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A typology of circular economy discourses: Navigating the diverse visions of a contested paradigm

Calisto Friant, Martin; Vermeulen, Walter J.V.; Salomone, Roberta


Martin Calisto Friant

Walter J.V. Vermeulen

Roberta Salomone


Claire Lea
Project Manager


The circular economy (CE) has recently become a popular discourse especially in government and corporate sectors. Given the socio-ecological challenges of the Anthropocene, the concept of CE could indeed help the transition to a sustainable, just and resilient future. However, the actual definition, objectives and forms of implementation of the CE are still unclear, inconsistent, and contested. Different actors and sectors are thus articulating circular discourses which align with their interests, and which often do not sufficiently examine the ecological, social and political implications of circularity. In this context, this research asks how to better navigate and analyse the history, complexity and plurality of circularity discourses by conceptually differentiating them in a comprehensive discourse typology. To answer this question a critical literature review has been carried out, which first, examines and reflects on the core challenges, gaps and limitations of the CE concept. Second, this research develops a comprehensive timeline of circularity thinking, which identifies and conceptually classifies 72 different CE-related concepts from the Global North and South (such as Gandhian and steady-state economics, buen vivir, doughnut economics and degrowth). This leads to the development of a typology of circularity discourses, which classifies circularity visions according to their position on fundamental social, technological, political and ecological issues. This research thus seeks to provide a basis for a more inclusive and comprehensive discussion on the topic, which opens the imaginary regarding the many circular futures that can exist and allows for a cross-pollination of ideas, policy options, strategies, practices and solutions.


Calisto Friant, M., Vermeulen, W. J., & Salomone, R. (2020). A typology of circular economy discourses: Navigating the diverse visions of a contested paradigm. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 161, Article 104917.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 29, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 23, 2020
Publication Date 2020-10
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling
Print ISSN 0921-3449
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 161
Article Number 104917
Keywords Circular economy; Circular society; Sustainability; Discourse analysis; Critical literature review
Public URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: A typology of circular economy discourses: Navigating the diverse visions of a contested paradigm; Journal Title: Resources, Conservation and Recycling; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.


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Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license<br /> (

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