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Towards a circular economy

The concept of the circular economy is not new. Nowadays, there are more than 100 different definitions of the circular economy, being heavily used in the scientific literature and by a wide range of cross-field professionals. 

The reason that there are so many different definitions in use of circular economy lies behind its concept, which is applied by a diverse group of researchers and professionals according to their field of interest. 

There are two types of definitions. The first one is focused on the use of raw materials, while the second one highlights  the need for system changes. 

Definitions that focus on resource use often follow the 3-R approach:

  • Reduce (minimum use of raw materials)
  • Reuse (maximum reuse of products and components)
  • Recycle (high quality reuse of raw materials)

Definitions that focus on system changes often emphasize three elements below:

  • Closed cycles
  • Renewable energy
  • Systems thinking