A global and comparative assessment of the level of economic circularity in the EU

Autores: Martínez-Moreno, M.M.; Buitrago, E.M.; Yñiguez, R.; Puig-Cabrera, M.

Datos de publicación: Journal of Cleaner Production. 2023 Vol. 425, 138759



The European Union (EU) stands as one of the pioneering areas worldwide in the planning of the Circular Economy (CE), despite the fact that practical advances in this area are currently ahead of the related research. Significant gaps remain to be filled, particularly with regard to the measurement of circularity. This work is based on the need for global tools to measure the circular transition which, in turn, can be useful in evaluating the implementation of the action plans under development by the EU.

A composite index of economic circularity (CECI) has been built for the EU and its Member States with which to approximate the progress after completion of the first Action Plan for the Circular Economy (APCE): 2014–2020. This index is based on recycling and downcycling, which is the main strategy developed by APCE. In contrast to previous indicators, CECI globally and rigorously summarises the transition towards the circular economy throughout the period of validity of the plan, by using a simple and easy-to-interpret calculation methodology known as Principal Component Analysis. Likewise, the results of the CECI make it possible to establish a ranking of the EU Member States based on their CE performances for each year under consideration. The results of the CECI show that the EU as a whole has advanced in economic circularity by 17.9%, which is almost 3% on average per year. The situation is very uneven across the various Member States and, although differences have narrowed during the APCE period, in recent years this rapprochement has deaccelerated. The countries that continue to lead the circular transition of the EU are the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, while trailing behind are Romania, Malta, and Cyprus. In light of the results of the CECI and with the aim of achieving greater convergence in the transition to economic circularity in the EU, it would be advisable to intensify actions in those Member States whose starting situation is comparatively worse.


  • Circular economy
  • Circular economy composite index
  • Principal component analysis
  • Circular transition
  • Circular economic ranking
  • EU circular plan

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