The Emergence of the Modern Circular Economy: A Bibliography

book reader penang

– Bibliography compiled by Dr David Ness, School of Natural and Built Environments  13 July 2017

The modern view of a circular economy differs from the past. It has started in the second half of the 20th Century and is a case for the simultaneous and uncorrelated emergence of an idea

Note: The concept, the tool set, the experience thus far, the critical analysis, and the potential associated with “Circular Economy” will be examined and shared in a cycle of articles here in World Streets — with the specific objective of seeing how this policy approach can be put to work to open up new understanding and opportunities in the challenging push to sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable  lives.  (Leave no stone unturned.)

Hochbauamt der Stadt Bern (1973) Modellstudie zur Sanierung von Altbau-Liegenschaften. Bern.

Schumacher, E.F. (1973) Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered; London, Blond & Briggs Ltd.

Commission of the European Communities (1975) Report on the E.C.S.C. Experimental Programme of Modernisation of Housing, Luxembourg.

Nora, Simon et Eveno, Bertrand (1976) l’amélioration de l’habitat ancien; La Documentation Française, Paris.

Stahel, Walter R. and Reday, Geneviève (1977) The potential for substituting manpower for energy; report to DG V for Social Affairs, Commission of the EC, Brussels (research contract No. 760137 programme of research and Actions on the development of the Labour Market), study no. 76/13.

This report established the service-life extension of goods as a sustainable strategy to create jobs, save energy (and GHG emissions) and prevent waste. The analysis was done on a micro and macro level, for cars and buildings (and automobile and building industry) in France. It was later published as a book:

Stahel, Walter R. and Reday-Mulvey, Geneviève (1981) Jobs for Tomorrow, the potential for substituting manpower for energy; Vantage Press, New York, N.Y.. ISBN 533-04799-4.

Conn, David W. (1977) Consumer Product Life Extension in the Context of Materials and Energy Flows; in: Pearce D.W. and Walter, I. (eds.) Resource Conservation: Social and Economic Dimensions of Recycling; University Press, New York and Longman, London.

Grossmann, R. and Danecker, G. (1977) Guide to Jobs and Energy; Washington: Environmentalists for full Employment, p. 21.

Conn, David W. (1978) Factors affecting Product Lifetime, a study in support of policy development for waste reduction. University of California, Los Angeles, CA, prepared for the National Science Foundation, Washington DC. NFS/RA 780219.

Davis, John D. (1979) A Long-Life Car Project – an Assessment of Feasibility. Loughborough Consultants, UK. John Davis was a close collaborator of Fritz Schumacher, the author of ‘Small is beautiful’, and member of the Intermediate Technology Development Group in London.

Stahel, Walter R. (1982) “The Product-Life Factor”, a winner of the 1982 Mitchell Prize, Houston Area Research Center (HARC), The Woodlands, TX. This paper gives a synthesis of the 1977 report, generalising the topic to the private sector. The paper defines the new concept of “selling goods as services” as a logic next step after product-life extension in an utilisation-focused circular economy in order to increase the competitiveness of economic actors. The paper is concise, easy to read and easily accessible through…

The 1982 Mitchell Prize awards were published in:

Orr, Susan Grinton (ed.) (1983) An Inquiry into the Nature of Sustainable Societies: The Role of the Private Sector; HARC, The Woodlands, TX.

OECD (1982) Product durability and product-life extension, their contribution to solid waste management; OECD Paris (also published in French). ISBN 92-64-12293-1. This report written by an English consultant was an early, maybe the first, policy publication on this subject in Europe.

Ruyssen, Olivier (1982) Maintenance and Repair Activities, case studies; FAST Occasional Papers no. 33, DG for Science, Research and Development, Commission of the EC, Brussels.

De Gregorio, G. (1982) Maintenance and Repair Activities, FAST Occasional Papers no. 32, DG for Science, Research and Development, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.

Lund, Robert T. (1982) Energy Recapture through Remanufacturing, MIT Center for Policy Alternatives, Boston Mass. CPA 81-20.

Lund, Robert T. (1983) Start-up Guidelines for the Independent Remanufacturer, MIT Center for Policy Alternatives, Boston Mass. CPA 83-7.

Lund, Robert T. (1984) Remanufacturing, the Experience of the USA and Implications for Developing Countries, The World Bank, Washington, DC. WB Technical Paper no. 31, UNDP Project Management Report no. 2, Integrated Resource Recovery Series GLO/80/004.

