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The Circular Economy and Cascading: Towards a Framework

Campbell-Johnston, Kieran; Vermeulen, Walter J.V.; Reike, Denise; Brullot, Sabrina


Kieran Campbell-Johnston

Walter J.V. Vermeulen

Denise Reike

Sabrina Brullot


Claire Lea
Project Manager


The principle of cascading, the sequential and consecutive use of resources, is a potential method to create added value in circular economy (CE) practices. Despite conceptual similarities, no research to date has explored how cascading has been operationalised and how to integrate it with CE R-imperatives (Reduce, Reuse etc.) to facilitate implementation practices. CE practices emphasise value creation and retention, yet, there has been little reflexive examination of explicit and intrinsic value considerations; namely, how allocation choices, i.e. the decision-making process, for resource utilization are made. This paper aims to (1) examine how cascading has been operationalised (empirically and theoretically) to understand its normative underpinnings and value considerations; and (2) integrate cascading with the CE practices in a manner that accounts for the complexities of material allocation choices. Through a literature review of 64 articles from three bodies of literature (CE, cascading and up/downcycling), plus additional material on sustainable development, we show the cascading concept is a suitable framework to direct material uses and provides an overarching concept to integrate with CE R-imperatives. From this, we propose a new theoretical framework that considers the socio-organisational necessities for a CE-cascading system, specifically by deconstructing the allocation choices and exchanges of product material combinations between actor groups. This considers a dual perspective of the physical aspects of materials and the social context in which material allocation is made. The framework transcends individual value chain actor configurations to propose an overarching steering/governance framework, based on the triple-P of sustainability (People, Planet, Prosperity), to examine and direct CE-cascading exchanges, between and above individual users/firms.


Campbell-Johnston, K., Vermeulen, W. J., Reike, D., & Brullot, S. (2020). The Circular Economy and Cascading: Towards a Framework. Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X, 7, Article 100038.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 31, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 23, 2020
Publication Date 2020-09
Deposit Date Nov 24, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 24, 2021
Journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 100038
Keywords Economics and Econometrics; Waste Management and Disposal
Public URL
Publisher URL


Published article (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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