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Towards Circular Economy

Exploring states´ incentives for change

Written by Jonas Andersson

Paper category

Master Thesis


Political Studies




Master Thesis: what is a circular economy? CE is an umbrella for many different models of how to change production and the current "Take-make-dispose" linear economy. The first theory of CE as a way to deal with the increase in consumption of raw materials, the scarcity of increasingly important materials, and the promotion of sustainable development appeared as early as 1966 (COM 1977; Boulding 1966), but it has recently More and more attention has been paid to the industrial development debate. These discussions are mainly led by policymakers such as the European Commission (COM 2015, 2017) and state actors (Kalmykova et al., 2018). Although the idea of ​​material circulation has existed since the early days of industrialization (Desrochers 2002; 2004), the current discussions on climate change mitigation and sustainable development have given it strength. Different from traditional recycling, the CE approach, which is oriented by practical policies and commercial advocacy, emphasizes the reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishment, repair, cascading and upgrading of products, components and materials, and regards recycling as a last resort (Kalmykova et al., 2018; MacArthur, 2015). CE concepts are diverse and difficult to define and understand. In this section, I will further understand how the concept of CE is based on a large number of ideas derived from various scientific disciplines, such as astronaut economy (Boulding 1966), growth constraints (Meadows et al. 1972), "cradle to cradle" ( Sahel and Ready-Mulvey 1981; Braungart et al. 2007; McDonough and Braungart 2002; 2003), industrial ecology (Frosh and Gallopoulos 1989; Ayres 1996; Lifset and Graedel stable in 2019); national economy (Daly 2005) and performance economy ( Stahel 2010). In addition to the mature research fields (such as ecological economics) with a long tradition in recycling and its related issues (Georgescu-Roegen 1971; Daly 1996; Ring 1997; Boulding 1966; Ayres 1999), CE also Provides a natural starting point for other research streams. These include industrial ecosystems (Jelinski et al., 1992) and industrial symbiosis (Chertow and Ehrenfeld, 2012), cleaner production (Ghisellini et al., 2016; Lieder and Rashid, 2016; Stevenson and Evans, 2004) , Product service system (Tukker, 2015), ecological efficiency (Huppes and Ishikawa 2009; Haas et al. 2015; Welford 1998), bionics (Benyus 2002) social ecosystem resilience (Folke 2006; Crepin et al. 2012 ( Stahel), performance economy 2010; EMAF 2013), natural capitalism (Hawken et al., 2008), and the concept of zero emissions (Pauli 2010). This gives an idea of ​​different ways of working within the same framework. 1.2 From linear to circular: In short, CE seems to be able to provide solutions to many complex problems in the 21st century, so it has become a real buzzword among policymakers and researchers. However, it is also generally recognized that the transition from a linear model to a circular model is not easy because it requires new designs, business models, and more cooperation between different participants and departments (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2018). In other words, the transition from linear is not a simple technical project, but a lot of political will. It must also be pointed out that the concept of CE extends beyond commodity production, because CE is also a framework aimed at developing and increasing sustainable consumption. For example, this is achieved by promoting the sharing economy (EMAF 2013 quoted from Korhonen et al., 2018: 545). Research has shown that the benefits of the transition from linear to cyclical models are significant. For example, according to calculations, in the circular model, European gross domestic product (GDP) may grow by 11% by 2030 and 27% by 2050 (compared to 4% and 15% in the linear model) ) (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) 2015). CE emphasizes the reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishment, repair, cascading and upgrading of products, components, and materials, while viewing recycling as a last resort because of its inefficiency (Kalmykova et al., 2018; Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2015 Year; Tierney 2015). After China, the world's largest importer of plastic waste, banned the import of plastic waste on January 1, 2018, this kind of recycling is now unsustainable, which is undeniable (O'Donnell 2018; Mosbergen 2019). Newly established companies in Southeast Asia deal with waste for a fee, but their processing capacity is not controlled (Brooks et al., 2018; Harrabin and Edgington, 2019). It is estimated that 9% of plastics are recycled each year, while 11% goes to landfills, and an astonishing 80% is expected to end up in our nature and oceans (Jambeck et al., 2015; Brooks et al., 2018). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2016), there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. If we do not change our consumption pattern, 20% of new oil production will be used for plastic products, compared to Next five percent today. Today’s linear "acquisition, manufacture, disposal" economic model relies on cheap and easily accessible materials, and has reached the point where the scarcity of certain resources will inevitably lead to changes, and CE is considered the best method (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2015 ) Read Less