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Towards A sustainable CircuLar Economy - Combining a material flow with a business and policy perspective (TACLE)

English title Towards A sustainable CircuLar Economy - Combining a material flow with a business and policy perspective (TACLE)
Applicant Hoffmann Volker
Number 172456
Funding scheme NRP 73 Sustainable Economy
Research institution Departement Management, Technologie und Ökonomie D-MTEC ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Science of management
Start/End 01.01.2018 - 28.02.2022
Approved amount 808'342.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Science of management
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (5)

Sustainable Circular Economy; Value Chain Analysis; Innovation Studies; Material Flow Analysis; Life Cycle Assessment

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Um die bislang verborgenen ökonomischen und ökologischen Potenziale einer Kreislaufwirtschaft in der Schweiz zu analysieren, kombinieren wir das Wissen zweier Forschungsgruppen der ETH Zürich zu Material- und Ressourcenflüssen und zu sozioökonomischen Veränderungsprozessen.
Lay summary

Hintergrund
Aktuelle Forschung und praktische Anwendungen einer Kreislaufwirtschaft weisen zwei Schwachstellen auf: das Schliessen von Materialkreisläufen in einer Wertschöpfungskette führt nicht automatisch zu einer ökologischen Verbesserung. Eine Kreislaufwirtschaft ist also nicht automatisch nachhaltig. Zusätzlich wird das derzeitige Verständnis einer Kreislaufwirtschaft oft auf Abfallmanagement reduziert. Dadurch werden wichtige Aspekte der Wertschöpfungskette, wie z.B. neue Geschäftsmodelle für mögliche Verbesserungen ausser Acht gelassen.

Ziel
Mit diesem Projekt wollen wir eine nachhaltige Kreislaufwirtschaft holistisch definieren, indem eine Ressourcen- und Materialflussperspektive und eine sozioökonomische Perspektive kombiniert werden. Dabei adressieren wir die folgende übergreifende Forschungsfrage: Was sind die Potenziale für ein verbessertes Ressourcenmanagement in der Schweiz und wie kann der Weg zu einer nachhaltigen Kreislaufwirtschaft eingeschlagen werden?

Bedeutung
Zur Erreichung dieser Ziele werden wir ökonomische und ökologische Analysen zu ausgewählten Wertschöpfungsketten durchführen und eng verzahnen.
Dabei wollen wir politische Entscheidungsträger unterstützen, um adäquate Rahmenbedingungen für eine nachhaltige Kreislaufwirtschaft schaffen zu können (z.B. Anreizsysteme, Standards). 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Afin d’analyser les potentiels économiques et écologiques encore inexploités d’une économie circulaire en Suisse, nous combinons les connaissances de deux groupes de recherche de l’EPF Zurich sur les flux de matières et de ressources et les processus de changement socio-économiques.
Lay summary

Contexte
Les recherches actuelles ainsi que les applications pratiques d’une économie circulaire présentent deux points faibles: le fait de boucler les cycles de vie des matières sur une chaîne de valeur ne conduit pas automatiquement à une amélioration écologique. Une économie circulaire n’est donc pas nécessairement durable. De plus, les connaissances actuelles sur l’économie circulaire se limitent souvent à la gestion des déchets. Cela ne tient pas compte d'aspects importants des chaînes de valeur, tels que de nouveaux modèles économiques susceptibles d’apporter des améliorations.

Objectifs
Avec ce projet, nous entendons apporter une définition holistique d’une économie circulaire durable, en combinant les perspectives relatives aux flux des matières et des ressources à celles de la socio-économie. C’est pourquoi, nous posons la question de recherche transversale suivante: quels sont les potentiels d’une meilleure gestion des ressources en Suisse et comment peut-on s’engager sur la voie d'une économie circulaire durable?

Importance
Pour atteindre ces objectifs, nous procéderons à des analyses économiques et écologiques de chaînes de valeur sélectionnées et les relierons étroitement, afin d’aider les décideurs politiques à mettre en place les conditions cadres adéquates à une économie circulaire durable (p. ex. systèmes d’incitation, normes).

