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Knowledge

In this section you will find existing studies and reports published in relation to the circular economy.

Studies, academic papers, business reports… are submitted by stakeholders, industry or authors. To propose your own publication, fill in our online specific form.

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Luxembourg as a knowledge capital and testing ground for the circular economy

Luxembourg as a knowledge capital and testing ground for the circular economy

Lux CE report cover page

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Author: 
EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung GmbH, Returnity Partners
Publication Date: 
12/2015
Country: 
Luxembourg

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Contact: 
Paul Rasque
Ministry of Economics

The circular economy is more than a potential model for Luxembourg; it is an economic imperative. Due to its history of exhausting resources then finding substitutes, Luxembourg is already a testing ground for circularity methods. For example its steel, aluminum, glass, and other industries are expert at re-using secondary raw materials. The re-use of those materials is core to their economic survival. It is a competitive necessity to sharpen their capacities in those areas.

Because Luxembourg’s exemplary European society is based on equity, cultural tolerance, economic stability, responsive government and manageable size, the country is a powerful proving ground for circularity. Its heritage of quality and its service-based economy allow leveraging of skills to take advantage of the embedded growth potential. The likely benefits for Luxembourg are considerable. The starting position is excellent. The capabilities and motivation seem to be in place. It is now only a question of providing a nucleus and initial catalyst to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy at scale. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Ministry of the Economy in particular have powerful roles to play as catalysts for circularity.

In the present situation where knowledge of circular economy potential is low but know-how for supporting technology and services is high, the government has a special brief opportunity to seize the initiative by delivering powerful messages about circularity through initiating and coordinating actions, as well as supporting those with a solid foundation of education, training and national co-branding. By leveraging those mechanisms the government will provide the enabling framework for its stakeholders to implement a circular economy with innovative lighthouse initiatives.

Beyond the CE package: Maintaining momentum on resource efficiency

Beyond the Circular Economy package

Aldershot group report image

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Author: 
Aldersgate Group
Publication Date: 
12/2017
Country: 
United Kingdom

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Despite resource efficiency improving 41% between 2000 and 2016,with  the Circular Economy Package and the initiatives set out in the accompanying Action Plan nearing completion, the EU institutions must acknowledge that the move to a more resource efficient or “circular” economy will take time. To invest in new business models, more resource-efficient processes and new supply chains for good quality secondary materials, businesses need the assurance that the resource efficiency agenda will remain a priority for the EU in the long term.

This briefing sets out a range of policy recommendations that the Aldersgate Group believe EU institutions should continue to pursue beyond completion of the Circular Economy Package to scale up business action on resource efficiency. These recommendations are based on business case studies, including some developed as part of the EU LIFE+ funded REBus project, which began in 2013 and on which the Aldersgate Group is a partner. By the end of 2016, pilots taking part in the REBus project (many of which involved SMEs), had already delivered a financial benefit of €5.62m, material savings in excess of 62,000 tonnes and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of just under 2,000 tonnes. These benefits have continued to grow since.

Recommendations based on the report's findings include:

  1. Pursuing work to include resource efficiency design criteria in product standards by delivering on the commitment to publish an updated Ecodesign Working Plan once a year and rapidly broadening the range of products subject to resource efficiency design criteria;
  2. Promote business innovation on resource efficiency, through continued financial support for business trials and broadening the sectors that receive technical support through the Commission’s Innovation Deals;
  3. Expand the use of circular economy criteria in the public procurement of a broadening range of products and encourage their application across EU Member States and EU institutions;
  4. Encourage Member States to develop pricing mechanisms that support material re-use where it is environmentally effective to do so; and
  5. Ensure a consistent implementation of the Circular Economy Package in different Member States. This is especially important in terms of the improved definitions of “waste” currently being negotiated by all three EU institutions, which must ensure that materials are no longer classified as “waste” when they can be re-used safely.

Circular City Governance: An explorative research study into current barriers and governance practices in circular city transitions across Europe

Circular City Governance

Circular City Governance cover page

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Author: 
Jan Jonker, Naomi Montenegro Navarro
Publication Date: 
11/2017
Country: 
Luxembourg

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Contact: 
Jan Jonker

Circular City Governance - An explorative research study presents the results of an empirical research study into current barriers and governance practices in circular city transitions across Europe carried out by a team from the Radboud University Nijmegen School of Management (NL). The research activities ran from October to December 2017. The main objective of the study was to support the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other members of the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy involved in the working group on “Circular City Governance” (CCG) with the identification, analysis and elaboration of actions in support of Circular Governance in Cities, particularly through better knowledge and better funding. At the time this report was completed, the UAPCE’s Action Plan had been recently published for public consultation.

