Circular economy is an economic model based on the recognition of the finite nature of available resources. It therefore aims at systematically reducing their use, as opposed to the currently dominant economy based on the linear scheme: extracting, manufacturing, consuming and throwing away. Circular economy is inspired by the natural ecosystem functioning. It tends to organize loops of matter and energy flows.
Circular economy is built around three rules:
- Reducing: limiting the resource extraction and consumption
- Re-using: increasing the objects lifespan by promoting their fixing, reuse and use shared use
- Recycling: recovering and rehabilitating raw materials by reintegrating them into production in order to improve product life cycles
Circular economy involves re-configurating production and consumption systems and even reshaping our relationship to natural resources and their value. It is a systemic approach which results in a combination of actions and a research for synergies at different scales. In the agricultural sector, these actions can be carried out at farm level (micro on-farm-methanisation feed self-sufficiency in concentrates and fodder…), between farms (mutualisation of tools, closing of nutrient cycles…), between different stakeholders in the sector (use of co-products, unsold or off-sized products…), or by integrating stakeholders from other sectors of activity (energy recovery, bio-based materials, sludge from treatment plants…).
It is supported by public policies. In France, the energy transition law for Green Growth (2015), the Circular Economy Roadmap (2018) and the Anti-waste law (2020) provide a regulatory framework and an implementation strategy.
The restructuring of the systems initiated by circular economy aims at making them evolve in a perspective of economic, environmental and social sustainability. By crossing some dimensions of bioeconomy, circular economy is a vector of agroecological transition.
References to explore
European Commission Environment. 2019. Circular Economy : Implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Food and the circular economy :Deep dive.
Ghisellini, P., Cialani C., Ulgiati, S. 2016. A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. Journal of Cleaner Production 114 (7). 11-32.
Korhonen, J., Honkasalo, A., Seppala, J. 2018. Circular Economy: The Concept and its Limitations. Ecological Economics 143. 37-46.
Stahel W. R. 2019. The Circular Economy. A User’s Guide. 1st Edition, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 102 p.