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The Case for a Circular Economy

Our world faces a growing challenge to address how people create, use, and discard the materials that make our lives. Finite resources and growing populations drive the urgent need for sustainability— and for decades, global leaders have framed this need through the lens of “waste.”

But to us, it’s not about waste. At EREF, we’re challenging the world to reimagine what “sustainability” really means. To realize that waste isn’t something to get rid of; it’s a resource.


Ven Poole, GFL Environmental and Chairman of EREF’s Board of Directors

“There are hundreds of environmental organizations, but EREF is a real scientific organization presenting real data. They are finding actionable solutions to problems versus advocating for political change.”


Kristin Kinder, VP of Research and Waste Stream Sustainability, Wastequip

“As more corporations, manufacturers, retailers, and policymakers seek to set meaningful sustainability goals, EREF provides the empirical data to move us from aspirations into a truly circular economy.”

Why now?

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that there’s no time to waste. We need accurate information to drive our pursuit of a more circular economy, and we need it now.

Fast-tracking time-sensitive research to fuel the conversion from a linear to a circular economy will require a $50 million investment over the next 5 years.

The decisions that people, brands, businesses, and regulators make today—as you read this document— are impacting our environment and our future resources. To create real change and turn our pursuit of a circular economy from aspirational to actionable, we need science, empirical data, and true collaboration.


There are a lot of organizations working in the name of sustainability. But at EREF, we’re talking data—and data based on sound science is the most powerful tool in our fight to preserve natural resources and avoid climate- altering emissions.

Sustainability goals are often set without a clear understanding of how to achieve them—but guesswork won’t get us where we need to go. We can only solve problems that we understand, and we can only understand these problems through data.

Your Support Helps Us Answer the Critical Questions

How are recycled products being used, and how much is truly recycled?

Does extended producer responsibility actually increase recycling rates?

How can we better evaluate the tradeoffs of decisions made to increase sustainable materials management?

How can we better measure the circularity of materials?

How can we maximize the impact of existing and proposed policies?

How often are products recycled back to their original use?