The societal strength of transition: a critical review of the circular economy through the lens of inclusion

Zhaowen Liu*, Daan Schraven, Martin de Jong, Marcel Hertogh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Realizing a circular economy (CE) has been widely recognized by practitioners and researchers as the key to the transition toward sustainability. Thus far the academic emphasis has been predominantly on economic and environmental aspects. However, the development and implementation of CE initiatives actually rely on extensive collaboration at the societal level. Hence, an understanding of how a more inclusive society can strengthen the transition is warranted. By systematically and critically reviewing the related academic literature, the results of this paper show that sensitivity to inclusion aspects is crucial to alleviate the transitional burdens on society. Seven main aspects were discerned on inclusion: (1) informal waste pickers, (2) e-waste and health risks, (3) accessibility of services/materials/facilities, (4) consumer behavior, (5) corporate and institutional involvement, (6) technology application, and (7) governance measures. Following these insights, a strong sustainability perspective and agenda on the CE transition are proposed by identifying key actors and structuring their interrelationships as an inclusive system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-849
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • circular economy
  • Inclusion
  • informal sector
  • strong sustainability
  • waste management


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