Barriers to the Circular Economy: Evidence From the European Union (EU)

"The circular economy concept is much discussed in the European Union (EU), but only limited progress has been accomplished so far regarding its implementation. Most scholarly studies blame this on various technological barriers. Our work rebuts these studies. We present the first large-N-study on circular economy barriers in the EU (208 survey respondents, 47 expert interviews). We find that cultural barriers, particularly a lack of consumer interest and awareness as well as a hesitant company culture, are considered the main circular economy barriers by businesses and policy-makers. These are driven by market barriers which, in turn, are induced by a lack of synergistic governmental interventions to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy. Meanwhile, not a single technological barrier is ranked among the most pressing circular economy barriers, according to our research. Overall, our work suggests that circular economy is a niche discussion among sustainable development professionals at this stage. Significant efforts need to be undertaken for the concept to maintain its momentum." (


Scientific article

Author names: 

Julian Kirchherr, Laura Piscelli, Ruben Bour, Erica Kostense-Smit, Jennifer Muller, Anne Huibrechtse-Truijens, Marko Hekkert

Length (pp): 

9 (pp. 264-272)




Utrecht University, Deloitte

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