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Have we hit the limits of the circular economy?

4 episodes
  • 1
    “Eco-design should be favoured over recycling”
  • 2
    How to regulate circular economy at the international level?
  • 3
    Five ideas that demystify the circular economy
  • 4
    Construction, textiles: how eco-design is transforming certain markets 
Épisode 1/4
On May 10th, 2023
4 min reading time
Lucie Domingo
teacher-researcher in eco-design at UniLaSalle Rennes | École des métiers de l'environnement

Key takeaways

  • The recycling of everyday products has virtually no effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The logistics involved in transporting and manufacturing recycled products can sometimes be even more harmful than burning these plastics locally.
  • Over the past 10 years, European countries’ domestic material consumption has averaged around 13 tonnes per capita, with no significant overall decrease.
  • Rather than focusing on the depletion of resources, we need to rethink the use of products, their maintenance, transport, and utility.
  • For example, electric hoovers must meet eco-design requirements such as energy consumption during use or durability.
Épisode 2/4
On May 10th, 2023
3 min reading time
Catherine Chevauché
chair of the ISO Circular Economy Technical Committee

Key takeaways

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is planning a set of new international standards for 2024 to ensure the transition to the circular economy.
  • One standard will give the principles for moving from the linear economy to the circular economy: sharing and retaining value, minimising resource extraction...
  • Other standards will deal with the transition from a linear to a circular model or will provide indicators to measure the circularity of products and organisations.
  • The set of standards is aimed at all organisations, private or public, associations or companies, that wish to address these issues.
  • The European Commission is working on a digital product passport, which will provide information on the composition of the product or how to recycle it.
Épisode 3/4
Farah Doumit, PhD student at the Centre for Management Research (I³-CRG*) at École Polytechnique (IP Paris)
On February 1st, 2023
5 min reading time
Farah Doumit
PhD student at the Centre for Management Research (I³-CRG*) at École Polytechnique (IP Paris)

Key takeaways

  • In circular economy, materials, water or energy waste and losses are retained as they can create value if put back into the economic system.
  • Communication by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and other consulting firms has made it both attractive and easy for economic actors to adopt its core principles.
  • A rebound effect exists that can reduce benefits of a circular economy.
  • Neglecting social responsibility and reinforcing unequal power relations through some circular activities can lead to a “weak circular economy”.
  • The State can play an important role in ensuring a circular economy that is fair for all.
Épisode 4/4
On May 3rd, 2023
4 min reading time
Benjamin Cabanes
Lecturer at Mines Paris - PSL & at the MIE department of École Polytechnique (IP Paris)
Nicolas Cruaud
Nicolas Cruaud
Co-founder and President of Néolithe

Key takeaways

  • Eco-design is an approach that integrates environmental aspects not only in the design phase but throughout the life cycle of a product.
  • To remain competitive, it is in the interest of companies to anticipate increasingly restrictive regulations, such as AGEC.
  • To avoid greenwashing, it is essential to consider the entire production process, and to generalise the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a product.
  • Eco-design is particularly useful in the construction sector, where the use of new materials and construction processes can reduce carbon footprint.
  • The sector also has a strong potential for recycling waste: the start-up Néolithe “fossilises” common waste into reusable aggregates for construction.



Farah Doumit

PhD student at the Centre for Management Research (I³-CRG*) at École Polytechnique (IP Paris)

Farah Doumit graduated as a civil engineer specialized in water and environment from Ecole supérieure d'ingénieurs de Beyrouth in 2019. She pursued a double degree master in environmental management at Ecole des Mines in Paris and Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2020. Since March 2021, she is a PhD student at the Center for Management Studies (I³-CRG *). Her research focuses on innovative business models and circular economy, particularly in the fields of waste, water, and energy.

*I³-CRG: a joint research unit CNRS, École Polytechnique - Institut Polytechnique de Paris, Télécom Paris, Mines ParisTech