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
This project combines the socioeconomic and resource flow knowledge of two chairs at ETH Zurich, in order to explore the hidden economic and environmental potential of different paths towards a sustainable circular economy in Switzerland.
Lay summary

Background
Current research and practical applications of the circular economy concept reveal two major caveats: Firstly, closing material loops in a value chain does not always lead to better environmental performance – a circular economy is not sustainable per se. And secondly, the current understanding of a circular economy is often limited to waste management. This neglects important aspects of the value chain such as potential new business models for bringing about possible improvements.

Aims
With this project our aim is to define a sustainable circular economy by integrating resource and socioeconomic perspectives, in order to understand material circularity in a holistic way. To this end, we aim to address the overarching research question: What are the hidden potentials for improving resource management in Switzerland, and how could they pave the way towards a sustainable circular economy?

Importance
To achieve these objectives, this project will carry out and consolidate economic and ecological analyses of selected value chains, to help policy makers improve regulatory frameworks and develop incentive systems to provide adequate framework conditions for a sustainable circular economy.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Why pledges alone will not get plastics recycled: Comparing recyclate production and anticipated demand
Kahlert Sebastian, Bening Catharina R. (2022), Why pledges alone will not get plastics recycled: Comparing recyclate production and anticipated demand, in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 181, 106279-106279.
Limited utilization options for secondary plastics may restrict their circularity
Klotz Magdalena, Haupt Melanie, Hellweg Stefanie (2022), Limited utilization options for secondary plastics may restrict their circularity, in Waste Management, 141, 251-270.
The true cost of solving the plastic waste challenge in developing countries: The case of Ghana
Bening Catharina R., Kahlert Sebastian, Asiedu Edward (2022), The true cost of solving the plastic waste challenge in developing countries: The case of Ghana, in Journal of Cleaner Production, 330, 129649-129649.
Waste not, want not – ambiguities around waste and waste prevention
Wiprächtiger Maja, Haupt Melanie, Rapp Martina, Hellweg Stefanie (2021), Waste not, want not – ambiguities around waste and waste prevention, 173, 105742-105742, Elsevier, Amsterdam 173, 105742-105742.
Towards a circular plastics economy: Interacting barriers and contested solutions for flexible packaging recycling
Bening Catharina R., Pruess Jakob T., Blum Nicola U. (2021), Towards a circular plastics economy: Interacting barriers and contested solutions for flexible packaging recycling, in Journal of Cleaner Production, 302, 126966-126966.
Why “Circular” doesn't always mean “Sustainable”
Blum N.U., Haupt M., Bening C.R. (2020), Why “Circular” doesn't always mean “Sustainable”, 162, 105042-105042, Elsevier, Amsterdam 162, 105042-105042.
Plastics recycling after the global pandemic: resurgence or regression?
Kahlert Sebastian, Bening Catharina R. (2020), Plastics recycling after the global pandemic: resurgence or regression?, in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 160, 104948-104948.
A framework for sustainable and circular system design: Development and application on thermal insulation materials
Wiprächtiger Maja, Haupt Melanie, Heeren Niko, Waser Eliane, Hellweg Stefanie (2020), A framework for sustainable and circular system design: Development and application on thermal insulation materials, in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 154, 104631-104631.
Measuring the environmental sustainability of a circular economy
Haupt Melanie, Hellweg Stefanie (2019), Measuring the environmental sustainability of a circular economy, in Environmental and Sustainability Indicators, 1-2(September ), 100005.
Turning trash into treasure: An approach to the environmental assessment of waste prevention and its application to clothing and furniture in Switzerland
WiprächtigerMaja, RappMartina, HellwegStefanie, Shinde Rhythima, Haupt Melanie, Turning trash into treasure: An approach to the environmental assessment of waste prevention and its application to clothing and furniture in Switzerland, in Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
FHNW, Institute of Ecopreneurship Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
DSM Nutritional Products Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Borealis Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Rethink Resource Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
ISOVER St. Gobain Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
CEFLEX Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
