In response to the resource constraints, environmental pressures and economic barriers that characterize our “take and dispose” economy, many have put forward a vision for a “circular economy” that would not only conserve and recycle materials but also contribute to new technological, financial and environmental innovations.

As the circular economy approach gains traction – with noteworthy advances in the EU, China and the US – it is becoming increasingly clear that adjustments to our system of regulatory and commercial law will be needed to further progress towards a circular economy.

The circular economy is not just another buzzword or slogan, but instead is a serious approach to supplant the way global production and energy systems operate. For lawyers and their clients, this represents a new and important thought construct that will lead to legal frameworks better adapted to the 21st century. 

The legal concepts now emerging to advance the Circular Economy reflect the diversity of issues involved in the modification of behaviour and legal obligations related to property ownership and responsibility for property use; facilitation of collaborative production and distribution to maximize materials use (in renewable energy, among other sectors) and economic competitiveness; and creation of viable financial and commercial structures to viably implement the innovations introduced.

While the Circular Economy will certainly include facets of regulatory law designed to protect the environment and transition to sustainability, it is likely that the emerging body of law will incorporate other legal principles as well. Moreover, as the perceived applicability of Circular Economy innovations continues to evolve, regulatory policy and law will likely take on different forms in specific sectors or geographic regions.

(Source: Environmental Law Institute)

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