About this Research Topic
With its intellectual foundation three decades ago, the circular economy concept has grown rapidly in salience in the past few years driven by concerns over scarcity of critical resources, climate change, plastic pollution, and growth in material demands. It now forms a key pillar in environmental and industrial policies in selected world regions and even in proposed “green growth” stimulus plans to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Designed in opposition to the “take-make-waste” linear economic model still dominant globally, a circular economy aims to retain value in products, materials and resources through implementation of business models, strategies and technologies that expand the simple “waste hierarchy” of reduce, reuse, recycle to incorporate more sophisticated and modern practices of narrowing, slowing or closing the material use loops at all stages in the life cycle of products. The concept could help in building a more sustainable economy; however, many questions remain on how to transition to a circular economy and what are the actual benefits for sustainability, beyond resource preservation.
This Research Topic set of articles aims to collect latest research on both the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing sustainability impacts of the circular economy. Circularity alone cannot assure that sustainability objectives will be met, such as climate change mitigation, economic viability of workers, or public health burdens of pollution, as described for instance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Theoretically, many circularity strategies exist and yet their sustainability impacts will vary. Thus, there is a need for methods that can quantify sustainability impacts for a range of circular strategies applicable to a variety of industries and products. We welcome contributions identifying trade-offs between societal safeguard subjects (such as resource preservation, environmental quality, human health and well-being, or socio-economic conditions), accounting for scaling effects, market competition, prospective assessment, etc. While individual studies have been published already, no comprehensive and coherent set of articles exists collected to provide an authoritative assessment of the current state of the practice and to define the research horizons.
Areas to be covered in this Research Topic may include, but are not limited to:
• Integration of CE methods with other analytical approaches (such as from the fields of industrial
ecology or complex decision science) to quantify sustainability impacts of CE alternatives
• Development of methods to assess CE alternatives and their contribution to the SDGs
• Development of streamlined tools and frameworks for use in industrial applications
• Comparison and critical analysis of different CE methods and other analytical approaches to assess
CE alternatives (e.g., on a case study)
• Case studies of CE alternative quantitative assessments
All article types are acceptable including: Original Research, Review, Policy and Practice Reviews, Community Case Study, Conceptual Analysis, Perspective, Policy Brief, Data Report, General Commentary, Opinion and Book Reviews.
Keywords: circular economy, sustainability assessment, quantitative methods, Sustainable Development Goals, resource preservation
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.