Over the barriers: co-developing policy mixes for circular economy

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference AbstractScientificpeer-review


    The circular economy (CE) has recently gained increasing attention as an approach to enhance the transition to a more sustainable economy. The concept has its roots in the theoretical traditions of ecological economics and industrial economy emphasizing the need to shift from the ‘take-make-dispose’ linear economic model towards circular one, in which a waste or side stream of one process functions as a resource in another one. Despite of decades of academic research, the concept of circular economy has entered only recently into European policy agenda.

    The current policy landscape of circular economy is complex and ranges from the governance of production, consumption, waste management, environmental protection, resource efficiency, green public procurement to innovation, among others. The need of transformative policies, which simultaneously constrain unsustainable activities and encourage environmentally sound activities to stimulate systemic transitions is well recognized In sustainability transitions literature. The current research on policy mixes for sustainability transitions has strong focus on low carbon transitions and resource efficiency, while a limited number of studies has been made on policy mixes in circular economy.

    Our presentation will shed new light on the complexity of developing policy tools for boosting transition towards circular economy. We do this by exploring how emerging Finnish circular economy ecosystem on textile recycling can be boosted through various policy tools. Today, only a fraction of all textiles is recycled or reused. The global demand for textile products is increasing due population growth and economic development. Significant environmental and resource challenges are foreseen, as the majority of textile fibres are produced either from petrochemicals or from cotton, which is associated with water depletion and toxic pollution due to intensive use of water and pesticides during the cultivation. The transition of the textile sector towards a circular economy requires fundamental changes to how the industry operates. Thus, textile recycling ecosystems are globally interesting cases as they aim at changing the current linear mode of operation for producing, distributing, and using textiles.

    To study the transformative role of policy design, we focus on following research questions (RQ);

    RQ 1. What are the main factors helping and hampering the development of a textile recycling ecosystem?

    RQ 2. What kind of policy tools could enable the formation and growth of the ecosystem?

    RQ 3. How policy mixes can be (re)-designed to overcome the barriers and to foster the transition towards CE?

    To answer the research questions we will 1) map the key barriers and failures hampering the formation and development of the textile recycling ecosystem, 2) evaluate the existing policy instruments and mixes, and 3) identify and design potential policy mixes in collaboration ecosystem actors. We will use a mixed method approach, which combines policy mix framework, and technological innovation system (TIS) functions analysis, and apply them to the field of circular economy and sustainability transitions. The primary data consists of semi-structured interviews of the key ecosystem actors, and academic and grey literature on existing policies and policy mixes.

    As policy tools are an integral part of circular economy transition and may induce various unanticipated impacts, there is an urgent need to increase the reflexivity of policy development in this issue area. Based on our empirical findings, we will contribute to the scientific discussion of orchestrating circular economy transition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible
    Event10th Annual International Sustainability Transitions Conference, IST 2019 : Accelerating sustainability transitions: Building visions, unlocking pathways, navigating conflicts - Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
    Duration: 23 Jun 201926 Jun 2019


    Conference10th Annual International Sustainability Transitions Conference, IST 2019
    Abbreviated titleIST2019
    Internet address


    • circular economy, policy mixes, circular economy ecosystems


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