International Institute of Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) - Lund University/ Nancy Boken Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
AWEL Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
WSL - SCCER BIOSWEET Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Federal Office of the Environment, Section Consumption and Production Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Swiss Recycling Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
ZAR Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Swissmem Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Eberhard Unternehmungen AG Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador (Project: Economía Circular Inclusiva) Ecuador (South America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
EIT Climate-KIC Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Denner Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Isofloc Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
University of Freiburg, Chair of Societal Transition & Circular Economy Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
NFP 66, Martin Riediker Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
EMPA Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Flumroc Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Pavatex Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Swisspor Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Federal Office of the Environment, Section Industrial Waste Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Yale University, Center of Industrial Ecology United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Institute for Integrated Quality Design, Johannes Kepler University Linz/Prof. Erik Hansen Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Syngenta Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
WWF Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
IKEA Switzerland Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
BASF Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Science Industries Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Georg Fischer Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Thermo Natur Germany (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Coop Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Siemens Schweiz Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
PUSCH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
18th INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON WASTE MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABLE LANDFILLING Talk given at a conference Environmental assessment of waste prevention 11.10.2021 Sardinien, Italy Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie; Wiprächtiger Maja;
3rd Young Researchers Seminar on Sustainable Material Cycles Talk given at a conference Reducing environmental impacts of clothing through waste prevention 18.08.2021 Zürich, Switzerland Wiprächtiger Maja; Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie;
Vortragsreihe "Forschungsberichte am Montag", Sommersemester 2021 Individual talk Measuring the Environmental Sustainability of the Circular Economy 03.05.2021 online, Austria Haupt Melanie;
Ecobalance 2020 Talk given at a conference Reducing environmental impacts of clothing through waste prevention 25.02.2021 Online, Japan Wiprächtiger Maja; Hellweg Stefanie; Haupt Melanie;
Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Conference Talk given at a conference Sustainable Circular Economy - a pleonasm? 30.11.2020 online, Germany Haupt Melanie;
Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Conference Talk given at a conference Ensuring a Sustainable Circular Economy using Life Cycle-based tools 30.11.2020 online, Germany Blum Nicola; Haupt Melanie;
10th International Conference on Industrial Ecology Talk given at a conference Circular System Design: Case Study on Thermal Insulation Material in Switzerland 07.07.2019 Beijing, China Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie; Wiprächtiger Maja;
4th International Conference on Public Policy (ICCP4) Talk given at a conference Towards a Circular Plastic Economy – A Barrier Analysis of Closing Loops in Flexible Packaging 26.06.2019 Concordia University, Montreal, Canada Prüss Jakob Theodor;
Scientific priorities for realizing a circular economy (Royal Academy of Science) Talk given at a conference The Role of Chemicals in the Circular Economy 26.06.2019 Chicherly Hall, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Hellweg Stefanie;
III Simposio de gestión ambiental y desarollo sostenible: Economía Circular Talk given at a conference Gestión de Residuos Sólidos y Economía Circular (Waste Management and Circular Economy) 03.06.2019 Cuenca, Ecuador Haupt Melanie;
–Which sustainable future for plastic? Poster Closing the loop for multilayer flexible packaging - barrier analysis 21.03.2019 Université de Mons, Belgium Prüss Jakob Theodor;
