22 January 2020

Just 20 years into the 21st Century, we have already seen remarkable changes that we could never have anticipated. We’ve come up with 20 predictions that explore what the next 20 years may have in store for your organisation.

Prediction 12

With concern about the human impact on the environment already at an all-time high, the current linear economic model, dependent on the constant creation, usage and disposal of products, is no longer sustainable. In its place, we will see a circular economy – a model in which the value of any given product is extracted fully before the product is recycled and reused.

The effect will be to dramatically reduce environmental impact, waste and energy use and improve the overall efficiency of products. This can be adopted across different industries – from manufacturing to food.

This will become non-negotiable in a world where resources are finite and the climate emergency is pressing. In a linear model, the impact of waste caused by business processes and product disposal, including greenhouse gas emissions and waste plastics, grows as the economy grows. The circular economy offers different solutions.

We will therefore move to a ‘restorative’ process of production. Recycled and reused products need not be in the original form; there are plenty of innovative ways to use resources in new ways, producing new goods without depleting natural resources further.

People will feel increasingly empowered in this economic model, as they will be able to see how the products they recycle are put back into the system, leading to an increase in recycling rates.

Trends in the circular economy


In a circular economy, we will produce less waste. This will not only reduce or remove the problem of where to place this waste – all the more pressing as developing countries decide to no longer accept foreign waste – but also mitigate the risk of environmental damage.

Innovative new products will be created from what would once have been regarded as waste across all industries – from food production or recycling plastics. And with increased business opportunities from recycling, circular economies can drive value, with an estimated 9.2 jobs created for every 10,000 tonnes of recycled waste.

Internal KPMG analysis estimates that a circular future in food, transport and the built environment industries together represent a potential economic benefit of over $210 billion in GDP, and an additional 17,000 full time jobs for Australia by 2047-48.

Curious to find out what else could happen between now and 2040? Read our other predictions


KPMG does not make any statement in this article as to whether any forecasts or projections included in this article will be achieved, or whether the assumptions and data underlying any prospective economic forecasts or projections are accurate, complete or reasonable. KPMG does not warrant or guarantee the achievement of any such forecasts or projections. Any economic projections or forecasts in this report rely on economic inputs that are subject to unavoidable statistical variation. They also rely on economic parameters that are subject to unavoidable statistical variation. While all care has been taken to account for statistical variation, care should be taken whenever considering or using this information. There will usually be differences between forecast or projected and actual results, because events and circumstances frequently do not occur as expected or predicted, and those differences may be material. Any estimates or projections will only take into account information available to KPMG up to the date of this report and so findings may be affected by new information. Events may have occurred since this article was prepared, which may impact on it and its findings.

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