Poland’s economy is 10.2% circular

The Circularity Gap Report Poland shows that a circular economy could help Poland reduce its material use by 40%, creating a more resilient and sustainable economy. The Circularity Metric of 10.2% shows that the vast majority—nearly 90%—of materials Poland consumes stem from virgin sources, with only a small portion cycled back into the economy. While a large portion of these materials is locked into stock, much also goes to waste. The Circularity Gap Report Poland shows that we can do things differently, suggesting circular transition pathways that inspire action towards a more sustainable future.

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Dr. Agnieszka Sznyk
Project Manager, Innowo
Mobile: +48 667 099 033

Einar K. Holthe
Founder and Strategic Leader, Natural State
Mobile: +47 986 00 718

Matthew Fraser
Head of Research and Development, Circle Economy
Mobile: +31 639 13 09 41

Carlos Pablo Sigüenza
Data Analyst, Circle Economy
Mobile: +31 6 3637 4704

The Circularity Gap Reporting initiative aims to illustrate countries’ resource realities, showcasing how they consume materials—and what happens to them at the end-of-use. Over the recent decades, large areas of the world have become accustomed to sky-high consumption of materials. For example, Norway consumes incredible amounts of resources every year, attributing to a material footprint of 44.3 tonnes per capita. At the same time, Poland’s material footprint comes to a much more moderate 13.8 tonnes per capita, as the new report shows.

The Circularity Gap Report Poland was carried out by Amsterdam-based impact organisation Circle Economy, in collaboration with the Polish research institute Innowo and the Oslo-based strategic development agency Natural State. The analysis, funded by the EEA and Norway Grants programme, delivers tailored recommendations for a circular economy in Poland to inspire stakeholders from businesses, governments, academia and civil society to steer the country's transition. The report also highlights bilateral opportunities between Poland and Norway to reduce their material footprints and boost circularity, reflecting the importance of local and regional value chains in a circular economy.

“What is measured, can be managed—so we are thrilled that Poland now has a benchmark measurement for circularity from which to track progress. Although there is still a long way to go and a lot of space for improvement, this is a solid foundation. We hope that this project can attract the attention of decision makers and the general public, illustrating the necessity of the circular economy and sustainable use of resources,” says Agnieszka Sznyk, President of the Board, Innowo.

“The Circularity Gap Report estimates that Poland can cut its material and carbon footprint by significant amounts using merit-based circular interventions—all without compromising Polish residents’ quality of life. Circularity offers a win-win situation for Polish society: it improves economic resilience and lowers pressure on the environment. Now it is our turn—consumers, producers and regulators alike—to look into the circular pathways identified in the report, innovate based on them and attain a better future,” says Hubert Bukowski, Research Manager, Innowo.

The Circularity Gap Report Poland shows that Poland is well poised to spearhead a circular transition with its track record in resilience and strong control over its resource supplies, with a lot of production occurring domestically. However, the reality today is that Poland consumes too much: 13.8 tonnes per person per year compared to the global average of 11.9 tonnes, and nearly double the level considered sustainable, 8 tonnes. The vast majority of resources Poland uses—almost 90%—come from virgin sources with the agrifood and construction sectors being key contributors to Poland's material footprint.

“Although Poland’s circularity is higher than the world average, consumption is still too high: the country’s greatest challenge is to shift from an economy heavily based on fossil and mineral resources to one that is based on regenerative materials and cycles. This is, at the same time, a great opportunity for Poland to lead the transition to a circular economy in Central Europe through innovation that will create a lot of jobs,” says Carlos Pablo Sigüenza, Data Analyst, Circle Economy.

“Innowo’s main ambition is to support the implementation of circular economy principles, so we investigate different scenarios that help to close the resource loops. The report identifies sectors with the biggest potential for closing the Circularity Gap, such as construction, agrifood and energy. In the near future, our aim is to progress from theory to action and drive circularity in these sectors,” says Agnieszka Sznyk, President of the Board, Innowo.

The Circularity Gap Report Poland outlines six circular scenarios that policymakers and businesses can use to shrink Poland’s material use by 40.4%, reduce its carbon footprint by 49.1% and almost double its Circularity Metric, bringing it up to 19.9%.

“The mission of the Circularity Gap Reporting initiative is to establish harmonised and comparable benchmarking for circularity across nations. Our Circularity Gap Report for Poland shows that the nation can double circularity by focusing on a handful of key value chains,” says Matthew Fraser, Research and Development Lead, Circle Economy.

The report aims to provoke discussion and open pathways for improvement by laying down the foundations of what Poland can do across the most impactful sectors. The recommendations for action are grounded in reduce, reuse, repair and remanufacturing strategies, helping to make sectors—such as the built environment and agrifood—more circular. In addition, the report highlights opportunities for Poland to work together and collaborate with nearby countries, such as Norway, to share knowledge and human capital and seize trade opportunities that accelerate the adoption of circular strategies.

“The global and bilateral opportunities stemming from this project cannot be understated. Norway has so much to learn from Poland, as the Circularity Gap Report Poland shows. Norway’s high material consumption in comparison to Poland is a prime example, and we can learn a lot, especially on resilience, sustainable local societies, resource use and local production, making this report a great foundation from which we can improve, innovate and create new opportunities for employment,” says Einar K. Holthe, Founder and Strategic Leader, Natural State.

The Circularity Gap Report Poland calls on Polish policymakers and business leaders to prioritise the circular economy and integrate circularity—and policies for material use—in Poland’s climate legislation.

“As we have learned from the recent health and geopolitical crises, traditional linear supply chains are fragile—the circular economy provides an alternative that can increase the delivery of both goods and services based on local and regional businesses and jobs. This means that we have to realign and develop value chains with more regional bilateral trade. In this sense, Norway and Poland are complementary and have a great potential for closing the resource loops together,” says Villeman Vinje, Strategist on Policy and Economics, Natural State Associate.

“This really is a flagship project for putting the circular economy on the agenda. Circular principles create enormous potential for future business models and are key to securing the supply chains of the future,” concludes Cathrine Barth, Head of Circular Economy, Natural State.