Material politics in the circular economy: The complicated journey from manure surplus to resource

Maria Åkerman (Corresponding Author), Niko Humalisto, Samuli Pitzen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Promotion of the circular economy (CE) has become one of the key policy objectives in the EU in the late 2010s. The power of the concept lies in the promise of decoupling economic growth from the increasing usage of virgin resources by closing the material loops. In this article, we investigate the material politics of the CE by means of an in-depth case study of how one pioneering biogas company in Finland struggled to undo a disruptive regional manure surplus by turning it into a resource in energy and fertilizer production. We treat this novel nutrient recycling business model as a political technology that aimed to rearrange existing metabolic relations in order to solve the problem of intensive pig farming that generated too much manure for sustainable utilization in the area. At the same time, their business model clashed with the various categorizations and technologies of governance that stabilized the status quo. These clashes embody the underlying societal tensions of the CE transition, which do not manifest themselves as open conflicts in public arenas. We claim that these obstacles point to challenges of unmaking material surplus with CE business models when the surrounding economy leans on a linear material flows and keeps growth on track.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-80
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Biogas production
    • Circular economy
    • Manure
    • Material politics
    • Nutrient recycling


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