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2022 | Buch

Towards a Circular Economy

Transdisciplinary Approach for Business


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This volume presents a transdisciplinary approach to implementing a circular economy in international business. Written by global experts, this book provides a detailed and professional focus on issues that must be improved in order to successfully implement a circular economy in a variety of industries.

The book begins with a discussion of the theoretical aspects of circular economy and the challenges of going from theory to practice. The following chapters present case studies on the circular economy in different sectors of international business such as food systems, mineral processing, water management, energy process, waste management, the cement industry, and 3D printing. Issues such as the role of SMEs in the circular economy, and the progress towards circular economy 3.0, and strategies for teaching the circular economy are also discussed. The volume ends with a critique of the concept of circular economy and suggestions for future research avenues.

Written with multiple stakeholders in mind, this volume will be of interest to researchers and students of economics, sustainability, international business, and management as well as industry professionals and governments working towards establishing a circular economy in their fields and jurisdictions.



Circular Economy: Theory and Practice

Chapter 1. Introduction to the Circular Economy
The circular economy is based on waste management and the generation of new inputs that are alternatives to the current materials in use. For the current status of the world, greenhouse gases are emitted that are a main cause of climate change and that are caused by the increasingly widespread extractive economy based on the concept of “extract-produce-throw.” The concept of circularity is increasingly discussed among companies, governments, and citizens, in the context of how to develop their activities in an environmentally benign and ecoefficient way. This involves reducing or avoiding waste as much as possible, substituting materials that are used today for more advantageous ones, and utilizing new technology for the processing of waste. Wastes come in many forms, e.g., plastic, food, and manufacturing residuals.
Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales, Marc A. Rosen
Chapter 2. Circular Economy Research: From Theory to Practice
Circular economy offers a compelling alternative to linear consumption and production practices that waste monetary and physical resources. However, the inconsistent development, implementation, and assessment of circular business models have hindered widespread adoption and realization of sustainability benefits from circular economy solutions. This chapter reviews the development of the circular economy field, drawing from foundational theories in management, science, economics, and design. To demonstrate the varying scales and scopes at which circular economy has been applied in practice, we review implementation challenges and success for the food system, consumer electronics, and cross-cutting examples in other sectors. Critical needs are also discussed for assessing circular economy models to avoid unintended consequences or rebound effects that offset potential environmental, social, or economic benefits.
Erinn G. Ryen, Callie W. Babbitt, Komal Kooduvalli
Chapter 3. Conceptualization of Circular Economy 3.0: Synthesizing the 10R Hierarchy of Value Retention Options
Over the last decade, the circular economy (CE) concept has regained attention, especially regarding efforts to achieve a more sustainable society. Controversies and confusions have accompanied the “revival” of the circular economy concerning its meaning across different actors in science and practice. In Chaps. 3 and 4, we advance clarity in the field through a historical analysis of the evolution of circular economy as a concept and provide a heuristic typology around the stratified use of resources, which forms one of the fundamental principles and strategies in the circular economy.
Chapter 3 is primarily based on our earlier published review of circular economy research and the 10R typology of resource value retention options (ROs) for products we suggested until 2018 in academic publications. A more detailed discussion is given in “The circular economy: New or Refurbished as CE 3.0? - Exploring Controversies in the Conceptualization of the Circular Economy through a Focus on History and Resource Value Retention Options” in Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2018). In Chap. 3, we summarize the review core message and reflect upon the role that CE definitions and CE strategies take in shaping CE uptake and in directing implementation actions by societal actors. In the next chapter, we give illustrations on the application of the 10Rs. In Chap. 4, the reader can find the operationalization of the framework in the form of short sector case studies – these illustrate how Dutch(−based) firms in the sector of mobility, clothing, and electronics apply and combine these ten-value retention options in practice.
Below, we first distinguish three phases in the evolution of the circular economy, showing that the concept is not as new as frequently claimed and demonstrating the change of meaning and terminology the concept underwent over time. We continue to show the confusion around the circular economy, and it meanings, more specifically, the cacophony around the principle of resource value retention that we had identified in our literature review. To unite the existing views for more clarity in the field, we introduce a 10R typology synthesizing the most common views.
Denise Reike, Walter J. V. Vermeulen, Sjors Witjes
Chapter 4. Working with the New Conceptualization of Circular Economy 3.0: Illustrating the Ten Value Retention Options
This chapter provides several illustrative examples, mainly from the Dutch context, showing the application of the 10R framework of value retention options presented in the previous chapter, both for the product produce and use lifecycle, the product concept, and design lifecycle.
Denise Reike, Walter J. V. Vermeulen, Sjors Witjes
Chapter 5. The Circular Economy: A Critique of the Concept
The circular economy is an increasingly influential school of sustainable economic thinking, dominating recent five-year plans in Chinese policy and regularly featuring the sustainability discourse in the European Union and beyond. It is often said that the history of a concept tells us more about it than the concept itself, so we begin by contextualizing the circular economy through its historical development. We then compare and contrast the two dominant geopolitical versions of the circular economy, the Chinese and Western (European) models, identifying differences and issues in underlying principles. Particular attention is paid to the impact of populist economics and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dual Circulation Strategy of the 14th Five-Year Plan is then examined. In order to explore the current and future prospects for the circular economy, we explore the Earth system, on which, ultimately, our species relies upon. By teasing apart its functionality, two levels of organization emerge: local and global. The chapter ends by exploring the concept of sustainable economics and concludes by identifying the key characteristics of such a concept.
Keith R. Skene

