Since the industrial revolution, our economies have developed a 'take-make-consume and dispose' pattern of growth: a linear model based on the assumptions that resources are abundant, available, easy to source and cheap to dispose of and that every product is bound to reach its 'end of life'.
The EU has already taken steps in a more sustainable direction. A waste hierarchy has been estabilished, giving priority to reducing and recycling waste. Chemicals policy aims at phasing out toxic substances of very high concerns.
A circular economy is the new response to deliver the resource efficiency agenda established under the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
Circular economy systems keep the added value in products for as long as possible and reduce waste residues to a «zero waste» target value. There are multiple reasons for the implementations of this new EU policy, including: concern about increasing global consumption of non-renawable resources, progressive shortages of primary raw materials, reduction of space available for final dispose of waste, the need for quantity and volume reduction of waste generated, the need for control of environmental contamination caused by emissions from waste treatment, changing social attitudes towards waste management, etc. Transition to a more circular economy requires changes throught value chains, from product design to new business and market models, from new ways of turning waste into a resource to new modes of consumer behaviour.
This implies full systemic change and innovation in technology, in organisation, society, finance methods and policies involving all levels of governance: non-governamental organisations, business, consumer organisations, trade unions, academia, research institutions and other stakeholders.
The circular economy may thus create new markets responding to shift in consumptions patterns away from traditional ownership towards using, reusing and sharing products, and contribute to more and better employment.