Circular economy running in circles? A discourse analysis of shifts in ideas of circularity in Swedish environmental policy
Updated on 18.11.2022
Circular economy (CE) is a promising alternative to unsustainable production. The paper compares CE with eco-cycle models, showing how issues of responsibility, politics, limits, space, sustainability and CE have changed. Weak circularity excludes social responsibility, reinforcing unequal power relations. Strong circularity is based on fair distribution of resources.
The study is an analysis of circularity concepts in Sweden: circular economy and eco-cycle, which had political momentum in Sweden during the 2010s and the 1990s respectively. Weak circularity not only excludes social responsibility, but also reinforces existing power relations. Strong circularity involves the producers and the state creating a closed, material loop limited in size and space and based on fair distribution of resources. Going beyond green consumerisms with a high level of citizen engagement is favourable for CSS. Small-scale initiatives are important for achieving CSS, not just state leadership. Drawing on the study’s findings, alternative directions of circulation that are more socially inclusive and globally orientated are called for.
Relevance for Circular Systemic Solutions
Circular Systemic Solutions (CSS) can become a reality when small-scale initiatives, at city/regional scale, undertake leadership, not only when the state does. The green transition can be achieved with a higher level of citizen engagement. Weak circularity excludes social responsibility. Strong circularity is a closed loop, limited in size with equitable resource distribution.