Circular Economy: Business Applications

Chapter 6. Waste Management and the Circular Economy
Waste production is a significant problem affecting territories worldwide due to human activities linked to economic development and resource consumption, both in developed and developing countries. Approximately 7–10 billion tons of waste per year are produced worldwide, and large quantities of resources are expended on managing this waste. In the future, due to the world’s increasing population and economic development, waste production could become even more significant. In this context, waste management companies play a significant role in the social and economic development of territories and, thus, the general welfare of communities. The “circular economy approach” – requiring actions at all stages of the life cycle of products – may help to rethink the overall waste management issue. In particular, given the scarcity of natural resources for many countries, efficient collection and recovery of waste likely make sense, enabling the transformation of wastes into resources that can be re-introduced into the economic system as secondary raw materials, leading to both environmental and economic advantages.
Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales, Marc A. Rosen
Chapter 7. The Circular Economy and Energy
When energy is considered, the circular economy seeks ways to reduce the environmental impact of energy systems by reducing energy use and waste generation. Design facets related to energy, especially energy selection and energy efficiency, are essential considerations in the circular economy and are described in this chapter. The descriptions are supported by background material on energy and its conversion. Then, energy use is discussed, and its impact on the environment is described. Efficiencies and other measures of merit for energy use are presented, and designs for energy selection and energy efficiency are described, highlighting energy-related design factors for the circular economy. For illustration, an example is presented.
Marc A. Rosen
Chapter 8. Supply Chain and Circular Economy
Organizations have been transforming their operations under the circularity scheme, leading to a series of changes to make the supply chain sustainable. In this chapter, various components of circularity in processes are described. Detailed information is presented on companies making efforts to develop or implement supply chains based on the circular economy, such as ports. In addition, the necessary certifications are discussed to achieve harmonization regarding electrification of vehicles and agreed to global principles aligned with the Paris Agreement to achieve decarbonization of the oceans.
Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales, Marc A. Rosen
Chapter 9. Public Policy for Circular Economy: The Case of the National Strategy of Circular Economy in Colombia
This chapter analyzes the National Strategy of Circular Economy in Colombia as the first public policy in Latin America on the topic. The National Strategy aims at improving resource efficiency through technological innovations and new business models as a response to resource scarcity and climate change. The public policy invites companies, entrepreneurs, business associations, agriculture associations, universities, research institutions, and diverse governmental institutions to adopt circularity as a new paradigm for innovation of production and consumption systems. The process of formulation of the National Strategy of Circular Economy, involved a bottom-up approach by organizing 20 regional workshops with stakeholders to discuss the circular perspective, priorities, indicators, initiatives, and stimuli to scale systematic changes. Early advances of the National Strategy stimuli include; innovation of regulations, capacity-building programs, information systems, international cooperation, and the identification of entrepreneurial cases. This chapter describes the background of the National Strategy of Circular Economy, the process of development, content, and early advances. Lessons learned are analyzed using the conceptual frameworks of institutional capacity building and power of network governance, thus contributing to the understanding of methodologies to develop public policies in circular economy.
Bart van Hoof, Alex Saer
Chapter 10. Circular Economy as a Mechanism of Resilience Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire global dynamic, causing numerous rapid adaptation processes by companies to survive. The positive impact caused by quarantine via reducing NO2 contamination is examined in this chapter. Perhaps, once countries resume their usual activities, atmospheric NO2 concentrations will rise again. Plans made in Europe are written as the European Green Deal. The Donut Economics approach is also described. Finally, initiatives being developed in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are presented.
Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales, Marc A. Rosen, Santiago Diaz-Risco, Coralia Mesa-Gomez

