KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

Circular Economy

How is waste handled in a circular economy?

For successful  waste collection in a circular economy, co-operation with other stakeholders is essential. Another important element is separating waste in valuable streams.


In a circular economy, local authorities should work in collaboration with waste- and resources contractors. Household waste collection systems are optimally designed to maximize the quality of recycling. The waste industry should invest in new technologies and new collection systems to enable the capture of new material streams from the household waste sector.

ESA, 2012, p.7

Retailers are key

Large retailers should work in partnership with the waste and resources industry. Waste flows from retailers will be minimized and then captured for recovery. Organic material is collected separately and sent through processes which can recover valuable nutrients and also to generate energy. The waste and resources industry provides recycling infrastructure for retailers, enabling their customers to return materials to the economy as they shop.

ESA, 2012, p.6

Material Recovery Facilities

The recycling of all waste streams is maximised. This either takes place at multi-stream Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), using innovative machinery to sort materials into high quality streams, or at smaller single-stream facilities.

ESA, 2012, p.8

Policy & identifying opportunities

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) developed four steps.

  1. Develop a Circular Economy Policy Statement that clearly signals their role in the supply chain to outside stakeholders;
  2. Identify opportunities to embed the circular economy into day to day activities, strategies and future planning.
  3. Utilise all communication channels to focus on the potential role of a company as a catalyst and facilitator, for engagement and dissemination of circular economy developments;
  4. Invest further time and support in initiatives, linking i.e. designers with waste and resource managers.

CIWM, 2014, p.27

Adjusting production processes

The characteristics of residual stream are already defined during the production proces. Manufacturing in a circular economy has links to design, sales and waste recovery, but some elements that specifically apply for manufacturing are the role of manufacturers, material recovery and LCA calculation.

Role of manufacturers

Manufacturers can ensure products are designed and manufactured with minimal impact to the environment throughout the product’s life cycle. Manufacturers also have the opportunity to offer additional value-added services like repair/maintenance, reuse/redistribution, refurbishment/remanufacture and selling products as a service.

More info on the Circular Economy Toolkit website

Material recovery & residual waste

In a circular economy, waste processors provide raw materials into the manufacturing process, reducing the need to import materials. While the recovery of materials is maximised and fed into production processes, some residual waste is processed into fuels and used as energy, providing heat and power to manufacturers.

ESA, 2012, p.5

Calculate LCA

One of the important elements in manufacturing is determining environmental impact of a product through life cycle assessment (LCA). The results of such an LCA can influence the design process. One website which provides a tool for determining LCA’s for electric, electronic, heating & cooling products, is PEP Ecopassport.

More info on the RIVM & PEP Ecopassport websites