1st Edition

The Impossibilities of the Circular Economy Separating Aspirations from Reality

    332 Pages 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    332 Pages 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The fifth Factor X publication from the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA), The Impossibilities of the Circular Economy provides an overview of the limits to the circular economy, emphasising the relationship between integrated resource use and more systemic leadership-management approaches.

    On a European level, the book ties into the recent European Green Deal and aims to empower actors across sectors and EU member countries to transition from existing linear models of value capture and expression to more systemic-circular solutions of value capture and expression. The volume provides a hands-on contribution towards building the knowledge and skill sets of current and future decision-makers who face these complex-systemic crises in their day-to-day business. The book further provides access to best practices from cutting-edge research and development findings, which will empower decision-makers to develop a more sustainable and equitable economy.

    Providing solutions for a more sustainable economy, this book is essential reading for scholars and students of natural resource use, sustainable business, environmental economics and sustainable development, as well as decision-makers and experts from the fields of policy development, industry and civil society.



    The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available

    under a Creative Commons Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivatives 4.0 license.


    1. Circularity dreams: denying physical realities

      • Reinier de Man

    2. Does waste equal food? Examining the feasibility of circular economy in the food industry

      • Helen Kopnina, Francesco Boatta, Mariusz Baranowski, and Floris de Graad

    3. 'The impossible dream’: can the circular economy alone solve waste management complexities of the Global South?

      • Aneta Slaveikova Nikolova and David Ness

    4. The entropic nature of the economic process: a scientific explanation of the blunder of circular economy

      • Mario Giampietro

    5. The impossibility of circular recycling

      • Jonas Huether, Charlotte Joachimsthaler, and Martin Faulstich


    6. Circular economy, sustainability and functional differentiation: an impossibility and its strategic-methodological implications

      • Monika Gonser and Christoph Hinske

    7. Circularity is not sustainability: how well-intentioned concepts distract us from our true goals, and how SiD can help navigate that challenge

      • Tom Bosschaert

    8. Circular Economy: from panacea for sustainability to conceptual and resource realities

      • Theodoros Semertzidis

    9. Some observations on the current Circular Economy model: in particular, the mineral-metal-material stream blind spots

      • Simon P. Michaux and Alan R. Butcher

    10. Circular economy leadership: leadership mindsets and behaviours – the unseen impossibility

      • Maureen Metcalf and Christoph Hinske

    11. Can there be a responsible narrative about the circular economy?

      • Roger Strand

    12. Who has discursive agency to change global environmental narratives? Insights from the China-EU cooperation discourse on circular economy

      • Anran Luo

    13. Brazil's structural issues in advancing the circular economy: the case of biogas

      • Laís Forti Thomaz, Nathália Fernandes Pimentel, and Suzana Borshiver



    14. The Circular Economy should finally demand the impossible

      • Lisa Doeland

    15. System leadership for overcoming the impossibilities of a circular economy

      • Christopher Beehner

    16. From closed to open systems: applying systems thinking to reframe strategic decision-making

      • Sandra Hoomans and Martin Welp

    17. Truly circular economies require deep collaboration: the principles underlying successful circular economies

      • James L. Ritchie-Dunham

    18. Development and implementation of resource labelling

      • Klaus M. Dosch and Alexa K. Lutzenberger

    19. Circularity’s stumbling blocks: how stuttering implementation and socio-metabolic root causes adversely interact

      • Willi Haas



    20. Global resource use and the future: any room for the circular economy?

      • Harald U. Sverdrup, Ole van Allen, and Anna Hulda Olafsdottir

    21. Regenerative economy: the embedding of circularity

      • Daniel Dahm

    22. Circular Economy through a system change lens

      • Tilmann Vahle, Janez Potocnik, and Martin Stuchtey

    23. Practising circular economy: stumbling blocks for circulation and recycling

      • Henning Friege and Klaus Kuemmerer

    24. Implementation of refuse derived fuel technology toward achieving sustainable circular economy: potentials and compatibility in Bangladesh.

      • ANM Safiqul Alam

    25. From profit to prosperity: making the impossible possible through integral investing

      • Mariana Bozesan

    26. Coming full circle: putting the social into circular economy

      • Corinna Vosse


    Harry Lehmann is General Director of the Environmental Planning and Sustainability Strategies Division of the German Federal Environment Agency. He was an early member and is now the President of the Factor 10 Club for resource productivity and sustainable use of natural resources. He is one of the founders of Eurosolar, and since 2011 he has been Executive Chairman of the World Renewable Energy Council.

    Christoph Hinske is Associate Professor of System Leadership-Management, SAXION University of Applied Sciences, School of Finance and International Business; Founder of 360° Dialogues. He lectures on societal transformations at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and advises Global Action Networks, financial institutions and Transformation Networks. He is a fellow at the European School of Governance.

    Victoire de Margerie is the Founder and Vice-Chairman of the World Materials Forum and Executive Chairman of Rondol. She has spent 35 years in the Materials Industry in Canada, France, Germany, UK and USA, first as an Executive and since 1999 as a Board Director (now Arkema and Eurazeo). She was elected an Academician at the National Academy of Technologies of France in 2020.

    Aneta Slaveikova Nikolova is the Climate Policy Lead, Environment and Development Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific UNESCAP. Ms Nikolova heads a climate action team focusing on climate finance, Paris Agreement implementation and review of national GHG reduction commitments. She has vast experience in sustainable development policy and advocacy, capacity development and technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition.