Measuring Circularity

A Circular Economy (CE) approach promotes the cyclical use of materials to minimise the use of virgin resources and the environmental impacts associated with extraction and manufacturing. (For more information, see our story on Circular Economy.) To track progress towards circularity, various indicators can be of use:

Waste-related indicators quantify different types of waste generated within an economy and their treatment. For example, recycling material waste allows to feed it back into the economy.

Recycling and recovery rates quantify the waste that is recycled/recovered in relation to the total amount of waste produced. However, they do not provide information regarding the contribution that recycling has in reducing the total input of virgin materials.

To assess the circularity of an economy, the amount of recycled material is compared to total material input, revealing how much of the inputs are secondary raw materials and how much virgin materials.

Material stocks comprise materials accumulated in buildings, infrastructures, and durable goods. (For more information, see our story on Material stocks.) Quantifying a society’s material stock and its development over time yields insights into raw material demand and potential to source materials from stocks (also known as “urban mining”).

To learn more about different circular economy indicators, look at the interactive Sankey diagram below. All available indicators are grouped in 4 clusters. Click on the indicator categories shown in the orange boxes to learn about their definition, relevance, and available data sources.

Visualising Circularity

Data availability for specific circular economy indicators is currently very restricted. Use the tool below to visualise the data currently available for the individual circular economy topics.