The linear economy, wherein natural resources are obtained, turned into products and discarded as waste after limited time, was for a long time perceived as the best way to achieve economic growth. However, it has become clear that this economic growth is unsustainable because the earth’s supply of natural resources is finite. Its counterpart is the circular economy, which focuses on regenerative design and maximizes the potential of natural resources by recycling the re-usable components of products, thereby keeping them longer in the economic process. The EU has acknowledged the need to shift away from its linear economy in order to realize a more inclusive, sustainable and competitive economy.
A transition to a circular economy, as any major societal transition, represents also a major policy challenge as policy needs to understand how to support the transition and how to take care of any stakeholders that are real or perceived potential losers. As policies aiming at the transition to a circular economy have multiple objectives they require a deep understanding of the impacts of the different policy options and on who is affected by those impacts. To steer a successful transition to the circular economy, policy makers need to understand which changes to processes can and will cause which impacts with respect to resource efficiency but also with respect to growth and jobs. Especially in the current political circumstances a successful transition and transition policy will require a clear focus on the impact of the transition policy on jobs and growth.
CIRCULAR IMPACTS aimed at assisting policy makers in realizing the transition from its current predominantly linear economy to a circular economy, by establishing a flexible and accessible evidence base (https://measuring-progress.eu/) with concrete data on macro-economic, societal, environmental and labour market impacts of this transition, and by adding relevant knowledge to that evidence base. For this purpose a web platform was designed, which facilitates easy access to data repositories and aims to fill up the existing knowledge gap in the European Commission’s impact assessments.
Specifically, CIRCULAR IMPACTS conducted the following activities:
• Develop a theoretical structure of the circular economy in order to then understand the evidence base needed to conduct impact assessments for initiatives to foster the transition to a circular economy.
• Collecting and unifying current collections and databases of evidence useful for this purpose, and making them available to all stakeholders.
• Conduct case studies in different member states and different sectors of the circular economy to understand good practices and the economic, societal and resource-efficiency impacts of different circular economy.
• Understanding with interactive stakeholder engagement tools the impact and limits of the transition on different sectors.
• Using the assembled existing evidence base and the evidence from case studies to estimate the impacts in the in the short, medium and long-term.