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Making Sense of the Circular Economy

The 7 Key Elements

Incorporate digital technology

Collaborate to create joint value

Finding a Common Language

Design for the future

Rethink the business model

Ensure renewable, reusable, non-toxic resources are utilised as materials and energy in an efficient way.

Prioritise regenerative resources

The circular economy has seen a significant increase in interest over the past few years and is continuing to gain steady momentum. 


With this surge in popularity, many mention the term “circular economy” or “circular principles” without really explaining what they mean. On the other hand, if the term is defined, the definition widely varies depending on the problems being addressed, the audience, or the lens through which the author views the world. 


In an effort to define a common language for the circular economy, Circle Economy has mapped the various terms and definitions used by over 20 organisations - NGOs, government agencies, academia, consultancies, etc. - working on elements of the topic. After interpreting and grouping these various terms, seven key elements emerged that defined the majority of terms linked to the circular economy. 


Account for the systems perspective during the design process, to use the right materials, to design for appropriate lifetime and to design for extended future use.

While resources are in-use, maintain, repair and upgrade them to maximise their lifetime and give them a second life through take back strategies when applicable.

Preserve and extend what’s already made

Work together throughout the supply chain, internally within organisations and with the public sector to increase transparency and create joint value.

Consider opportunities to create greater value and align incentives through business models that build on the interaction between products and services.

Utilise waste streams as a source of secondary resources and recover waste for reuse and recycling.

Use waste as a resource

Track and optimise resource use and strengthen connections between supply chain actors through digital, online platforms and technologies that provide insights.

We would love to hear from you!

What do you think of this perspective on the key aspects of the circular economy? How does your organisation define the circular economy?