Skip to main content

The circular economy concept needs to be geared to a resource-saving economic model to avoid running in circles (Statement)

Franz Fiala and Michaela Vuerich (ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardisation)

elni Review 2016, Issue 1, pp. 33-39.

In ‘The 30-year update’ of their Report to the Club of Rome concerning ‘The Limits to Growth’ (first published in 1972), the authors recalled in the preface the fundamental finding of the original report, namely that global ecological constraints related to resource use and emissions will have a significant influence on global developments in the twenty-first century. Resource constraints and the finite capacity of the Earth to absorb pollutants will – as a result of the necessary additional expenses to cope with these constraints – eventually lead to a (not necessarily abrupt) decline of the world economy. The authors initially “hoped that such deliberation would lead society to take corrective actions to reduce the possibilities of collapse”. However, despite all positive developments, the required course correction has not taken place and the global environmental status has become even worse. Some have dismissed the conclusions of a study conducted by a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) headed by Dennis Meadows, as an overly pessimistic doomsday scenario disregarding the ability of the current economic system to adapt. The important issue is that the resources are finite and, sooner or later, the limits to further growth of material and energy flows will be reached. What matters much more in this context is the missed opportunity to initiate a fundamental change with a view to preventing the overshoot by driving the system in a sustainable direction. These are thoughts that also come to mind when examining the Commission communication, ‘Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’, published in December 2015. It is rather difficult to see how this action plan could contribute to the desperately needed fundamental change of direction associated with significantly reduced resource use, as opposed to the concept of infinite growth enriched with circular flows. In this contribution the authors articulate ANEC’s perspective on the circular economy concept presented by the European Commission in December 2015. 

Access full article


  1. Meadows et al (2004). Limits to growth: The 30-year update.
  2. Nørgård, J.S., Peet, J., and Ragnarsdóttir, K.V. (2010). The History of The Limits to Growth, Solutions, Vol. 2, No 1, pp. 59-63.
  3. European Commission, 2015, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy, COM(2015) 614 final.
  4. Kreiß, C. (2014): Geplanter Verschleiß: Wie die Industrie uns zu immer mehr und immer schnellerem Konsum antreibt - und wie wir uns dagegen wehren können Gebundene Ausgabe.
  5. 2014 ANEC position paper 'Hazardous chemicals in products - The need for enhanced EU regulations'.
  6. European Commission, 2011, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, COM(2001) 571final.
  7. ANEC position about resource efficiency indicators in response to 2012 EC consultation ‘Options for Resource Efficiency Indicators’
  8. Schlacke, S., Alt, M. and Tonner, K. et al. (2015). Stärkung eines nachhaltigen Konsums im Bereich Produktnutzung durch Anpassungen im Zivil- und öffentlichen Recht.
  9. Lettenmeier, M., Liedtke, C. and Rohn, H. (2014). Eight Tons of Material Footprint—Suggestion for a Resource Cap for Household Consumption in Finland, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (and other institutes). DOI:
  10. European Commission Joint Research Centre: Environmental Impact of Products (EIPRO). Analysis of the life cycle environmental impacts related to the final consumption of the EU-25, May 2006.
  11. Reported CO2 emissions from new cars continue to fall, 14 April 2016, by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
  12. ANEC Press Release: Consumers welcome new test cycle for the fuel efficiency of new cars.