6 February 2020

Novel policy ideas for the transition to a circular economy

The circular economy (CE) is championed in the EU as the new economic approach for a sustainable future. But how do we make this happen when only 28% of CE articles provide concrete recommendations to policy-makers? In a recent study, researchers from the Education University of Hong Kong and Utrecht University talked to a broad range of CE practitioners to identify novel and concrete policy ideas that would help reach a circular economy.

There are a few studies out there already that look into CE policies. However, these studies only look at existing policies. “They are somewhat stuck in the status quo,” explains Julian Kirrchher from the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. “With our approach, we found novel policy ideas for CE - policies that experts ask for, but that nobody has implemented yet.”

Identification of eight desired policies for CE

The researchers talked to 47 CE experts including scholars, businesses and policy-makers and asked them what CE policies they wish for. They identified eight policies for a CE via this approach, including:

  • More regulation of circular standards and norms. This means that only products with a certain minimum level of circularity features should be allowed to enter the market.

  • More circular procurement. To create markets for circular companies, governments need to make sure everything they buy is circular, even if this is more expensive than the linear alternatives.
  • Reduced VAT for reused products and products with a high share of recycled content to make these products more appealing to consumers 
  • Government-run campaigns on circularity – something like the anti-smoking-campaigns of the previous decades, but now with a positive spin.

“The scholarly literature could do a lot more to help in the transition towards a more circular economy,” says Kirrchher. “This is why we wanted to write a really practical paper on CE that would be of instant use to practitioners.”

Further reading

Hartley, K., van Santen, R., & Kirchherr, J. (2020). Policies for transitioning towards a circular economy: Expectations from the European Union (EU). Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 155, 104634