Journal Circular Economy And Sustainability

The Circular Economy and Sustainability journal aims to bring a new approach of the key concepts of circular economy and sustainability, by combining the scientific disciplines of economy, management, engineering, technology, environment, and society.

As circular economy is necessary today to promote the goals of sustainable development, these scientific areas are not independent to each other, but their relations, interactions and synergies exist and should be further developed and studied. Interdisciplinary approaches and multiple connections between these scientific areas are required not only to reach the sustainability goals but also to solve diverse environmental problems, expand technological limits and overcome potential economic disturbances.

This approach is expressed with new policies (command and control, market-based instruments, and circular public procurement), technological suggestions (e.g. technical cycle solutions), environmental engineering technologies (e.g., waste management, 3r strategies, water recycle, wastewater treatment and reuse, renewable energy), circular business models, circular innovations, circular management solutions, consumers’ behavior in circular economy, new circular economy products labels and social acceptance in circular economy. These topics could be classified in three levels; the micro-level (firm-level engineering and managerial level), meso-level (industrial ecology, industrial symbiosis, eco-clusters, eco-industrial parks), and macro-level (general policies, plans, green and sustainable entrepreneurship).

All content in the journal will in 2020 and 2021 be freely accessible to everyone


Latest Results

The latest content available from Springer
  • Circular Economy and Sustainability
    21 June 2021
  • Drivers and Barriers for Implementation and International Transferability of Sustainable Pop-up Living Systems
    21 June 2021

    Abstract

    In the current urban system, characterised by a one-directional flow of resources from the rural environment to the cities, the construction sector plays a critical role in supporting the transition from a linear to a circular economy. In this framework, temporary pop-up environments act as an innovative and sustainable type of living system. These are structures conceived as temporary from the outset, based on characteristics like flexible light-weight technologies, fast and easy assembly operations, temporary occupation of the ground and adaptability to different uses, needs and target groups. Great importance is placed on construction reversibility and environmental sustainability. In the framework of the interdisciplinary research project ‘Urban Pop-Up Housing Environments and Their Potential as Local Innovation Systems’, six scenarios of application for temporary pop-up environments for the city of Vienna have been developed, taking into consideration technical, urban and social aspects, on the basis of local uses and climatic conditions. In order to explore drivers and barriers of the scenarios regarding the transferability of the concepts, online questionnaire sessions were conducted with an international audience. The feedback obtained by the participants allowed an analysis of the applicability of the concepts to other urban environments under comparable conditions at the international level. The paper presents the results obtained from the questionnaire sessions, allowing insight on the international perception of temporary pop-up environments and, specifically, strengths and weaknesses of the scenarios, as well as their possible applicability in the local contexts of the respondents. It was observed that while the perceptions of what requirements temporary housing must fulfil in order to be sustainable are quite uniform among the experts, the identified barriers for implementation within the different international contexts differed greatly. The designs of these temporary housing scenarios, which rely heavily on local resources and systems, are strongly interwoven with the fabric and conditions of the city they were conceptualised for. While this serves to promote the sustainability of these solutions, it poses a particular challenge for the international transferability, requiring heavy adaptation for other contexts.

  • A New, Consonant Approach of Circular Economy Based on the Conservation of the Fundamental Scalars of Physics
    19 June 2021

    Abstract

    Literature so far illustrates different approaches to achieving circular economy (CE). It is increasingly important that every industry explores opportunities to transitioning towards CE doing it through process streamlining or via uses of technology to transform/exchange the resources. We recognize the difficulties faced by researchers in consolidating key aspects to CE, due to still fragmented knowledge base. To clearly identify these aspects is somewhat difficult due to the fragmented knowledge over applications of circular economy. However, any holistic approach is possible by considering the performance of the growth (in our temporal visible world) and that of innovation and creation as a result of the introspection of the temporal invisible world (thought and inspiration), in terms of three fundamental scalars in nature, mass, energy, and time transformed by natural action and human action, in order to define the circularity for any group, category, and type of product. We consider that the effect of any action should be evaluated by determining the most probable results and the dynamic of any process (using statistics), by considering the transformation of the three fundamental scalars. This article presents a consonant approach of the economy, aiming to optimize the intervention of humans in the natural environment and its performance and having the scope of the integration of the human actions in the natural cycles, to secure sustainability.

