louder for the people at the back!

We are working hard to make circular the new normal, but we know there's a long way to go. Many people have yet to be introduced to the concept; others are still to be convinced; and even the pioneers of the transition to a circular economy need encouragement.

By highlighting success stories and sharing knowledge, we strive to inform the uninformed, and to convince the sceptics.

We are building the global community of circular champions that the world so urgently needs.
on social media
since 2016
Referenced in
academic papers
to date
Peters, G. P. 2008. From production-based to consumption-based national emission inventories. Ecological Economics 65(1): 13–23.
Brunner, P. H., Rechberger, H. (2004). Practical Handbook of Material Flow Analysis. Lewis Publishers
Insights shared
at over
since 2018
In more than 60 countries

Across 7 continents

more than 904 press mentions since 2016

'It was a crisp fall morning, and I was sitting in a magnificent old brick pile on the Oosterpark, a palace of curved corridors and grand staircases and useless turrets. A century ago, when the Dutch were still extracting coffee, oil, and rubber from their colony in Indonesia, this building had been erected as a colonial research institute. Now it houses assorted do-gooder organizations. The one Marc de Wit works for is called Circle Economy, and it’s part of a buzzing international movement that aims to reform how we’ve done just about everything for the past two centuries—since the rise of the steam engine, “if you need to pinpoint a time,” de Wit said.'

National Geographic

March 2020
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'[Amsterdam] already has ambitious environmental goals, including a plan to become carbon neutral, and to transition to a circular economy, meaning that all materials will be used in closed loops instead of ending up in landfills. But it also recognized that it needed an overarching strategy that included social goals. Circle Economy, which was already working with the city on its circular economy goals, saw the opportunity for the doughnut model to help the city create better strategies. The planning has been underway for more than a year; the city formally adopted the model last week.'

Fast Company

September 2014
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A positive transition for work and workers

the issue

The circular economy presents opportunities to create jobs. At the same time, there are potential trade-offs in relation to declining sectors, job loss in global supply chains, quality of work and increasing skills gaps. There is a lack of clarity on what these trade-offs could be.

the response

The ‘Jobs & Skills in the Circular Economy: State of Play and Future Pathways’ report provides a comprehensive mapping of both challenges and opportunities in relation to jobs and skills in the circular economy. As such, we aim to avoid developing blindspots and capitalise on the opportunities the circular economy presents.

our role

Circle Economy initiated the project, conducted the research and interviews, and drafted the report. This report was developed on the basis of extensive literature review and consultation with over 50 cross-sector organisations. Those that gave their permission are listed in the acknowledgments.


A foundation for the Circular Jobs Initiative

The report sets out three pillars for a positive transition of the labour market: inclusion, quality of work and skills. It formulates key recommendations for each pillar: 

  • To ensure an inclusive transition to circularity, we need to monitor effects on workers across global supply chains; create pathways for people who face barriers to entering the labour market; and secure the business case for circular social enterprises. 
  • To ensure quality jobs in the circular economy, we need to develop frameworks for quality of work in the circular economy; strengthen the legal basis and social dialogue in all sectors; and promote the social value of circular jobs. 
  • To develop the skills that power the circular economy, we need to bolster our understanding of the skills needed in a circular economy; create a policy environment that promotes circular skills; and open up opportunities for continuous learning and development. 

The three pillars identified in the report form the basis of the impact strategy of the Circular Jobs Initiative, launched in March 2020.

Elevating the topic in public discourse

The report is one of a handful of references that currently exist on the topic of jobs and skills in the circular economy, and it is increasingly referenced as a cornerstone publication in public discussions about the subject.

In the follow-up of the publication of this report, we have gathered over 450 stakeholders in workshops and presentations around the circular economy and jobs. The focus on skills, inclusion and quality of work has helped stakeholders dissect various issues related to the subject. This has resulted in topic-specific requests, indicating how the topic was elevated in the public debate. 

We also believe this report has contributed to the evidence base for Green Recovery plans. While this is difficult to assess, the report was published during a pandemic that has highlighted the importance of an inclusive transition to circularity, and has contributed a piece to the puzzle for policymakers who are challenged to build back better.

