Utrecht University: Three inconvenient truths about Circular Economy

In the EU funded CRESTING project eight European universities, and partners in Africa and Asia, collaborate in deepening the understanding of CE discourses and practices across the world. Researchers Martin Calisto Friant, Kieran Campbell-Johnston and Kaustubh Thapa of Utrecht University have disclosed three inconvenient truths about circular economy practices so far, and policy advises to deal with these.

Inconvenient truth #1
Circularity means more than just technological innovations for material and industrial efficiency. To bring about a truly fair, democratic, and sustainable ecological transition the circular economy must also mean circulating wealth, power and knowledge in fundamentally redistributive manners. In this video, we dive into the discourses on circular economy and present the research of Martin Calisto Friant, PhD candidate, focussing on the transformative approach which many researchers now call a circular society as opposed to simply a circular economy.

Inconvenient truth #2
What happens to your mobile phone, fridge, or laptop when you’re done with it? Where does it go and why does this matter? We are living on a finite planet, with limited and scarce resources. Yet, recycling still often means downcycling. The challenge is to design policies that promote the recovery of scarce and critical materials during the recycling stage. In this video, we dive into the world of electronics and present the research of Kieran Campbell-Johnston, PhD candidate, who examines existing policies and practices for a circular economy.

Inconvenient truth #3
When you follow the second-hand electronics and electric equipment it often still flows from Europe to African countries like Nigeria. So it is not about one life cycle, but multiple cycles, crossing border all the way to low income countries. These second-hand products also become e-waste, far away from the country where producers are responsible for sound e-waste management. In this video, we dive into the world of waste leakages and present the research of Kaustubh Thapa, PhD candidate, who shows that it is essential to explicitly incorporate the international dimension in circular economy policies and actions.

The three researchers will present their main finding in the final CRESTING Conference external link, titled “Circular Economy: Sustainability Implications of a Social Transformation”, on December 15th and 16th, 2021, in London (also online).

Dr Walter Vermeulen is leading this Workpackage 1 of the project, focussing on the lessons to be learnt about circular economy policies implemented in the last decade. The recent policy prominence of the topic in the EU has inspired much activity, but practice is variable, both by location and between different materials, also including transboundary movement of waste.