The research study follows an empirical approach primarily focussed on the identification of (i) the most common barriers and challenges that are encountered by cities seeking to promote the circular economy, and (ii) the most important governance interventions cities have taken to initiate and advance in the transition to a circular city. This information was drawn from the analysis of selected case studies of circular economy projects in urban environments, various publicly available circular economy strategies, plans prepared by cities and interviews with experts and officials of front-runner cities that have embraced the CE agenda across Europe. The results of this research study should contribute towarads improving the general knowledge basis on the promotion of the CE in cities by presenting the experiences and main lessons learnt by cities at the forefront of the CE agenda.

Circular Economy in Cities: Evolving the model for a sustainable urban future

Circular Economy in Cities

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Author: 
World Economic Forum
Publication Date: 
03/2018
Country: 
Switzerland

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The World Economic Forum’s Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative has released its new White Paper on the Circular Economy in Cities: evolving the model for a sustainable urban future.

This White Paper traces the conceptual underpinnings of the Circular Economy, and explains why cities are key to accelerating the transition away from the traditional ‘take-make-dispose’ model. It draws on examples from cities around the world in areas that include: channelling used building materials to new building sites, water harvesting and reuse, reducing energy use, electronic waste, healthcare and procurement. It explains the opportunities in the Circular Economy for all stakeholders and the ways in which they can work together at city level.

Regulatory barriers for the circular economy

Regulatory Barriers for CE cover page

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Author: 
Technopolis Group, Fraunhofer ISI, Wuppertal Institute, thinkstep
Publication Date: 
11/2016
Country: 
Germany

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This report, commissioned by DG GROW and prepard by Technopolis and Franhofer ISI, identified major obstacles of regulatory nature or gaps within the existing legal framework where significant unlocked opportunities remain. The study includes an in-depth analysis of the identified obstacles and possible solutions through specific cases.

The analysis of specific regulatory barriers includes the full product lifecycle and focuses on the interfaces between different steps of the value chain (extraction/production, production/production internal loops, production/use, collection, waste-management/recycling/production). Barriers can be categorised within these 3 themes:

  • Several case studies identified regulatory barriers often related to lacking legislation that would allow the collection and pre-treatment of homogenous waste streams.
  • The second type of barrier refers to legislation that hinders the use of recycled materials in production processes
  • The third type of barrier is related to the lack of concrete and enforceable product requirements.

The analysis also highlights a variety of different generic types of barriers: in many cases waste legislation focuses on quantities (weight based collection or recycling targets) and not so much on the qualities of recycled materials. Inconsistencies between existing regulations, e.g. related to REACH or End-of-Waste criteria, have also been mentioned in a variety of case studies.

The study concludes that in general, high-quality recycling is definitely not prevented by regulatory obstacles, but by lacking or unclear legislation. Prime examples are End-of-Waste criteria or quality standards for secondary raw materials that create legal uncertainties for the industry that make it rational to continue to focus on primary raw material input.

Models of circular business ecosystem for textiles

Model of circular business ecosystem for textiles

Diagram of circular business ecosystem for textiles

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Author: 
Paula Fontell, Pirjo Heikkila
Publication Date: 
11/2017
Country: 
Finland

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Contact: 
Paula Fontell

The Relooping Fashion Initiative (2015-2017) was aimed at piloting and modelling the circular business ecosystem for textiles. This report covers the business ecosystem modelling work and introduces the project team’s crystallized vision of a higher-level system that enables the textiles industry to operate according to the basic principles of a circular economy. 

The focus of the report is on explaining the principles of a circular economy in the context of textiles, and drawing a picture of the key material flows and types of actors along the value cycles from end-user back to end-user. The overall goal is to maintain the value of materials as high as possible, with minimum environmental impact. The different circular business models for textiles are introduced along the value cycles. The report covers 1) repair and maintenance, 2) re-use as product, 3) re-use as material, and 4) recycling-related activities, and business models for post-consumer/user textiles along the entire value chain.

All these processes need to work seamlessly together for the circular business ecosystem to function effectively. New recycling technologies are crucial to solving the global textile waste problem, and to be able to replace some of the virgin materials such as cotton with recycled textile materials. The report also discusses the topic of shared value creation in the circular economy context.

The circular economy and the bioeconomy — Partners in sustainability

The circular economy and the bioeconomy — Partners in sustainability

EEA circular and bioeconomy report cover page

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Author: 
European Environmental Agency
Publication Date: 
08/2018
Country: 
Denmark

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'The circular economy and the bioeconomy — Partners in sustainability' is the third EEA report on the circular economy. It aims to support the framing, implementation and evaluation of European circular economy policy from an environmental perspective. It shows that the two policy agendas have similar objectives and areas of intervention, including food waste, biomass and bio-based products, and that they would benefit from stronger links, particularly in product and infrastructure design, and collaboration throughout the value chain.

The increasing demand for food, feed, biomaterials and bioenergy resources could worsen the over-exploitation of natural resources. By extending the lifetime of products and recycling materials, a circular, bio-economy approach can help retain material value and functionality for longer time as well as avoid unrecycled biowaste.