9. Wissenschaftskongress „Abfall- und Ressourcenwirtschaft DGAW Talk given at a conference Circular System Design: Fallstudie zu Isolationsmaterialien in der Schweiz 14.03.2019 Amberg, Germany Hellweg Stefanie; Haupt Melanie; Wiprächtiger Maja;
Swiss Resource Forum Talk given at a conference Von einer linearen zu einer nachhaltigen Kreislaufwirtschaft 25.10.2018 Dübendorf, Switzerland Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie; Wiprächtiger Maja;
Enviroswiss 2018 Talk given at a conference Inputs zu Zero-Waste aus der Abfallwirtschaft 13.10.2018 Vaumarcus, Switzerland Haupt Melanie;
Science to Support Circular Economy Poster Circular System Design – A case study on insulation material in Switzerland 19.09.2018 Vienna, Austria Wiprächtiger Maja; Haupt Melanie;
Circular Economy Disruptions - Past, Present and Future - An Academic Symposium hosted by the University of Exeter, UK Talk given at a conference Assessing circular value chain reconfigurations: A case from the bio-plastics industry 17.06.2018 Exeter, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Blum Nicola;
Gorden Research Conference on Industrial Ecology Poster to be entered! 20.05.2018 Les Diablerets, Switzerland Wiprächtiger Maja; Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Circular economy panel at Filmambiente Talk 02.11.2021 Online, Brazil Blum Nicola;
Circular Innovation Ecosystems 2021 Biel Talk 15.09.2021 Biel, Switzerland Haupt Melanie; Hellweg Stefanie; Wiprächtiger Maja;
Swiss Green Economy Symposium Talk 02.09.2021 Winterthur, Switzerland Haupt Melanie;
European Resource Forum 2020 Talk 03.11.2020 online, Germany Haupt Melanie;
Forum Drehscheibe Kreislaufwirtschaft Talk 26.08.2020 Zurich, Switzerland Haupt Melanie;
SHIFT Talk 22.01.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Blum Nicola; Haupt Melanie;
LACE Workshop Talk 18.10.2019 St. Gallen, Switzerland Hellweg Stefanie;
Circular Economy introduction - Meeting with one of the largest industrial groups in Ecuador (individual talk organized) Talk 06.06.2019 Cuenca, Ecuador Haupt Melanie;
Systemic change I Towards a new sustainable economy Talk 20.05.2019 Impact Hub Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland Blum Nicola;
Roundtable zu Circular Economy Talk 19.03.2019 Winterthur, Switzerland Haupt Melanie; Blum Nicola;
Jury of Circular Economy Incubator Workshop 13.12.2018 Zurich, Switzerland Blum Nicola;
ETH Industry Day 2018 Poster 05.09.2018 ETH Zurich, Switzerland Wiprächtiger Maja; Hellweg Stefanie; Haupt Melanie;
2. Circular Economy Workshop by MAVA Foundation and Engagement Migros Workshop 17.08.2018 Berne, Switzerland Blum Nicola;
1. Circular Economy Workshop by MAVA Foundation and Engagement Migros Workshop 16.05.2018 Berne, Switzerland Blum Nicola;
Seminar at AWEL Talk 08.05.2018 Zurich, Switzerland Haupt Melanie; Wiprächtiger Maja; Hellweg Stefanie;
SDSN Switzerland Launch Conference Talk 15.02.2018 Berne, Switzerland Blum Nicola;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
6. Advisory Board Meeting 20.01.2022 online, Switzerland
5. Advisory Board Meeting 27.05.2021 Online, Switzerland
4. Advisory Board Meeting 06.11.2020 Online, Switzerland
3. Advisory Board Meeting 29.11.2019 Zürich, Switzerland
2. Advisory Board Meeting 04.04.2019 ETH Zürich, Switzerland
CEFLEX Workshop (online) 19.12.2018 Zürich, Switzerland
Presentation on "Reconfiguration of a linear supply chain – bioplastics as an alternative to conventional petroleum based packaging foam" 07.11.2018 München, Germany
1. Advisory Board Meeting 05.11.2018 Zurich, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Nachhaltige Wirtschaft Wissenschaftsmagazin Radio SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2022
Media relations: print media, online media Schutzhülle aus Bioabfällen hält Bananen und Gurken länger frisch SRF Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2022
Media relations: print media, online media Circular Economy: Wieso wir unsere Wirtschaft neu denken müssen Tsuri German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Dämmstoffe müssen umweltverträglicher werden Phase 5 German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Die Zukunft zirkulärer Dämmstoffe Circular Hub Magazin International Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Talks/events/exhibitions In Kreisläufen produzieren - nicht auf den Abgrund zu Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Talks/events/exhibitions nanoTalks by Reatch International 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Zirkuläre Strategien in der Dämmstoffindustrie Circular Hub German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Anders wirtschaften ETH Globe Magazine International German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Nachhaltige Kreislaufschlüsse gestalten Circular Hub Magazin German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Eine nachhaltige Kreislaufwirtschaft ist mehrdimensional Die Volkswirtschaft Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2019
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) CEFLEX report Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2018