Rousset-Deschamps, Marcel et Colpin-Guerini, Béatrice (1985) la réparation et le commerce de l’automobile, CEDES, CNRS-Economie et Humanisme, Lyon. Programme mobilisateur Technologie, Emploi, Travail, Ministère de la Recherche et de la Technologie, Paris.

Stahel, Walter R. (1986) “The Hidden Innovation”, in: Science & Public Policy, London, vol. 13 no 4, August 1986 (Special issue on “The hidden wealth”). Stahel, Walter R. (1986) Product-life as a variable: the notion of utilization, in: Science and Public Policy, Journal of the International Science Policy Foundation, London; Volume 13, Number, 4 August 1986: Special Issue: The Hidden Wealth.

Stahel, Walter R. (1986) R & D in a sustainable society, in: Science and Public Policy, Journal of the International Science Policy Foundation, London; Volume 13, Number, 4 August 1986: Special Issue: The Hidden Wealth.

Börlin, Max et Stahel, Walter R. (1987) Economic strategy of durability – valorisation of the product-life of goods as a contribution to waste prevention. (original title : Stratégie économique de la durabilité – éléments d’une valorisation de la durée de vie des produits en tant que contribution à la prévention des déchets); cahier SBS no. 32, Société de Banque Suisse, Bâle (published in French and German). This report of 30 case studies of service-life extension and selling-services-instead-of-goods in Swiss industry identified the internalisation of all costs of risk and of waste as the key advantage of the concept of selling services instead of goods, giving economic actors a strong incentive to prevent these costs in order to increase their competitiveness

Stahel, Walter R. (1991) Langlebigkeit und Materialrecycling – Strategien zur Vermeidung von Abfällen im Bereich der Produkte; Vulkan Verlag, Essen, ISBN 3-8027-2815-7. Die Fallstudien sind zu finden unter Durability and Material Recycling – strategies to prevent waste in the area of goods –

English translations of the three case studies by U.S. EPA, Washington D.C. (1992) Waste Minimization Case Studies for Three Products; Office of R&D, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC. The English case studies (washing machines, PCs, power tools) can be downloaded from This study was revolutionary because until then, experts considered that waste prevention was only possible for production waste, but not for goods.

IDSA (Industrial Designer Society of America) publishes its 12 Eco-Design Principles in 1992.

Harvard Business School (1994) Xerox: Design for the Environment; case study N9-794-022, January 7, 1994. This was the first HBS case study on selling goods as service.






The following is a selection of articles on the circular economy, including those related to industrial ecology, urban metabolism and especially the built environment. The latter has tended to be overlooked, with most attention being focused on the manufacturing sector.

Switzer, J F Q. 1963. The Life of Buildings in an Expanding Economy, Gold Medal Paper, Chartered Surveyor, Vol 96, No 2, August, 70-77.

Boulding, K. E. 1966. The economics of the coming spaceship earth. In H. Jarret (ed), Environmental quality in a growing economy, Baltimore, MD, John Hopkins University Press.

Webb, M. 1966. Rent-A-Wall, Archigram 7, London.

Kneese, A. V., Ayres, R. U., d’Arge, R. C. 1970. Economics and the Environment: A Materials Balance Approach, Resources for the Future Inc, Washington, DC. Distributed by John Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London.

Gordon, A. 1972, Designing for Survival: the President introduces his long life/loose fit/low energy study, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal, 79(9), 374-376.

Georgescu-Roegen, N. 1973. The entropy law and the economic problem, in Daly, H (ed), Toward a Steady-State Economy, W.H. Freeman and Co, San Francisco, 37-49.

Gordon, A. 1974. Architects and resource conservation, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal, Jan, 9-10.

Trenton, H. P. 1975. Terotechnology: the right life span, Building, 25 April.

Farrell, T. and Grimshaw, N. 1976. Buildings as a Resource, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal, Vol 83, No 5, 171-181.

Markus, T. A, ed. 1979. Building Conversion and Rehabilitation: Designing for Change in Building Use, Newnes-Butterworths, London.

Rifkin, J. 1980. Entropy: A New World View, The Viking Press, New York.

Georgescu-Roegen, N. 1986. The entropy law and the economic process in retrospect, Eastern Economic Journal 12(1), 3-25.