Promising innovations and strategies for circular biomass use include biorefinery, 3D printing with bioplastics, multi-purpose crops, better use of residues and food waste, and biowaste treatment. Consumers can also contribute by eating less animal-based protein, preventing food waste and separating biowaste from other waste streams.

Implementing the circular and bio-economy in tandem, by applying specific design principles within a systemic approach, would improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental pressures.

 

Circular Economy opportunities in the furniture sector

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Author: 
EEB, Eunomia
Publication Date: 
09/2017
Country: 
Belgium

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Sector:

Contact: 
Stephane Arditi

This EEB and Eunomia report estimates the material consumption and CO2 emissions of the furniture sector at EU level and suggests some circular scenarios and policy options to grasp improvement opportunities.

Around a quarter of the world’s furniture is manufactured within the European Union – representing a €84 billion market that equates to an EU28 consumption of ~10.5 million tonnes of furniture per annum while employing approximately 1 million European workers and consisting of, predominantly, SMEs.

Businesses and consumers discard 10 million tonnes of furniture in EU Member States each year, the majority of which is destined for either landfill or incineration. There is minimal activity in higher-value circular resource flows, with remanufacturing accounting for less than 2% of the EU manufacturing turnover. In terms of furniture in particular, whilst reuse is common this tends to be on a small scale and with local social goals in mind.

Barriers to a circular furniture sector range from low quality materials, limited logistical infrastructure, poor demand for recycled materials to a wider range identified through the course of this research, informed through stakeholder consultation and literature review.

A move towards circular economy models within the European furniture sector would benefit from a variety of complimentary policy instruments to deal with market failures on the supply side (i.e. ensuring return of items and creating durable, refurbished and remanufactured items) and the demand side (creating demand for these products). The report concludes by estimating the impacts on additional tonnes reused & recycled, net carbon reduction and job creation these policy options might have separately. 

Various policy instruments thus have the potential to help overcoming the main barriers, with a need to address both supply side and demand side issues to provide both the market push and pull required. The logic suggests that a mandatory but simple Extended Producer Responsibility system, with gradually increasing targets for ‘preparing for reuse’ and separate recycling targets, would provide the most certainty in terms of positive outcomes.

 

 

Circular Economy and Employment

figure displaying employment effects of eco-innovation
Author: 
Prof. Dr. Jens Horbach, Klaus Rennings, Katrin Sommerfeld
Publication Date: 
09/2015
Country: 
Germany

Language for original content:

Contact: 
Jens Horbach

Circular Economy and Employment first summarizes the main definitions and conceptualisations of a circular economy, then clarifies the relationship to related concepts such as green growth and eco-innovation. This report is the outcome of a project estimating the employment effects of a circular economy.

The Circular Economy mainly focuses on savings on the shares of material, labour, energy, and capital embedded in the product. In finite systems it is intended to “design out waste”. An important difference is made between consumables (one or few time usage) and durables (years of usage) products. Material savings can be achieved by already established recycling and remanufacturing activities finally aiming at a “zero waste economy”. More recently, the contribution of green ICT leading to less material inputs (“digital revolution”, e.g. photos are no longer printed but distributed by e-mail or social media), a general greater importance of services, the evolution of the sharing economy (e. g. car sharing) or a higher utilisation rate for products for the circular economy are discussed.

Detailed concepts of green growth from OECD, UNEP, EEA and the Global Green Growth Institute are also considered. Green growth means fostering economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies. Investment and (eco-) innovation activities shall give rise to new, more sustainable sources of growth and development. Moving towards a circular economy may be understood as a tool to achieve a green economy, a circular economy is one of the main elements helping to achieve the greening of an economy.

Circular Jobs: Understanding Employment in the Circular Economy in the Netherlands

Circular Jobs: Understanding employment in the Circular Economy in the Netherlands

circular jobs title page

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Author: 
Circle Economy, EHero
Publication Date: 
03/2017
Country: 
Netherlands

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Contact: 
Harald Friedl

To ensure that policymakers and governments know how and where to implement the circular economy effectively, there is a great need for practical tools to measure it.

Aimed at defining, identifying and quantifying employment opportunities that are needed in the circular economy, Circle Economy and the Erasmus Research Institute for Happiness Economics (Ehero) have developed a standardised and replicable methodology that measures circular employment in cities around the world. This opens up the possibility of monitoring circular employment and therefore empowers cities and governments to effectively invest in the jobs of the future.

The initial findings of this joint research show that 8.1% of all jobs in the Netherlands are currently circular. Once identified, the circular jobs were categorised according to the seven key elements of the circular economy, showing that a large majority are focused on ‘incorporating digital technology’ and ‘preserving and extending what’s already made’. In the past fifteen years, activities that involve ‘repair & maintenance‘ have remained stable in numbers, with the ‘incorporation of digital technologies’ becoming an up and coming job provider. This points to the importance of knowledge-intensive industries and innovation within the Dutch economy.  

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