Towards a Circular Economy for Products: An analysis of EU’s policy and regulatory framework in an ecological perspective

This doctoral thesis looks at the concept of circular economy and what it means to put such a model in place through Europe’s product and waste policies and laws.

Eléonore Maitre-Ekern Foto: UiO

About the project

The concept of ‘Circular Economy’ (CE) has gained a lot of attention in the last five years and has become the new all-encompassing notion for sustainable public policies. There is to date no commonly agreed definition of the CE and it is one of the goals of this thesis to put forward one. A starting point for characterizing it might be in opposition to the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economic model that has dominated economic thinking for more than 150 years and whereby the environment is an open-space in which humanity can draw resources infinitely and discharge unlimited amount of emissions. The CE developed in particular as a way to counter the dramatic environmental consequences of the ensuing ‘throwaway society’ based on the mass production of low quality products for the purpose of rapid consumption and discard.

The aim of this thesis is to explore the basis for a legal framework for the CE that can guarantee a sustainable future for humanity; one in which products contribute to social and economic prosperity without threatening the planetary boundaries (Rockström et al.). The thesis is article-based and hence composed of five articles and an Introductory part. On the one hand, the introductory part is meant to contextualize the topic: how and why did the linear model develop? What are the ecological movement (in particular Georgescu-Roegen, Daly, Costanza, Raworth) and proponents of circularity (such as Pearce and Turner, Stahel, McDonough and Braungart, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) proposing? What are the main features of an ecological paradigm and what does it mean for EU law and the CE?

On the other hand, the purpose of the articles is to examine more specifically how the CE is regulated in the EU and how EU law could and should evolve to promote an ecological-based CE. The articles discuss issues ranging from life-cycle thinking in EU product policy (article 1), the strengths and shortcomings CE Action Plan of the EU (article 2), prevention in EU waste law (article 3), the regulation of durability and reparability in at EU and national level (with a focus on France and Norway) (article 4), and the role of the law in changing consumption patterns (article 5).

Objectives

The thesis is to be submitted by April 2019.

Published Oct. 3, 2017 9:06 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2019 2:12 PM