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Academic/Research paper

Circular economy – From review of theories and practices to development of implementation tools

Author: 
Yuliya Kalmykova, Madumita Sadagopan, Leonardo Rossa
Publication Date: 
08/2018
Country: 
Sweden

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The paper provides an overview of the literature on Circular Economy (CE) theoretical approaches, strategies and implementation cases. After analyzing different CE approaches and the underlying principles the paper then proceeds with the main goal of developing tools for CE implementation. Two tools are presented: a CE Strategies Database, which includes 45 CE strategies that are applicable to different parts of the value chain and secondly a CE Implementation Database, which includes over 100 case studies categorized by ScopeParts of the Value Chain that are involved, as well as by the used Strategy andImplementation Level. An analysis of the state of the art in CE implementation is also included in the paper.

One of the observations from the analysis is that while Parts of the Value Chain (recovery/recycling, consumption/use) are prominently featured, others, including manufacturing and distribution, are rarely involved in CE. On the other hand, the Implementation Levels of the used Strategies indicate that many market-ready solutions already exist. The Scope of current CE implementation considers selected products, materials and sectors, while systemic changes to the economy are rarely suggested. Finally, the CE monitoring methods and suggestions for future development are also discussed in this paper. The analysis of the theoretical approaches can serve as an introduction to CE concept, while the developed tools can be instrumental for designing new CE cases.

Unlocking circular business: A framework of barriers and drivers

Unlocking circular business: A framework of barriers and drivers

Author: 
Nina Tura, Jyri Hanski, Tuomas Ahola, Matias Stahle, Sini Piiparinen, Pasi Valkokari
Publication Date: 
03/2019
Country: 
Finland

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Circular economy increasingly attracts the interest of business, policy makers and academia in the search for answers to sustainability challenges. While earlier studies have presented drivers that support the introduction of new business concepts for circular economy, as well as barriers that hinder the rate of innovation in the field, no systematic categorizations of such factors have been brought forward.

Drawing on current literature, a framework of drivers and barriers is introduced, including seven distinct areas: environmental, economic, social, political and institutional, technological and informational, supply chain, and organizational factors. The appearance and content of these areas in practice have been examined in four case organizations by conducting thirty-six qualitative, semi-structured interviews. Empirical illustrations of the potential barriers and drivers provide managerial implications for better execution of circular business.

Digital strategies for greater material efficiency in German industry

Digital strategies for greater material efficiency in German industry

Author: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan / Edgar Schmitz
Publication Date: 
05/2017
Country: 
Germany

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Contact: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan

This study delivers the first empirical findings on the relevance of digitisation to improving material efficiency based on the German company survey ‘IW-Zukunftspanel’.

German manufacturing firms have up to now only rarely digitised material efficiency measures to a great extent. If they are - particularly in large companies - they tend to be used for process optimisation. Around two fifths of the companies are at least moderately digitised in relation to the most important industrial efficiency measures, namely process optimisation and the use of new techniques, but there is still more than a third that is not at all. Companies have most frequently digitised cross-company materials cycles, but this instrument is only applied by two fifths of industrial companies. There is still potential for more digitisation of measures relating to product design, materials cycle management and new business models.

At least every other manufacturing company reuses residue and waste materials via internal circulation systems. Nevertheless, for two fifths of these companies digital networks do not play any part and in the case of a further two fifths, the part they play is minor. Only one in ten companies is heavily digitised. More than half of industrial companies use resource-saving measures that begin at the product design stage. To date, almost half of these companies are not digitally networked, or if they are, it is only to a small extent. One third of the industrial companies up to now have considered new business models as an efficiency-raising way. Of these, three out of ten have not been digitised yet with a further two fifths having only a minor level of digitisation.

Companies that have already embedded digitisation in their strategy are frontrunners for greater material efficiency, since they more frequently use material efficiency measures intensively, are more likely to recognise further potential savings and their efficiency-saving approaches are also clearly more often highly digitised.

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Economía Circular y Empleabilidad de los Jóvenes en la Comunidad de Madrid

Circular Economy and Youth Employability in the Comunidad de Madrid
Author: 
Eva Ramón, Franco Llobera, Manuel Redondo
Publication Date: 
04/2018
Country: 
Spain

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Contact: 
Eva Ramón

The Centro de Documentación Europea de la Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (European Documentation Centre, UFV) has completed a project titled Economía Circular y Empleabilidad de los Jóvenes en la Comunidad de Madrid (Circular Economy and Employability of Young People in the Autonomous Region of Madrid).

The outcomes include a report on communicating the circular economy through the lens of employment opportunities circular business models provide for young people. The project has also created a guide on communicating the circular economy to students, which introduces the subject, presents the 7R model and shows how innovative companies provide opportunities for employment in circular business.

2018_Wat_Sci_Tech_Incover_final publicado

Start-up of a microalgae-based treatment system within the biorefinery concept: from wastewater to bioproducts

Author: 
Enrica Uggetti, Joan García, Juan Antonio Álvarez and María Jesús García-Galán
Publication Date: 
12/2018
Country: 
United Kingdom

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Contact: 
Juan Antonio Alvarez Rodriguez

Within the European project INCOVER, an experimental plant uses low-energy photobioreactors to cultivate micro-algae and transform wastewater into bioproducts.

This article describes this new experimental plant and the start-up stage, starting from the new design of three semi-closed horizontal photobioreactors with low energy requirements, for microalgae cultivation (30 m3 total), using agricultural runoff and urban wastewater as feedstock.

The inflow nutrients concentration is adjusted to select cyanobacteria, microalgae able to accumulate polyhydroxybutyrates, which can be used for bioplastics production. Part of the harvested biomass is used as substrate for anaerobic co-digestion (AcoD) with secondary sludge to obtain biogas. This biogas is then cleaned in an absorption column to reach methane concentration up to 99%. The digestate from the AcoD is further processed in sludge wetlands for stabilization and biofertilizer production.

