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Opportunities for Natural Resources and the Forest Sector

Sustainability concepts, including associated economic models, continue to emerge as urgency to address environmental challenges grows. From basic concepts of recycling to zero waste, these models address opportunities within business and policy arenas to reduce negative environmental impacts.  The latest discussions around the “circular economy” represent a next step in these efforts by bringing together many of the prior existing ideas into a system for production and consumption that addresses environmental and economic opportunities holistically and strategically.

This report introduces the circular economy concept, provides examples of how it is being applied, and explores opportunities for the circular bioeconomy in the natural resources arena and forest sector.  In many ways, natural resources, including forest products, have well-established circular economy practices that include utilization of byproducts, material recovery, renewable energy systems, and minimized waste production. But more needs to be done. For instance, there is a need for greater post-consumer recovery of solid wood products and continued product innovation to support keeping forests as an economically competitive land use. 

A problem regarding rational development of a circular economy is that major natural resource interests, including the forest sector, are often not well represented in many circular economy discussions and initiatives.  There is an opportunity for the forest sector to engage and lead in these efforts to ensure the role of forests is articulated, and that the benefits and impacts resulting from proposed innovations lead to more vibrant forests and forest-based economies.

Recent projects