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Beyond Recycling: Reckoning with Plastics in a Circular Economy

Year of Publication


This briefing provides an overview of the varying definitions of a circular economy and highlights the need to consider the entire plastics life cycle and supply chain, including resource use and externalities.


Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)


Jane Patton, Hélionor de Anzizu, Giulia Carlini, Andrés Del Castillo, David Azoulay





Purpose of Measurement:

Understanding the Problem, Solution Sets and Impact Potential

Impact theme(s):


This briefing first gives an overview of the differing definitions and understandings of the term ‘circular economy,’ revealing how many of them fail to consider the resource use and externalities across the full plastics life cycle and supply chain, focusing rather disproportionately on waste management and disposal. The briefing then outlines key principles on which a circular economy framework must be built, including considerations along the full plastics life cycle, from resource extraction, production, manufacture, transport, and consumption, through to disposal, leakage, and contamination of flora and fauna, including human bodies.

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