On the other hand, treated water undergoes ultrafiltration and disinfection through a solar-driven process, then it is pumped through absorption materials to recover nutrients, and eventually applied in an agricultural field to grow energy crops by means of a smart irrigation system. This plant presents a sustainable approach for wastewater management, which can be seen as a resource recovery process, more than a waste treatment.

Two years later: the EU Circular Economy Package

IW Report
Author: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan
Publication Date: 
04/2018
Country: 
Germany

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Contact: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan

The EU Circular Economy Package pushes forward the concepts of ‘recycle, repair and re-use’, as well as waste avoidance. To comply with the Package many EU countries will need a completely new waste treatment system, and many companies will need to re-think some established business models.

Two years after adopting the Circular Economy Package, the EU institutions have finally agreed on a new EU waste regulation. The paper entitled Two years later: the EU Circular Economy Package evaluates recent EU policy moves and decisions. It also analyses the status quo of Germany's circular economy efforts and compares them to those of other EU member states. Finally, some of the risks and opportunities for companies are outlined.

This paper is an update of a previously published policy paper by Dr. Adriana Neligan (2016), which discussed the Package after it was presented in late 2016.

2025 recycling target: only 10 EU countries on track

Author: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan
Publication Date: 
04/2018
Country: 
Germany

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Contact: 
Dr. Adriana Neligan

Two years after adopting the Circular Economy Package, the EU institutions have finally agreed on new EU waste rules. Despite lower recycling targets as originally envisaged, most countries still have to push recycling to meet the goals. A single method of determining recycling rates was also decided, but an exemption will continue to allow for disparate recycling rates.

Recycling has become increasingly important in Europe: EU recycling rates increased from 32 to 46 per cent between 2005 and 2016. Yet, more progress is needed to reach the targets.

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

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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.

Developing a national programme for textiles and clothing recovery

Developing a national programme for textiles and clothing recovery

Author: 
Mohammad Bukharu, Ruth Carrasco-Gallego, Eva Ponce-Cueto
Publication Date: 
03/2018
Country: 
France

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Textiles waste is relatively small in terms of weight as compared to other waste streams, but it has a large impact on human health and environment, and its rate is increasing due to the ‘fast fashion’ model. In this paper, the authors examine the French national programme for managing post-consumer textiles and clothing through a case study research.

France is the only country in the world implementing an extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy for end-of-use clothing, linen and shoes. The case highlights the benefits of using an EPR policy and provides interesting insights about the challenges faced by the textiles waste sector. For instance, the EPR policy has contributed to a threefold increase in the collection and recycling rates of post-consumer textiles since 2006. In addition, the material recovery rate of the post-consumer textiles can reach 90%, 50% of which can be directly reused. However, the ‘reuse’ stream is facing some challenges because its main market is in Africa and many African countries are considering banning the import of used textiles to encourage a competitive textiles industry locally and internationally.

The EPR policy shows a great potential to identify new markets for ‘reuse’ and to improve the textiles waste sector. Such an EPR policy also could drive societies to financially support innovation and research to provide feasible solutions for fashion producers to adopt eco-design and design for recycling practices. This paper provides guidance for policy makers, shareholders, researchers and practitioners interested in diverting post-consumer textiles and clothing waste from landfills and promoting circular textiles transition.

The circular economy: New or Refurbished as CE 3.0?

The circular economy: New or Refurbished as CE 3.0?

Author: 
Denise Reike, Walter J.V. Vermeulen, Sjors Witjes
Publication Date: 
08/2018
Country: 
EU

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Contact: 
Denise Reike

Over the last decade, the concept of the circular economy has regained attention, especially related to efforts to achieve a more sustainable society. The ‘revival’ of the circular economy has been accompanied by controversy and confusion across different actors in science and practice. With this article the authors attempt at contributing to advanced clarity in the field and providing a heuristic that is useful in practice. Initially, they take a focus on the historical development of the concept of circular economy and value retention options for products and materials aiming for increased circularity.

The authors propose to distinguish three phases in the evolution of the circular economy and argue that the concept – in its dominant framing – is not as new as frequently claimed. Having established this background knowledge, they give insights into ‘how far we are’ globally, with respect to the implementation of circularity, arguing that high levels of circularity have already been reached in different parts of the globe with regard to longer loop value retention options, such as energy recovery and recycling. Subsequently, the authors show that the confusion surrounding the circular economy is more far reaching. They summarize the divergent perspectives on retention options and unite the most common views using a 10R typology.

From their analyses, the authors conclude that policymakers and businesses should focus their efforts on realization of the more desirable, shorter loop retention options, like remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing – yet with a view on feasibility and overall system effects. Scholars, on the other hand, should assist the parties contributing to an increased circular economy in practice by taking up a more active role in attaining consensus in conceptualizing the circular economy.

Food packaging in the circular economy: Overview of chemical safety aspects for commonly used materials

Food packaging in the circular economy: Overview of chemical safety aspects for commonly used materials

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Author: 
Geueke, Birgit, Groh, Ksenia, Muncke, Jane
Publication Date: 
05/2018
Country: 
Switzerland

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Contact: 
Birgit Geueke

Food packaging facilitates storage, handling, transport, and preservation of food and is essential for preventing food waste. In the existing economic system, food packaging is generally designed for single-use and discarded after relatively short periods of time, a scheme that is no longer acceptable in the transition to a circular economy.

This paper offers a detailed analysis in food packaging materials with respect to properties, recycling, and contaminants. It also discusses different approaches such as weight reduction versus recyclability or deposit and reuse schemes for permanent material-based food packaging.