The concept of a circular economy has recently gained traction in Europe as a positive, solutions-based perspective for achieving economic development within increasing environmental constraints. Raw, processed and advanced materials, from primary and secondary sources, are the backbone of the economy.
A radical shift is required from linear to circular thinking. End-of-life products must be considered as a resource for another cycle, while losses and stocks of unused materials must be minimized and valorised along the value chain. In addition, the interactions between materials must be considered to define the best circular solution from a systemic standpoint. Awareness of the benefits of closing material loops must be raised in society. The successful transition of a society to the circular economy at the global scale depends on the reliable and sustainable supply and management of raw materials.
Critics assert that the locution and the concepts behind Circular Economy mean different things to different stakeholders. A recent article by Kirchherr et al. analyses 114 definitions3 , taken from peer-reviewed literature as well as other publications (e.g., those from the Ellen MacArthur foundation4). In their paper , Kirchherr et al. analyse also the different core principles, including the most popular 4R (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover), which is embedded in the definition provided by the European Commission5, as well as more complex, comprehensive and analytical frameworks such as the 9R.6 Finally, the paper suggests an additional definition, in the attempt to formulate a more comprehensive vision, which not only includes the typical 4R principles, but also the need for a radical systemic change that is needed to truly implement a Circular Economy.