Accepted paper:

Circularity by the numbers. Enacting and imagining the circular economy through indicators.


Thomas Völker (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission)
Zora Kovacic (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Roger Strand (Universitetet i Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Since 2014 there is a policy push towards a so-called Circular Economy in the EU. This presentation will look at recent efforts at the European Commission to establish indicators and a monitoring framework for the Circular Economy as a site where imaginaries of circularity are currently stabilized.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years EU policy-making displays a growing interest in the concept of the Circular Economy, which promotes a particular future in which linear 'make-use-dispose' cultures are replaced by more circular models. In doing so visions of a Circular Economy weave together ideas about waste management, recycling, reuse and resource efficiency with visions of sharing economies, maintenance and repair cultures as well as discussions about product quality and longevity in multiple and fascinating ways. While this concept grew out of waste management, current ambitions clearly go beyond that and draw on a variety of culturally situated meanings.

In 2017 the European Commission published a roadmap for a monitoring framework for the circular economy, followed-up by a related EC communication in January 2018. In this talk we analyze this monitoring framework and the concomitant indicator development at the European Commission as a site of enacting and assembling collective imaginations of circularity, drawing on STS perspectives on enactment and quantification (Law, 2004; Porter, 1995) as well as sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff & Kim, 2009, 2015). Conceptualizing the institutions involved in developing these indicators as 'centres of calculation' (Asdal, 2008; Latour, 1987) we ask which circularities are enacted as governance objects and how this relates to a broader imaginary of circularity that has been assembled over recent years.

The contribution presents results from the H2020-funded project 'Moving towards adaptive governance in complexity', which aims at exploring the quantitative assumptions embedded within narratives on the water-energy-food nexus.

panel A09
Encounters with and for circular economy initiatives