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Circular Economy

… concerning energy and materials?

On its most fundamental, physical level the circular economy changes the way we deal with stocks and flows of energy and materials. Barriers concern among others our use of (fossil) materials as energy and a deteriorating quality of materials over repeated use.

Use of materials as energy

A barrier is the large amount of materials used for energy generation. For these materials, and, in particular, for fossil energy carriers, closing the loop is not possible and a high share of these materials keeps the degree of circularity low. Whereas sustainably produced biomass that is recycled within the biosphere can be an important component of a circular economy, reducing the consumption of fossil energy carriers is necessary to further raise the degree of circularity of the economy. The energy transition from fossil to renewable energy resources is therefore an important prerequisite for moving toward circularity.

Haas, Krausmann, Wiedenhofer, & Heinz. 2015, p10.

Storage of materials as in-use stocks

A very large fraction of the materials we use still accumulates as in-use stocks. While a certain trend of stock stabilization in industrial countries can be observed, globally stocks are growing at high rates and might continue to do so. As long as additions to stocks grow at such high rates, even high end-of-life recycling rates will make a limited contribution to overall circularity.

Haas, Krausmann, Wiedenhofer, & Heinz. 2015, p10.

Resource quality

Material barriers, mainly in the resource quality, make recovery difficult or impossible.

Benton & Hazell, 2013, p24-26.