Hawken, P. 1993. The ecology of commerce, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London.

Tibbs, H. 1993. Industrial ecology: an environmental agenda for industry, Global Business Network.

Schmidt-Bleek, F. 1993. MIPS: the Fossil Makers, Factor 10 Institute, Carnoules.

Schmidt-Bleek, F. 1994. How to reach a sustainable economy, Wuppertal Papers No. 24, Factor 10 Institute, Germany. (accessed September 2016). vBrand, S. 1995. How buildings learn: what happens after they’re built? Penguin.

Von Weizsacker, E. von, Lovins, A. and Lovins, L. H. 1997. Factor 4, Doubling wealth – halving resource use, Earthscan, London.

Boons, F. and Baas, L. 1997. Types of Industrial ecology: the problem of coordination, Journal of Cleaner Production 5(1-2), 79-86.

Pauli, G. 1997. Zero emissions: the ultimate goal of cleaner production, Journal of Cleaner Production 5(1-2), 109-113.

Ayers, R. 1999. Products as service carriers: should we kill the messenger – or send it back? Zero Emissions Forum, UN University, Tokyo.

Hawken, P., Lovins, A., Lovins, L. Hunter. 1999. Natural capitalism: the next industrial revolution, Earthscan Publications Ltd, London.

White, A., Stoughton, M., Feng, L. 1999. Servicizing: the quiet transition to extended producer responsibility, The Tellus Institute, US.

Kohler, N. 1999. The relevance of the green building challenge: an observer’s perspective. Building Research and Information 27(4-5), 309-320.

Rees, W. 1999. Achieving sustainability: reform or transformation, Journal of Planning Literature 9(4), 343-361.

Newman, P. 1999. Sustainability and cities: extending the metabolism model, Landscape and Urban Planning 44, 219-226.

Rifkin, J. 2000. The age of access: how the shift from ownership to access is transforming capitalism, Penguin Books, London.

Chertow, M. 2000. Industrial symbiosis: literature and taxonomy, Annual Review Energy and Environment 25, 313-317.

Fishbein, B., McGarry, L. and Dillon, P. 2000. Leasing: a step toward producer responsibility. INFORM Inc, New York.

Dekker, E., S. Elliot, F. Smith, D. Blake, and F. Rowland. 2000. Energy and material flow through the urban ecosystem, Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 25, 685-740.

Heiskanen, E. and Jals, M. 2000. Dematerialization through services – a review and evaluation of the debate, Ministry of the Environment, Helsinki.

Kibert, C., Sendzimir, J. and B. Guy. 2000. Construction ecology and metabolism: natural system analogies for a sustainable built environment, Construction Management and Economics, 18(8), 903-916.

Ness, D. and B. Atkinson. 2001. Re-use/upgrading of existing building stock, Environment Design Guide DES 11, Australian Council of Building Design Professions Ltd (BDP).

Mont, O. 2001. Introducing and developing a Product-Service System (PSS) in Sweden, IIIEE Reports 2001:6, The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Sweden.

Cuperus, Y. 2001. An introduction to open building, Proceedings of the 9th International Group for Lean Construction Conference. Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore, 6 – 8 August 2001. Chua, David & Ballard, Glenn (eds.). National University of Singapore.

McDonough, W. and M. Braungart. 2002. Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things, North Point Press, New York.

Bringezu, S. 2002. Towards sustainable resource management in the European Union, Wuppertal Papers, No 121, Jan, Wuppertal Institute, Germany.

Kohler, N. and U. Hassler. 2002. The building stock as a research object, Building Research and Information 30(4), 226-236.

Ness, D. & Field, M. 2003. Cradle to cradle carpets and cities, Proceedings of SASBE03, Brisbane.

Ness, D. & Field, M. 2004. Cradle to cradle carpets and cities, CSIRO Sustainability Network Update 36E, 29 Jan.

Ehrenfield, J. 2004. Industrial ecology: a new field or only a metaphor? Journal of Cleaner Production 12, 825-831.

Ness D., Clement S., Field, M., Filar, J., Pullen, S. 2005. (Approaches Towards) Sustainability in the Built Environment Through Dematerialisation, Proceedings of the Sustainable Buildings Conference (SB05). September, Tokyo.

Cooper, T. 2005. Slower consumption: reflections on product life spans and the ‘throwaway society’. Journal of Industrial Ecology 9(1-2), 51-67.

