The Emergence of the Modern Circular Economy

The modern view of a circular economy differs from the past. It has started in the second half of the 20th Century and is a case for the simultaneous and uncorrelated emergence of an idea:

  • Hochbauamt der Stadt Bern (1973) Modellstudie zur Sanierung von Altbau-Liegenschaften. Bern.
  • Schumacher, E.F. (1973) Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered; London, Blond & Briggs Ltd.
  • Commission of the European Communities (1975) Report on the E.C.S.C. Experimental Programme of Modernisation of Housing, Luxembourg.
  • Nora, Simon et Eveno, Bertrand (1976) l’amélioration de l’habitat ancien; La Documentation Française, Paris.
  • Stahel, Walter R. and Reday, Geneviève (1977) The potential for substituting manpower for energy; report to DG V for Social Affairs, Commission of the EC, Brussels (research contract No. 760137 programme of research and Actions on the development of the Labour Market), study no. 76/13. This report established the service-life extension of goods as a sustainable strategy to create jobs, save energy (and GHG emissions) and prevent waste. The analysis was done on a micro and macro level, for cars and buildings (and automobile and building industry) in France. It was later published as a book:
  • Stahel, Walter R. and Reday-Mulvey, Geneviève (1981) Jobs for Tomorrow, the potential for substituting manpower for energy; Vantage Press, New York, N.Y.. ISBN 533-04799-4.
  • Conn, David W. (1977) Consumer Product Life Extension in the Context of Materials and Energy Flows; in: Pearce D.W. and Walter, I. (eds.) Resource Conservation: Social and Economic Dimensions of Recycling; University Press, New York and Longman, London.
  • Grossmann, R. and Danecker, G. (1977) Guide to Jobs and Energy; Washington: Environmentalists for full Employment, p. 21.
  • Conn, David W. (1978) Factors affecting Product Lifetime, a study in support of policy development for waste reduction. University of California, Los Angeles, CA, prepared for the National Science Foundation, Washington DC. NFS/RA 780219.
  • Davis, John D. (1979) A Long-Life Car Project – an Assessment of Feasibility. Loughborough Consultants, UK. John Davis was a close collaborator of Fritz Schumacher, the author of ‘Small is beautiful’, and member of the Intermediate Technology Development Group in London.
  • Stahel, Walter R. (1982) “The Product-Life Factor”, a winner of the 1982 Mitchell Prize, Houston Area Research Center (HARC), The Woodlands, TX. This paper gives a synthesis of the 1977 report, generalising the topic to the private sector. The paper defines the new concept of “selling goods as services” as a logic next step after product-life extension in an utilisation-focused circular economy in order to increase the competitiveness of economic actors. The paper is concise, easy to read and easily accessible through
    http://www.product-life.org/en/major-publications/the-product-life-facto...
    The 1982 Mitchell Prize awards were published in:
  • Orr, Susan Grinton (ed.) (1983) An Inquiry into the Nature of Sustainable Societies: The Role of the Private Sector; HARC, The Woodlands, TX.
  • OECD (1982) Product durability and product-life extension, their contribution to solid waste management; OECD Paris (also published in French). ISBN 92-64-12293-1. This report written by an English consultant was an early, maybe the first, policy publication on this subject in Europe.
  • Ruyssen, Olivier (1982) Maintenance and Repair Activities, case studies; FAST Occasional Papers no. 33, DG for Science, Research and Development, Commission of the EC, Brussels.
  • De Gregorio, G. (1982) Maintenance and Repair Activities, FAST Occasional Papers no. 32, DG for Science, Research and Development, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.
  • Lund, Robert T. (1982) Energy Recapture through Remanufacturing, MIT Center for Policy Alternatives, Boston Mass. CPA 81-20.
  • Lund, Robert T. (1983) Start-up Guidelines for the Independent Remanufacturer, MIT Center for Policy Alternatives, Boston Mass. CPA 83-7.
  • Lund, Robert T. (1984) Remanufacturing, the Experience of the USA and Implications for Developing Countries, The World Bank, Washington, DC. WB Technical Paper no. 31, UNDP Project Management Report no. 2, Integrated Resource Recovery Series GLO/80/004.
  • Rousset-Deschamps, Marcel et Colpin-Guerini, Béatrice (1985) la réparation et le commerce de l’automobile, CEDES, CNRS-Economie et Humanisme, Lyon. Programme mobilisateur Technologie, Emploi, Travail, Ministère de la Recherche et de la Technologie, Paris.
  • Stahel, Walter R. (1986) "The Hidden Innovation", in: Science & Public Policy, London, vol. 13 no 4, August 1986 (Special issue on "The hidden wealth"). Stahel, Walter R. (1986) Product-life as a variable: the notion of utilization, in: Science and Public Policy, Journal of the International Science Policy Foundation, London; Volume 13, Number, 4 August 1986: Special Issue: The Hidden Wealth.
  • Stahel, Walter R. (1986) R & D in a sustainable society, in: Science and Public Policy, Journal of the International Science Policy Foundation, London; Volume 13, Number, 4 August 1986: Special Issue: The Hidden Wealth.
  • Börlin, Max et Stahel, Walter R. (1987) Economic strategy of durability – valorisation of the product-life of goods as a contribution to waste prevention. (original title : Stratégie économique de la durabilité - éléments d'une valorisation de la durée de vie des produits en tant que contribution à la prévention des déchets); cahier SBS no. 32, Société de Banque Suisse, Bâle (published in French and German). This report of 30 case studies of service-life extension and selling-services-instead-of-goods in Swiss industry identified the internalisation of all costs of risk and of waste as the key advantage of the concept of selling services instead of goods, giving economic actors a strong incentive to prevent these costs in order to increase their competitiveness
  • Stahel, Walter R. (1991) Langlebigkeit und Materialrecycling - Strategien zur Vermeidung von Abfällen im Bereich der Produkte; Vulkan Verlag, Essen, ISBN 3-8027-2815-7. Die Fallstudien sind zu finden unter http://www.product-life.org/de/node/84 Durability and Material Recycling – strategies to prevent waste in the area of goods -
    English translations of the three case studies by U.S. EPA, Washington D.C. (1992) Waste Minimization Case Studies for Three Products; Office of R&D, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC. The English case studies (washing machines, PCs, power tools) can be downloaded from http://www.product-life.org/en/archive/case-studies This study was revolutionary because until then, experts considered that waste prevention was only possible for production waste, but not for goods.
  • IDSA (Industrial Designer Society of America) publishes its 12 Eco-Design Principles in 1992.
  • Harvard Business School (1994) Xerox: Design for the Environment; case study N9-794-022, January 7, 1994. This was the first HBS case study on selling goods as service.

Information on China's industrial economy can be found here.