Abstract for: Understanding the Dynamics of the Circular Economy

Within the Circular Economy (CE) context several persistent problems can be identified: increased waste, moderate recycling rates, lower life-spans, increased consumption. These are connected and contribute to the problematic of decoupling. The aim of this research is to explore this problematic from a Systems Thinking and Dynamics perspective. At the macro-level, it is proposed that the current focus in economics is ‘undermining’ the efforts of transitioning to sustainability; at the micro-level life-span and repair are addressed. Some meso-level preliminary dynamics are advanced: simple principles of extending product life-span and reducing waste, may contribute to change the dynamics of the system; Ecodesign is perceived as a key leverage; a “Fast CE” future scenario may arise deriving from the current system structures originating growth and resulting intensification of CE activities – since these may have high environmental impacts, decoupling may not be achieved; a “Slow CE” scenario based in sufficiency and long-life-spans is regarded as the key towards long term sustainability; regarding waste, technical and biological cycles are proposed as having different behaviours; multiple delays have been identified. Overall, while the research presented is still at an early stage, it already introduces valuable insights and a preliminary understanding of the CE dynamics.