What is the Circular Economy?

It is an economic system based on business models which replace the ‘end-of-life’ concept throughout the production, distribution and consumption phases…

…operating at:
 the micro level: products, companies, consumers
the meso level: eco-industrial parks, networks and clusters 
and the macro level: city, region, nation and international…

…with the goal of sustainable development, which implies environmental quality, economic prosperity and social equity, for the benefit of current and future generations.

The Circular Regions project is the first of its kind supporting and mapping initiatives bridging bottom-and and top-down; connecting cities to their broader region covering urban and rural solutions.

An analysis in 2017 by Julian Kirchherr, Denise Riche and Marko Hekkert of 114 definitions of the Circular Economy helped conceptualise the concept 

Some of their notes:

  • It was the first comprehensive and systematic analysis of circular economy (CE) definitions 
  • some definitions mistake CE as recycling 
  • link to sustainable development (particularly social equity) is weak
  • it is oftentimes not highlighted that CE necessitates a systemic shift
  • its impact on social equity and future generations is rarely mentioned
  • neither business models nor consumers are frequently outlined as enablers of the circular economy
  • the variety of understandings can result in CE concept eventually collapsing or ending up in conceptual deadlock.

Prior to developing new strategies, policies and recommendations for a city or region, recommendations from researchers clearly state that understanding what is already happening in the Circular Economy in a region is the first step to accelerating it.

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