The challenge

Resource scarcity.  Waste.  Pollution.  Consumption.  These are just some of the challenges facing today’s economy.  The concept of the circular economy has been around for decades and has become a fixture in sustainability discourse in recent years.  So why aren’t we seeing more of it?

What we’re doing

Forum for the Future has been working with Novelis to use their recent advancements in aluminium recycling as an exemplar of the circular economy and to inspire a movement towards a more circular economy. 

In October 2014, Novelis opened the world’s largest aluminium recycling centre in Nachterstedt, Germany. Earlier in September, we brought together leading circular economy experts from business, the aluminium sector, engineering, academia, design, and sustainability at Novelis’s aluminium recycling centre in Nachterstedt to discuss the challenges to scaling the circular economy – not just for Novelis, but also for other pioneers and incubators of the circular economy – and how we can overcome them.

The results of the workshop are outlined in our report, Circular Futures, and were presented at the opening of Novelis’s aluminium recycling centre in Nachterstedt on 1 October.  This event, which we supported with Novelis and public relations firm Edelman, included a two-hour Circular Economy Summit with an expert panel discussion and audience Q&A, with speakers Tony Juniper, Michael Braungart, and Forum for the Future’s Director of Sustainable Business, David Bent.  The panel was moderated by Marc Gunther, Guardian Sustainable Business editor-at-large. 

Forum for the Future and Novelis wishes to thank the following individuals for their vibrant and thoughtful contributions to the generation of this publication, and look forward to future collaborations on circular economy topics: Dr Joseph Chiodos, Quentin DrewellIan Ellison, Ray Georgeson, Tony Hartwell, Matthew Laws, Matthew Loose, Nick Pennell, John Revess, Alis Sindbjerg Hemmingsen, Miriam Slaby, Phillip Ward and Marie Weiß.

Download the report


Together we identified some of the drivers - and the barriers - of the circular economy, as outlined in Circular Futures.  We prioritized three of the most significant barriers (read Novelis Chief Sustainability Officer John Gardner’s blogpost here).

We then developed five key recommendations for how to progress the circular economy and six ideas around advancing the circular economy in aluminium and beyond. Novelis will be supporting one of the ideas, The Aluminium Design Guide for a Circular Economy, which is a new aluminium value chain collaboration that seeks to embed circular economy features into the design phase (see our report for details).

From a recycling plant to a circular product, Novelis and others have demonstrated the real-world benefits of the circular economy.  Now it’s time to scale these efforts and accelerate the transition towards a circular economy.   

Call to action

  • If you would like to know more, or to get involved in developing The Aluminium Design Guide for a Circular Economy, please contact Rodrigo Bautista.  
  • Join the ongoing conversation on Twitter at #CircularFutures.


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