We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Interrogating the circular economy : the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU.

Gregson, Nicky and Crang, Mike and Fuller, Sara and Holmes, Helen (2015) 'Interrogating the circular economy : the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU.', Economy and society., 44 (2). pp. 218-243.


The concept of the circular economy has gained increasing prominence in academic, practitioner and policy circles and is linked to greening economies and sustainable development. However, the idea is more often celebrated than critically interrogated. Analysis shows the concept circulates as an idea and ideal, exemplified by industrial symbiosis and extended product life. Yet, its actual enactment is limited and fragile. Instead, circular economies are achieved mostly through global recycling networks which are the primary means by which wastes are recovered as resources. European policies eschew these circuits. Resource recovery through global recycling networks is regarded as a dirty and illegal trade. In its place, EU circular economies attempt to transform wastes to resources within the boundaries of the EU. Through an analysis of two case studies of resource recovery in the UK, we highlight the challenges that confront making circular economies within the EU, showing that these are borne of a conjuncture of politically created markets, material properties and morally defined materials circuits. We show resource recovery in the EU to be framed by moral economies, driven by discourses of ecological modernisation, environmental justice and resource (in)security, the last of which connects to China’s resource-intensive development.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Circular economies, Recycling, Resource recovery, Anaerobic digestion, Waste.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Economy and Society on 22 April 2015 available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:01 December 2014
Date of first online publication:22 April 2015
Date first made open access:22 October 2016

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar