A policy framework for the circular economy : Lessons from the EU

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Kris Hartley
  • Steffen Schülzchen
  • Conny A. Bakker
  • Julian Kirchherr


Original languageEnglish
Article number137176
Journal / PublicationJournal of Cleaner Production
Online published11 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


Transitioning from the 'take-make-dispose' linear production system to a circular economy can strengthen sustainability, and governments play a vital role. Recent scholarship has investigated policies for circular economy transition, but few studies take a perspective on circularity reform that spans geographies, industries, and product life-cycle stages. This article fills that gap by introducing a policy framework for the circular economy that includes over 100 policy instruments. The framework is developed from a review of 572 studies published in the academic and grey literature, along with policy databases and other documents. The findings are validated and supplemented by data from 33 semi-structured interviews with circular economy experts including scholars, policymakers, and representatives from NGOs and businesses. Derived primarily from the EU context but broadly applicable, the framework categorizes circular economy policies into nine groups. Six groups correspond to stages of the product life-cycle and three are overarching, capturing a holistic perspective mostly lacking in the literature. This study aims to promote a more structured discussion about circular economy policies and provides directions for future research by identifying topics where scholarship is thin. In addition to advancing theory, the framework can also serve as an assessment lens for designing circular economy policies. © 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • Circular economy, Resource efficiency, Public policy, Regulation, Sustainability transition, Industrial ecology, EUROPEAN-UNION, ECO-INNOVATION, BARRIERS, DRIVERS, CHINA, EFFICIENCY, IMPACT

Citation Format(s)

A policy framework for the circular economy: Lessons from the EU. / Hartley, Kris; Schülzchen, Steffen; Bakker, Conny A. et al.
In: Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 412, 137176, 01.08.2023.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review