In the face of pressing socio-economic and environmental challenges coupled with an extreme use of natural resources, the concept of a circular economy has emerged as a promising sustainable paradigm that is attracting significant public and private interests. This is reflected in policy instruments and strategies, research, as well as private sector commitments to circularity. Reference to circularity principles can be found, among others in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 121, calling for responsible consumption and production, the European Union (EU) Circular Economy Action Plan (EC, 2020a), and the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE),2 launched by the World Economic Forum. However, although the potential of a circular economy concept is recognized in policy, there is no clear and cross-cutting definition of what circularity means, often being mixed up with sustainability concepts and, at times, the bioeconomy (Kirchherr et al., 2017).
The concept of a circular economy is commonly characterized as a way to reduce resources consumption by slowing, closing and narrowing resource loops (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017). For instance, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has defined a circular economy as an “industrial economy that is restorative and regenerative by intention and design”, relying on three principles, namely, the (i) preservation and enhancement of natural capital, (ii) optimization of resource yields and (iii) fostering systems effectiveness (EMF, 2012, 2015).