Teaching and Research on Circular Economy

Chapter 11. Limits to Sustainable Development Goals: Discussing Lessons from Case Studies in (Un)sustainable Production
Closed-loop production strategy, which aims to retain the highest utility and value of products, components, and materials at all times, aims to address resource depletion as part of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 12, concerned with “responsible consumption and production.” The circular economy is based on the 9R principles, supporting closed-loop systems, such as the circular economy and Cradle to Cradle (C2C), promising absolute decoupling of resource consumption from economic activity. However, while the SDGs single out “inclusive economic growth” as an overarching aim, economic growth is the cause of unsustainability, and absolute decoupling is impossible. This chapter addresses broader lessons from the critical assessment of products that strive toward or claim full circularity. This chapter discusses some supposedly “circular” or C2C products analyzed by business students. These case studies have taught the students more significant lessons concerning the limitations and paradoxes of production. The discussion section delves into the subject of how applying “ideal” and “realistic” circularity principles can help students to develop critical thinking about the SDGs in general and “responsible production and consumption” in particular.
Helen Kopnina
Chapter 12. University Contributions to the Circular Economy
We will begin with an introduction to the circular economy, an abstract concept that can be applied to any industry or business. This chapter will address the principles based on theoretical and empirical models that support the decision of universities to influence and improve the circular economy policies to ensure a sustainable impact in the long term, including the pillars of sustainable development. Likewise, we will look at the role of universities as drivers of education towards ecological economics that minimizes the production of residues and waste that puts effectiveness and efficiency at risk. Finally, we will examine the possible limitations and conflicts of concepts in the circular economy.
Alfredo Estrada-Merino, Aldo Alvarez-Risco