  • Correction to: Manufacturing Zero-Waste COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment: a Case Study of Utilizing 3D Printing while Employing Waste Material Recycling
    18 June 2021

    A Correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1007/s43615-021-00061-w

  • Towards a Circular Economy for African Islands: an Analysis of Existing Baselines and Strategies
    15 June 2021

    Abstract

    In recent years, the concept of circular economy has gained increasing attention from both businesses and governments. The African continent has started to adopt circular economy–related policies at national or regional levels, but it is not yet mainstream. Literature on circular economy has mainly focused on developed countries in the global north with limited attention given to the potential of circular economy for developing countries especially in the context of African islands. In this paper, we fill this gap by providing existing baselines regarding CE for 9 African islands and present their existing strategies that could foster the development of a circular economy. Adopting the Ellen MacArthur Foundation diagram and the ReX framework, we use different components of the combined frameworks to situate the various initiatives. We show that African islands have led an array of initiatives especially in waste management and also in regenerating natural resources. However, various challenges remain, such as the lack of national umbrella frameworks that would ensure circularity across actions. Countries with more favourable socio-economic and political contexts such as Reunion Island or Mauritius implement policies relating to a circular economy. However, these countries and others, such as Maldives or Seychelles, also have a high level of material consumption that requires changes from production to consumption stages. Countries with challenging contexts, such as Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Comoros and to a lesser extent Cabo Verde, have less dedicated policies but various dispersed activities such as using renewable energy that could contribute to circularity. Extraction of natural resources in these countries remains an important source of growth that requires a systemic change towards circularity. Embracing a circular economy presents various opportunities to African islands especially considering the blue economy agendas adopted in these islands.

  • Education in Ecological Engineering—a Need Whose Time Has Come
    12 June 2021

    Abstract

    Overcoming Limitations of Ecology and Engineering in Addressing Society’s Challenges

    By providing an integrated, systems-approach to problem-solving that incorporates ecological principles in engineering design, ecological engineering addresses, many of the limitations of Ecology and Engineering needed to work out how people and nature can beneficially coexist on planet Earth. Despite its origins in the 1950s, ecological engineering remains a niche discipline, while at the same time, there has never been a greater need to combine the rigour of engineering and science with the systems-approach of ecology for pro-active management of Earth’s biodiversity and environmental life-support systems. Broad consensus on the scope and defining elements of ecological engineering and development of a globally consistent ecological engineering curriculum are key pillars to mainstream recognition of the discipline and practice of ecological engineering.

    The Importance of Ecological Engineering in Society

    In this paper, the importance of ecological engineering education is discussed in relation to the perceived need of our society to address global challenges of sustainable development. The perceived needs of industry, practitioners, educators and students for skills in ecological engineering are also discussed.

    The Importance and Need for Ecological Engineering Education

    The need for integrative, interdisciplinary education is discussed in relation to the scope of ecology, engineering and the unique role of ecological engineering.

    Scope for a Universally Recognised Curriculum in Ecological Engineering

    The scope for a universally recognised curriculum in ecological engineering is presented. The curriculum recognises a set of overarching principles and concepts that unite multiple application areas of ecological engineering practice. The integrative, systems-based approach of ecological engineering distinguishes it from the trend toward narrow specialisation in education. It is argued that the systems approach to conceptualising problems of design incorporating ecological principles is a central tenant of ecological engineering practice.

    Challenges to Wider Adoption of Ecological Engineering and Opportunities to Increase Adoption

    Challenges and structural barriers to wider adoption of ecological engineering principles, embedded in our society’s reliance on technological solutions to environmental problems, are discussed along with opportunities to increase adoption of ecological engineering practice. It is suggested that unifying the numerous specialist activity areas and applications of ecological engineering under an umbrella encompassing a set of core principles, approaches, tools and way of thinking is required to distinguish ecological engineering from other engineering disciplines and scale up implementation of the discipline. It is concluded that these challenges can only be realised if ecological engineering moves beyond application by a relatively small band of enthusiastic practitioners, learning by doing, to the education of future cohorts of students who will become tomorrow’s engineers, project managers, procurement officers and decision makers, applying principles informed by a growing body of theory and knowledge generated by an active research community, a need whose time has come, if we are to deploy all tools at our disposal toward addressing the grand challenge of creating a sustainable future.

  • A Call for a Socially Restorative Circular Economy: Waste Pickers in the Recycled Plastics Supply Chain
    11 June 2021

