materials—steel, plastics, and pulp and paper—that extrapolate from European trends to predict outcomes and economic and environmental opportunities of the circular economy in the GLR. Case studies of experiences and best practices from companies showcase the circular ingenuity transforming North American business.

Results demonstrate vast economic and environmental benefits for adopting a circular economy in the GLR. Among the three materials studied, the economic benefits range between $4.4 billion to $5 billion USD. The environmental benefits are equally advantageous, with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 35 million to 120 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2). This reduction would be equivalent to removing 7.5 million to 25.5 million passenger cars from the road for a year, which translates to 18%-61% of registered cars in the GLR.2,3

The report’s findings also reveal the importance of developing incentives that facilitate innovation and greening of the value chain, encouraging partnerships and collaboration to foster circularity, aligning the circular economy with mainstream policies, developing traceable actions and targets that hold stakeholders accountable for their progress, and embracing the social aspects of circularity to implement measures to support this shift. With these tactics in place, businesses in the GLR and beyond can achieve profound economic and social impact through the circular economy.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Assessing the Economic and Environmental Potential of the Circular Economy in the Great Lakes Region

Chapter 3: Case Studies

Chapter 4: Positive Social Impacts of the Circular Economy in the Great Lakes Region

Chapter 5: Appendix A: List of Inputs for Calculations

Chapter 6: Works Cited