As noted above, the notion of circular economy hinges on the effectiveness with which natural resources are used (OECD, 2015). This includes technical efficiency, resource productivity, and reduction of negative environmental impacts and is calculated in economic terms as resource intensity, i.e. “the ratio between the value of economic output from a particular sector or economy, and the amount of resources (typically in terms of weight) used to produce it [...]. An improvement in resource efficiency therefore describes a situation where more economic value is being produced with a particular amount of resources (or one where fewer resources are being used to produce a particular level of economic value)” (McCarthy, Dellink and Bibas, 2018). The circular economy aims at minimising or eliminating product waste and harm to environment, by promoting alternative technical solutions that maximise the use of materials that remain in the supply chain and the amount of time for which they are used. This is “to slow depletion of scarce natural resources, reduce environmental damage from extraction and processing of virgin materials, and reduce pollution from the processing, use and end- of-life of materials” (Ekins et al., 2019). For instance, about 50 million tons of electric waste containing raw materials like iron, aluminium, gold, but also lithium, cobalt, tin and tungsten are created each year for an
annual value of approximately EUR 55 billion (Forti et al., 2020; PACE (Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy), 2019). Metals, however, can be recycled, without loss of function, virtually innumerable times. Lithium batteries for example are recyclable at 95%.9 As opposed to a linear economy, which is based on extraction of natural resources, transformation into capital and products, and disposal, the circular economy is focused on increasing productivity and improving asset utilisation in the face of finite resources, and acts on decoupling economic growth from resource depletion. The implementation of circular economy systems therefore challenges the assumptions and incentives of a linear economy
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