Keep circularity meaningful, inclusive and practical: A view into the plastics value chain

Ciprian Cimpan, Eleni Iacovidou, Lucia Rigamonti, Eggo U. Thoden van Velzen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

New policies to promote the circular economy have created an urgent need for businesses and public authorities to quantify and monitor the level of circularity of materials, components and products. However, flows of materials, components and products through society are inherently complex, involving intricate value chains, many stakeholders, and interests. We argue that current actions may be overly focused on superficial effects, and losing sight of true circular economy goals. Using plastic packaging as an example, the present contribution deliberates the questions, “does measuring circularity address its goals?”, “does it cover new technologies and regional specificities?”, and “can its goals be addressed with simple assessment approaches?”. In answering these questions, we argue that there is an impending risk of cementing policy and infrastructures that may not contribute to true sustainability. Furthermore, future technologies and developing regions are hardly included in the current circularity strategies. To further spark a discussion on the challenge of simplicity, we present a scorecard which can help incumbents to approximate the level of sustainable circularity of their products.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Volume166
Pages (from-to)115-121
ISSN0956-053X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1. Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Critique
  • Discussion
  • Perspectives
  • Plastic packaging

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