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
154049 Optimisation of industrial waste-to-energy (WtE) and resource recovery systems 01.03.2015 NRP 70 Energy Turnaround
178991 Urban Mining for Low Noise Urban Roads and Optimized Design of Street Canyons 01.01.2019 Project funding
136623 Life Cycle Management of wood in Switzerland: methods, tools and environmental decision support 01.03.2012 NRP 66 Resource Wood
154006 Optimising the energy recovery and the sustainability of Swiss municipal solid waste management 01.10.2014 NRP 70 Energy Turnaround
182188 Unpacking pathways to corporate sustainability 01.11.2018 Project funding

Abstract

This project aims to close knowledge gaps in terms of whether material circularity is viable (in economic, organizational, political and environmental terms) and to define strategies for a Sustainable Circular Economy (“SCE”). It also explores the conditions for applying this concept in Switzerland and for selected industries, and the implications of doing so. Finally, it proposes some policy recommendations. The project is certain to have a practical impact due to direct collaboration with stakeholders and decision makers.Current research and practical applications of the Circular Economy (“CE”) concept reveal two major caveats. First, closing material loops in a value chain does not always mean better environmental performance -so a CE is not sustainable per se. Second, as academics and policymakers alike have pointed out, the current understanding of CE is often limited to waste management (“reuse, reduce, and recycle”). This neglects important parts of the value chain and their potential intervention points, significantly limiting the overall potential of CE as an approach. Therefore, we aim to define an SCE by integrating resource and socioeconomic perspectives, in order to understand material circularity in a holistic way and explore its hidden potential. To this end, we address the overarching scientific and empirical question: What are the hidden potentials for improving resource management in Switzerland, and how could they pave the way for a sustainable circular economy?We will tackle this question in three phases and five work packages (denoted WP1-5). In the first phase, we will analyze the status quo with respect to closing material loops in Switzerland by applying a resource perspective to map all secondary resource flows in the country (WP1). To complement this with a socioeconomic perspective, we will provide a systematic overview of current CE policies across countries and investigate circular innovations in different industries (WP2). In phase two, we will build on results from phase 1 to identify hidden potentials in selected value chains and quantify them both environmentally and economically. For this, we will combine material flow analysis, life cycle assessment and, where appropriate, optimization to evaluate and improve the environmental performance of selected value chains (WP3). In addition, we will analyze the mechanisms that foster or hinder innovations towards an SCE within and across value chains, and develop a methodology to gauge the potential for different SCE solutions in the selected value chains (WP4). In the third phase, we will consolidate the economic and environmental analyses on the selected value chains (WP5), to help policy makers improve regulatory frameworks and develop incentive systems to provide adequate boundary conditions for an SCE. Throughout these research phases, the project will benefit from a close integration of the environmental assessment and the socioeconomic perspective by bringing together two research chairs from ETH Zürich with long-term expertise in their respective areas. We will implement several engagement measures to ensure our research is relevant to practitioners and policy makers and broadcast effectively among them. First, we will involve cooperation partners from industry and the Federal Offices for applied case studies and/or as members of the advisory board to the project. Second, we will disseminate our results and findings to students as future decision makers via a variety of teaching initiatives and thesis projects. Third, we plan to increase our outreach by founding a “Circularity Lab,” located at ETH Zurich and funded by resources outside this SNF proposal. This lab will be a hub for practice-oriented activities toward an SCE in Switzerland, serving as a platform and nucleus for interested stakeholders to develop new projects beyond the duration of this one.
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