Review on “critiques of the CE” paper

Based on an extensive literature review the paper brings together critiques on circular economy. Following list covers some of them.

  • concept vagueness
  • conflicts and trade offs are often overlooked
  • collection of heterogeneous scientific and semi-scientific concepts
  • mostly developed by practitioners
  • conceptual fragmentation and lack of paradigmatic strength
  • not a theory but an emerging approach
  • in its multiplicity it provides with a new framing but there is increased scrutiny to its operationalization
  • cyclical systems also consume resources, create waste and emissions
  • complexity of waste: recycling markets are unpredictable
  • difficulty in connecting waste streams to production
  • waste a resource increases waste
  • emphasis on manufacturing flows rather than stocks/ stock is overlooked
  • global south is excluded
  • actual enactments are limited
  • circular business models can only be validated when products are recirculated and resold
  • lack of means to measure circularity of business models
  • circular innovation is hard to scale up
  • customers are lacking awareness
  • lack of consumer interest is a common problem for green offerings
  • issues of power remain underplayed on who’s to gain from turning circular
  • it revolves around a relatively small fraction of materials in the global throughput
  • it is uncertain on what level circular products can actually substitute for conventional linear products
  • having relied mostly on engineering and natural sciences, circular economy shows a neglect of the social pillar
  • it is not a socially or political neutral system: societal benefits of a new circular model should be established in a more fundamental and sound manner than just traditional cost-benefit analysis
  • the expectation that the individual consumer will be able to mobilize large scale change is unrealistic
  • potential gains from recycling are eaten up by increased consumption
  • risk of increased polarization between city and country and that the countryside is left out with poorer access to welfare services as a result

Sounds harsh, but most of it is true. Problem with some of this critique is that it examines CE within the linear economy paradigm. Criteria against which CE is contested here are based on either the clash of CE with existing models (ie waste stream management) or the strongly embedded modernist consumer(ist) habits. These can not possibly change overnight. Absence of the social pillar is pretty accurate though, as well as the asymmetry to CE implementation between the Global North and Global South. Which brings us perhaps to the most important point made in the paper, the acknowledgement that CE is not politically neutral. And unless CE is recognized for its political and (may I add) ethical stance, its implementation will always be lacking and the social pillar will always be suppressed.

References

Corvellec H, Stowell A, Johansson N. Critiques of the circular economy. J Ind Ecol. 2021; 1–12.
https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13187 available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jiec.13187?af=R

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s