    Abstract

    The labour-intensive task of waste collection for recycling is critical to contemporary forms of corporate circularity. In low- and middle-income countries, waste pickers underpin the recycling loop of the circular economy. Where informality and working poverty are the norm, waste pickers typically receive little social protection, work in dangerous conditions, and earn low wages. Nevertheless, waste pickers’ work addresses multiscalar environmental problems from localised flooding of plastic-clogged waterways, to preventing the release of greenhouse gases when plastic is burnt. Here, we review recent academic and grey literature on waste picking, the social circular economy, and corporate circularity to understand the role and position of waste pickers in the contemporary circular economy. We explain how given the recent outcry against plastic waste, and subsequent corporate commitments to plastic recycling, there has been greater action on material flows than in support of the people who move these flows. Overall, the corporate response remains limited, with a general preference for recycling over redesign and only a fifth of packaging accounted for. Based on this review, we present two models. The first is a hierarchy of plastic recycling showing the foundational role of waste pickers in the recycled plastics supply chain. As plastics move up the hierarchy, their value increases and working conditions improve. We also propose a new model for a socially restorative circular economy which provides fair pay, safe working conditions, social protection, legal rights, voice, respect, services, and education. Some governments, co-operatives, non-governmental organisations, and businesses are already working towards this—and their work offers pathways towards a new standard of fair trade recycled materials. We argue that for true sustainability and the best version of circularity to be achieved, deeply ingrained social challenges must be resolved.

  • Alkali-Activated Materials and Geopolymer: a Review of Common Precursors and Activators Addressing Circular Economy
    05 June 2021

    Abstract

    Introduction

    The vast increase in CO2 and waste generation in recent decades has been a major obstacle to sustainable development and sustainability. In construction industry, the production of ordinary Portland cement is a major greenhouse gas emitter with almost 8% of total CO2 production in the world. To address this, Alkali-activated materials and geopolymer have more recently been introduced as a green and sustainable alternative of ordinary Portland cement with significantly lowered environmental footprints. Their use to replace Portland cement products generally leads to vast energy and virgin materials savings resulting in a sustainable concrete production. In doing so, it reuses the solid waste generated in industrial and manufacturing sectors, which is aligned with circular economy. In turn, it reduces the need for ordinary Portland cement consumption and its subsequent CO2 generation.

    Objective

    To provide further insight and address the challenges facing the substitution of ordinary Portland cement, this article reviews different types, mechanisms, and result of mechanical and durability properties of alkali-activated materials and geopolymer reported in literature. Finally, it discusses future projections of waste materials that have cementitious properties and can replace ordinary Portland cement and be used in alkali-activated materials and geopolymer.

    Graphical abstract

  • Implementing Industrial Symbiosis Incentives: an Applied Assessment Framework for Risk Mitigation
    03 June 2021

    Abstract

    Industrial symbiosis (IS) is a business model that proposes symbiotic exchanges, allowing the flow of resources, wastes, and utilities between companies. In recent years, IS initiatives have been exponentially growing around the world. This can be attributed to the increasing awareness on the possibility of obtaining economic, environmental, and social benefits through the implementation of this model. Despite the exponential growth of IS initiatives, the companies are still facing problems in the achievement of reliable and permanent synergies. Over the years the literature has identified several factors in the IS emerging process. Incentives are among these factors, being defined as unlocking tools or mechanisms related to diverse dimensions such as economic, political, social, intermediaries, process, and technology. Authors believe that the large-scale implementation of IS incentives has not been properly addressed. In order to promote facilitated IS implementation and achieve a replicator effect, incentives should be fully addressed. In many case studies, it has been observed that the incentives for IS can be threatened by risks, compromising the implementation, and hindering the emerging process. This study developed a dedicated framework that is composed of incentive identification from best practices of IS and expert consultation; a risk assessment model based on risk factors identification and clustering; and finally, the mitigation actions based on the assessment outputs. The main result of this study is one set of mitigations actions that correlate the implementation levels (clusters) and the potential stakeholders involved.

  • What Is the Relation between Circular Economy and Sustainability? Answers from Frontrunner Companies Engaged with Circular Economy Practices
    02 June 2021

    Abstract

    The circular economy (CE) concept has become a major interest for companies, promising new business opportunities and a decrease in environmental impacts. Though research on circular business models has recently increased, few scholars have investigated how companies engaged with CE view the connection between CE and sustainability. To address this gap, this paper uses a semi-quantitative survey and semi-structured interviews conducted with companies based in Italy and the Netherlands. Purposive sampling was employed to target firms associated with national and international CE networks, as these companies already engage with CE practices. The survey was distributed online to over 800 firms, of which 155 provided information on their understanding of the CE concept and its relationship with sustainability. The survey results are complemented through findings from 43 interviews with a subset of the survey respondents. The survey answers show that companies view CE as one of the tools to achieve sustainable development, particularly in the environmental domain, where the focus lies on environmentally friendly resource use. Yet, the respondents are less confident whether CE increases economic and social benefits of firms. Interviews show that a majority of respondents position sustainability as the overarching concept. However, most companies advocate that the private sector should strive for both sustainability and circularity, though the distinction between the two concepts in daily business operations seems synthetic and futile to some. These findings provide an important stepping stone for better understanding how firms could apply CE practices to move towards a more sustainable society.

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