Transition to a circular economy : the intersection of business and user enablement

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Forest Economics

Abstract: In light of increased environmental destruction, resource scarcity and increased waste production the concept of circular economy has gained attention. The aim of this work is to give an insight into the perspectives of businesses and consumers in a circular economy (CE). A systematic literature review is conducted to understand the role of the players within a CE as well as the barriers existing when implementing a circular economy to replace a predominantly linear economic system. An illustrative case study is used as a practical supplement and concrete example of business consumer interaction. The novelty of this study lies in the direct comparison and linkage of businesses and users in a CE. By applying sustainable product design, closing resource loops, implementing service solutions or circularity along their supply chain businesses can move towards circular business models. The barriers businesses face during this process can be of governmental, economical, technological, knowledge and skill, management, infrastructural, culture and social, and market related nature. The illustrative case added the issue of finding the right people to work with to the business barriers. Consumers are key enablers for CE and can actively participate using alternative consumption models such as collaborative, second-hand or access-based consumption. Due to the change in consumption that needs to occur in a CE, consumers also face implementation barriers related to product use, knowledge, infrastructure, economic and attitude. This work concludes that there is a considerable overlap of barriers between businesses and users, who act and interact in many ways along the supply loops. The conflicts of interest occur along the supply loops regarding waste management and the related infrastructure, expected and realised product prices, quality demands and the need for circular product design. The illustrative case shows that a positive relationship and close interaction in the transition phase to CE is possible. However, this work deduces that the barriers for businesses and consumers persist. Overall, this study contributes to the holistic understanding of the circular economy and two major stakeholders in it. It can be a foundation for further research which could include consumer and user surveys and interviews regarding consumer behaviour, demand, perceived obstacles and understanding of CE.

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