Closing the loop on plastics in Europe: The role of data, information and knowledge

Elsevier, Sustainable Production and Consumption, Volume 33, September 2022
Hsu W.-T., Domenech T., McDowall W.

Concerns over plastic waste and support for a plastic circular economy have been growing in recent years. Specific needs to promote re-circulation of plastics in terms of data, information and knowledge are poorly understood. Based on the multi-level perspective on socio-technical transitions and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, this paper aims to understand how information and knowledge issues may inhibit or foster the development of secondary plastics markets in Europe. Results highlight that key barriers associated with data-information-knowledge map across, and interact with, policies and standards, market and technology, socio-cultural norms, networks and business models. The packaging sector has drawn more policy attention, and institutions to support information sharing such as labelling and certification are more mature. The automotive and EEE sectors have illustrated knowledge diffusion through supply chain collaboration, while the construction sector appears to have slower practical progress on industry-level knowledge diffusion. This paper contributes to the multi-level perspective on transition studies by focusing the empirical work on a new area of plastic circular economy. The cases playing out across the whole value chain and four different application areas provide insights that are potentially more widely applicable to the circular economy transition processes in Europe.