Special Issue "Visions, Values and Principles for a Sustainable Circular Economy"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 21 March 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Phil Purnell
Guest Editor
Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Interests: materials; infrastructure systems; resource recovery from waste; cities; interdisciplinary research; durability and resilience; autonomous systems and robots; infrastructure economics
Dr. Anne Velenturf
Guest Editor
Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Interests: circular economy; participation process management; governance; business model innovation; network analysis; sustainability; transdisciplinary research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Circular economy promises to support sustainable development by making better use of resources; minimising natural resource extraction and the generation of wastes, and optimising the environmental, social, technical and environmental value of resources throughout the lifecycle of materials and products (Velenturf et al 2019). In response to a world where resource scarcity and price volatility, on-going environmental degradation and growing social inequality are becoming pressing issues, circular economy has gained momentum among governments, businesses and communities around the world (Purnell et al 2019). However, many unsustainable practices are being presented as ‘circular’ owing to a lack of clarity and rigour in presenting what sustainable circularity actually means.

Circular economy theory and its practical implementation are faced with fundamental challenges such as: Can we grow the economy and restore natural capital at the same time? In what ways does circular economy result in social benefits? How can lifestyles become less material intensive, while maintaining and/or increasing quality of life? How can circular economy get to grips with equality, from redistributing income to equal opportunities and access to resources for current and future generations? How can we transform current practices into a sustainable circular economy through a series of gradual changes? 

This special issue aims to bring together your ideas to answer the question: What is a sustainable circular economy? Whether you are an academic or an expert in industry, government or the civil sector, we would like to hear from you:

  • CRITIQUES: What is wrong with the current principles underpinning a circular economy? Where is theory underlying circular economy falling short? What are the unsustainable practices being presented as circular?
  • DREAMS: What are the ideal outcomes when we implement a circular economy? What could and should a sustainable circular society be like? What are the important considerations that should frame our thinking about a sustainable future?
  • IDEAS: What are the radical ideas that could strengthen the sustainability credentials of circular economy? What are the subject areas and societal, cultural and political beliefs, trends and philosophies that circular economy could learn from?

We look forward to your contributions which we aim to bring together in a shared vision for a sustainable circular economy and an agenda for transformative research and implementation.

Prof. Dr. Phil Purnell
Dr. Anne Velenturf
Guest Editors


  1. Velenturf, A.P.M., Archer, S.A., Gomes, H., Christgen, B., Lag-Brotons, A.J., Purnell, P. (2019) Circular Economy and the Matter of Integrated Resources. Science of The Total Environment, Vol. 689: 963-969. 
  2. Purnell, P., Velenturf, A.P.M., Marshall, R. (2019) 16. New governance for the circular economy: the policy, regulation and market context for resource recovery from waste. In: Resource Recovery from Waste: Towards a Global Circular Economy, edited by L. Macaskie, D. Sapsford, W. Mayes, Royal Society of Chemistry.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Circular economy
  • Sustainable development
  • Whole-system approach
  • Sustainable resource use
  • Production and consumption practices
  • Environmental quality
  • Natural capital
  • Social equity
  • Economic transformation
  • Political-economy
  • Planetary boundaries
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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