National and International Experiences in the Circular Economy

Chapter 13. Dissemination of Circular Water Practices in Colombia
In Latin American circular economy practices, water is a fundamental resource. The region holds strategic water-related ecosystems, its economic activities are predominantly based on water-intensive agriculture, and part of its energy is hydro-powered. This chapter describes a model for circular water management among firms located around the Bogotá River basin in Cundinamarca, Colombia. The firms took part in a triple helix partnership, named RedES, using learning by doing, and a facilitation methodology, for strengthening capacities of companies for collaborative projects design. The RedES experience shows how the dissemination of circular water management in a territory contributes to water security by conserving water sources. This chapter highlights the key features of the RedES model for scaling circular water practices, the impacts on resource efficiency obtained by participating firms, and the lessons learned, thus contributing to the understanding of models to disseminate circular economy in water management.
Alejandro Medina-Aristizabal, Bart van Hoof
Chapter 14. The Circular Economy: The United Kingdom
The circular economy addresses the economic, environmental, and social challenges primarily. The last recent studies show that its application has been understood in various ways. It suggests that the development and effects will be determined according to the policies and social collaboration in general. It will be regardless of the country that adopted the model. For instance, different studies that evaluated the effects of the circular economy in the EU have shown significant results, such as a radical transformation of business practices with new processes and new disruptive business models. However, these results can be contemplated by seeing the economy as a whole structure.
Patricia Tapia-Meza, Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales
Chapter 15. Implementation and Scalability of Circular Practices in the Leather Tanning Industry: Evaluation of a Colombian Tannery
The leather industry plays an important role in the circular economy as it reuses the by-products of the meat industry and the generation of high-impact waste streams in the production process. In the long term, the resource-intensive production model of a tannery, using high volumes of water, heavy metals, and discharging organic waste and sewage, is unsustainable. In contrast, a circular economy (CE) approach, based on the optimization of resources and comprehensive improvement of systems, presents opportunities to improve resource efficiency and related environmental sustainability, of the tannery industry. This chapter identifies circular practices and potentially scalable technologies in tanneries by analyzing their technological, economic, and organizational viability. A Colombian tannery firm representative for the small- and medium-sized enterprises in the sector is used as a case for evaluation. Recommendations are made for scaling circularity models in tanneries in Colombia and other countries with similar conditions.
Paula Barco, Bart van Hoof
Chapter 16. Circular Economy and Recycling in Peru
Recycling as a form of material recovery in Peru is increasing every year; tens of thousands of recyclers participate and benefit, either formally, which is the lowest percentage, or through informal recovery. Both forms of healing make it possible for waste to be valued and maintain its circularity to contribute to the circular economy. Formally, there are already legal regulations that encourage segregation programs in municipalities, and it is through principles, guidelines, roles, and competencies that oblige to segregate waste at the source of generation and a roadmap to migrate from a linear economy to a circular where sustainability is promoted from the extraction of the raw material, through the different processes to the recovery of the materials.
Eduardo De-La-Torre-Jave, Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales
Chapter 17. X Economies: Towards Comprehensive Policy Intelligence Among Economy Visions and Practices in Europe and Latin America
We observe a proliferation of various economic visions and practices (e.g., Blue Economy, Circular Economy, Digital Economy, Social Economy). In this chapter, we conceptualize such newly proposed economy visions and practices as specific cases of a general meta-level concept, X economies, and introduce an indicator-based emphasis on the interactions among them to attain comprehensive sustainability outcomes. “X economies", as technologies of economy, are being proposed as systemic and societal fixes to various ills of the current political-economic system at the socio-technical regime level, yet the role and the importance of the interactions among them to substitute it as an alternative in-the-making are overlooked in the literature. To this end, we constructed X Economies Index (XEI), which quantifies how countries in Europe and Latin America perform in each X economy’s environmental, social, governmental, economic, and scientific dimensions, including their interactions. XEI covers in total 58 indicators for 48 countries in Europe and Latin America. The results emphasize the need for comprehensive policy intelligence for human-centered governance of the interactions among X economies to create further positive impact and accelerate multiple system transitions, societal transformations, and change.
Serdar Türkeli, Iris Bleisteiner, Léa Cenci, Raphaela De Dominicis, Elodie Demanet, Gabriela Lopez Ramirez, Daniel Müller
Chapter 18. Globalization and Circular Economy
Globalization is a dynamic process that has led to constant trade based on export/import, often neglecting ecological production processes. During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deglobalization process has taken place to achieve the survival of many companies, mainly SMEs; however, in parallel, there has been the globalization process, which in these times demands that they use resources in an efficient way, which is why the globalization processes for economic reactivation must follow circular economy processes.
María de las Mercedes Anderson-Seminario, Aldo Alvarez-Risco
Chapter 19. Closing Remarks
Throughout this book, information has been presented and described on potential approaches for allowing the circular economy to increase in implementation and impact and, at the same time, on underlying mechanisms that help to improve processes from physical-chemical and thermodynamic points of view. Likewise, efforts have been made to show the evolution over time of the circular economy; to establish the theoretical foundations for circular economy 3.0, which seeks to maximize value retention of resources; to replace virgin material inputs with secondary resources and to launch new business model incentives; and to describe the 10Rs hierarchy of the circular economy value proposal. The 10Rs are refuse, reduce, resell/reuse, repair, refurbish, remanufacture, repurpose, recycle, recover, and re-mine. The understanding provided by the last point is necessary to classify efforts that can contribute to the practical implementation of the circular economy.
Aldo Alvarez-Risco, Marc A. Rosen, Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales
Towards a Circular Economy
herausgegeben von
Aldo Alvarez-Risco
Marc A. Rosen
Shyla Del-Aguila-Arcentales
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