Birgitta Kramer
Programme Manager Circular Economy at the Goldschmeding Foundation
Circle Economy provides independent insights & forecasts as well as valuable tools, visuals and practical knowledge. The focus on employment in the transition is unique.  The data and visuals have helped me to position our message and values towards a circular and inclusive economy.

What's next?

Follow along the work of the Circular Jobs Initiative by signing up to our newsletter.

The truth behind the label

the issue

Near-infrared technologies such as the Fibersort can automatically recognise and verify the composition of textiles. As these technologies became more accurate in recent years, sorting facilities in the Netherlands started noticing that the machines’ assessment often contradicted what was on the labels. As a result, they raised doubts on the accuracy of composition claims on textiles' labels.
Inaccurate care labels are not only misleading but they can also hinder the recyclability of textiles once they reach their end-of-use.

the response

Members of the Dutch parliament urged the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to investigate the accuracy of composition claims on labels, and the relation between label inaccuracy and recyclability.

our role

Circle Economy was commissioned to conduct this investigation. In order to do so, we manually checked care labels for 10,901 Fibersorted garments, and conducted interviews with numerous organisations, including enforcing regulatory organisations, recyclers, and brands and retailers.


Enforcement measures in need of revision

The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is now aware of the need to revise the enforcement of the European Textile Regulation, which dictates the use of labels to inform consumers on textiles' composition. 

After assessing 10,901 Fibersorted garments, Circle Economy concluded that 41% of labels on the Dutch market are inaccurate. Potential causes were assessed based on numerous interviews. These showed that enforcing organisations do not perceive labels accuracy as a key priority.

Labels as a challenge to recyclers

Recyclers were provided with the opportunity to speak up about the barriers created by the presence of sewn-in polyester labels. 

Interviews revealed that the inaccuracy of composition claims on labels are not a recycler’s main concern, but their mere presence in a garment is. Labels are considered a pollutant of recyclers’ feedstock, limiting their ability to use post-consumer textiles as their process' feedstock, and presenting one of the main challenges to textile-to-textile mechanical recycling. 

These findings provided the Ministry the evidence they needed to address the challenges that sewn-in polyester labels present in recycling processes with the European Commission, and to ensure the European Textile Regulation is revised to reflect circularity ambitions.

Recyclers were pleasantly surprised by the interest the government is taking in the implications of labels for their operations!

Arende van de Pol
Policy Advisor Circular Economy, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management
The European Commission showed interest in the research, and we will discuss the report with the European Commission.

Industry awareness and engagement

During interviews with brands and retailers, we introduced them to the poor accuracy of labels, and together investigated the potential causes for inaccurate labels throughout their supply chains.

As such, brands and retailers were once again shown the importance of quality procedures. This is the main instrument through which they can ensure that the products they receive from their suppliers meet the agreed composition requirements.

checked for accuracy
composition claims
were not accurate
from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI)  introduced to the world of post-consumer textiles

Validating challenges in recycling

The study enabled textile-to-textile recyclers to prove to their clients—spinners or manufacturers—that the composition of their products cannot be known exactly, as labels are inaccurate. One of the frontrunning recyclers, Wolkat, published a statement based on the research findings indicating that their claims were finally validated by external research.

"I will never buy new clothes again!" - an AMFI student during the manual labels check

An educational experience

The manual labels check took place at Wieland's sorting facility. AMFI students were invited to join for a full day at the facility as part of their curriculum. During the day, students were guided through the sorting facility and introduced to the challenges of post-consumer textiles.

For many, this was their first introduction to the growing mountain of used textiles that current consumption patterns are creating, and was described by some as a ‘life changing event’.

What's next?

Armed with a better understanding of the challenges that inaccurate composition claims on labels and label pollution present, the Dutch Ministry will reassess the effectiveness of its current enforcement measures for the European Textile Regulation. In addition, the limiting effect of the European Textile Regulation on the recyclability of used textiles will be put on the agenda of the European Commission.

To dive into the research, download the full report on the Circle Economy website, or watch the webinar we hosted with TextileExchange, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Waterways, and GS1Nederlands on our Youtube channel.


Teamwork makes the dream work