Circular economy

Scale level :
Definition :

Circular economy is an economic model based on the fact that the amount of available resources is limited. It therefore aims at systematically reducing their use, as opposed to the currently dominant linear economy based on the following scheme: extracting, manufacturing, consuming and throwing away. Circular economy is inspired by the natural ecosystem functioning. It tends to organize the closing of matter and energy flows.

Circular economy is built around three pillars:

  • Reducing: limiting the resource extraction and consumption
  • Re-using: increasing the objects lifespan by promoting their fixing, re-using and use sharing
  • Recycling: recovering and rehabilitating raw materials by reintegrating them into production in order to complete 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 on different scales. In the agricultural sector, these actions can be carried out at farm level (micro-methanation on the farm, food 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 oversized 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) and the Circular Economy Roadmap (2018) 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.

Published on 28 January 2020

Bibliographic references :

European Commission Environment. 2019. Circular Economy : Implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2017. What is the circular economy? 

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.

To quote this definition or part of it :
Florent Arthur, Landry Devin, Hugo Luzi, Jean-Philippe Choisis, Amélie Gonçalves. 2020. Circular economy : Definition. Dictionnaire d'Agroecologie, https://dicoagroecologie.fr/en/encyclopedia/circular-economy/

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