Breaking the Barriers to the Circular Economy

Utrecht University
Publication Date
October, 2017
Language for original content
Julian Kirchherr

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, the Netherlands and Deloitte have jointly carried out research on barriers to the Circular Economy (CE) in the European Union. For this research, a survey with 153 businesses, 55 government officials and expert interviews with forty-seven thought leaders on the circular economy from businesses, governments, academia and NGOs have been carried out. Two types of barriers emerged as main barriers.

Firstly, there are the cultural barriers of lacking consumer interest and awareness as well as a hesitant company culture. This finding is at odds with claims that the circular economy concept is hyped; rather, the concept may be a niche discussion among sustainable development professionals.

Secondly, market barriers emerged as a core category of barriers, particularly low virgin material prices and high upfront investments costs for circular business models.

Government intervention might be needed to overcome the market barriers which then may also help to overcome cultural barriers. Cultural barriers do also need to be overcome by circular start-ups. And, even though there is still no circular startup that has made global headlines, this may change soon.