Chertow, M. and D. Lombardi. 2005. Quantifying economic and environmental benefits of co-located firms, Environmental Science and Technology 39(17), 6535-6541.

Yuan, Z., J. Bi, and Y. Moriguichi. 2006. The circular economy: a new development strategy in China, Journal of Industrial Ecology 10(1-2), 4-8.

Kennedy, C., Cuddihy, J. and J. Engel-Yan. 2007. The changing metabolism of cities, Journal of Industrial Ecology 11(2), 43-59.

Braungart, M, W. McDonough, and A. Bollinger, A. 2007. Cradle to cradle design: creating healthy emissions – a strategy for eco-effective product and system design, Journal of Cleaner Production 15, 1337-1348.

Kohler, N. and W. Yang. 2007. Long-term management of building stocks, Building Research and Information 35(4), 351-362.

Kohler, N., Steadman, P. and U. Hassler. 2009. Research on the building stock and its applications, Building Research and Information 37(5-6), 449-454.

Geng, Y., Zhu, Q., Doberstein, B. and T. Fujita. 2009. Implementing China’s circular economy concept at the regional level: a review of progress in Dalian, China, Waste Management 29, 996-1002.

Rees, W. 2009. The ecological crisis and self-delusion: implications for the building sector, Building Research and Information 37(3), 300-311.

O’Brien, M., H. Wallbaum, R. Bleishwitz et al. 2011. Resource-efficient construction: the role of eco-innovation for the construction sector in Europe, Eco-Innovation Observatory, EIO Thematic Report, April.

Ranhagen, U., and K. Groth. 2012. The Symbiocity approach: a conceptual framework for sustainable urban development. Stockholm: SKL International.

Geng, Y., J. Fu, J. Sarkis, and B. Xue. 2012. Towards a national circular economy indicator system in China: an evaluation and critical analysis, Journal of Cleaner Production 23, 216-224.

Su, B., Heshmati, A., Geng, Y. and X. Yu. 2013. A review of the circular economy in China: moving from rhetoric to implementation, Journal of Cleaner Production 42, 215-227.

Figge, F., Young, W. and R. Barkemeyer. 2014. Sufficiency or efficiency to achieve lower resource consumption and emissions? The role of the rebound effect, Journal of Cleaner Production 69, 216-224. ISO 55000. 2014. Asset management: overview, principles and terminology, International Standards Association.

Zhu, D. 2014. China’s policies and instruments for developing the circular economy, (please click here) GreenEconet. Accessed January 2016.

Murray, A., K. Skene, and K. Haynes. 2015. The circular economy: an interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context, Journal of Business Ethics, 22 May.

Geldermans, R. and L. Jacobsen. 2015. Circular material flows in buildings, Delft University of Technology, June.

Geldermans, R. 2016. Design for change and circularity – accommodating circular material and product flows in construction, Energy Procedia.

Geng, Y., J. Sarkis, and S. Ulgiati. 2016. Sustainability, wellbeing, and the circular economy in China and worldwide, Science 6278 (Supplement), March, 73-76.

Bocken, N. and S. Short. 2016. Towards a sufficiency-driven business model: experiences and opportunities, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 18, 41-61.

Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N. and E. Hultink. 2017. The circular economy – a new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production, January.

Ness, D. & Xing, K. 2017, Toward a resource efficient built environment: a literature review and conceptual model, Journal of Industrial Ecology, June.


Note: The concept, the tool set, the experience thus far, the critical analysis, and the potential associated with “Circular Economy” will be examined and shared in a cycle of articles here in World Streets — with the specific objective of seeing how this policy approach can be put to work to open up new understanding and opportunities in the challenging push to sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable  lives.  (Leave no stone unturned.)

# # #

About the author:

Dr David Ness focuses on resource-efficient buildings/infrastructure systems and the ‘Circular Economy’, collaborating with its founder Prof Walter R. Stahel and others. David has developed conceptual models on ‘doing more with less’, delivering more services with less resource consumption and less cost. In addition to research on integrated infrastructure systems, he investigates means of keeping resources/products in closed loops through new business approaches such as product-service systems. David is Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Natural and Built Environments and Research Affiliate, Australian Centre for Asian Business, UniSA. David heads ‘Ecological Development Union International’. He can be contacted under


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About the editor

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - . | Britton online:

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