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Decoupling or ‘Decaffing’? The Underlying Conceptualization of Circular Economy in the European Union Monitoring Framework

ICEDE Research Group, Applied Economy Department, University of Santiago de Compostela, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain
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Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4898; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184898
Received: 8 July 2019 / Revised: 25 August 2019 / Accepted: 5 September 2019 / Published: 7 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
In recent years, the shift to a circular economy (CE) has become an increasingly important component of the European Union’s development strategy. However, no consensus has yet been reached on the depth of the transformation this implies, nor on the most appropriate strategy for its measurement. In 2018, the European Commission presented a monitoring framework to evaluate the progress made in this transition, focused on the priority objectives of the European strategy for the CE. This article aims to discuss the conceptualization of the CE behind the selection and interpretation of the metrics proposed by the commission. It is argued that the chosen indicators are mostly concerned with material self-sufficiency and recycling, neglecting other dimensions of the concept more closely related to systemic change. Moreover, some issues that are relevant from a CE perspective, such as the disparate distribution of recyclable material flows among EU Member States in terms of value and environmental impact, are overlooked in the interpretation of the available information. Consequently, a more ambitious and diverse selection of metrics is suggested to reflect the wider socio-economic and environmental objectives of the CE, thus preventing the dissemination of a limited version of the concept. View Full-Text
Keywords: circular economy; monitoring framework; circularity metrics; trade in recyclable materials; secondary raw materials; systemic change circular economy; monitoring framework; circularity metrics; trade in recyclable materials; secondary raw materials; systemic change
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Llorente-González, L.J.; Vence, X. Decoupling or ‘Decaffing’? The Underlying Conceptualization of Circular Economy in the European Union Monitoring Framework. Sustainability 2019, 11, 4898.

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