Towards a sustainable circular economy


This project combines the socioeconomic and resource flow knowledge of two chairs at ETH Zurich, in order to explore the hidden economic and environmental potential of different paths towards a sustainable circular economy in Switzerland.




How can we ensure that the economy does not only become circular, but also sustainable?How can we ensure that the economy does not only become circular, but also sustainable? 11:00:00 PM

​Project description (ongoing research project)

Our goal is to close knowledge gaps in terms of whether material circularity is viable (in economic, environmental, organisational and political terms) and to define strategies for a sustainable circular economy. We are also examining the conditions for applying this concept in Switzerland and in selected industries, and the resulting implications. We will also analyse the impacts of a circular economy and draw up policy recommendations. The project has practical benefits thanks to close cooperation with stakeholders and decision makers, for example in industry, the administration and the political arena.


Current research and practical applications of the circular economy concept reveal two major caveats: Firstly, closing material loops in a value chain does not always lead to better environmental performance – a circular economy is not sustainable per se. And secondly, the current understanding of a circular economy is often limited to waste management. This neglects important aspects of the value chain such as potential new business models for bringing about possible improvements.


With this project our aim is to define a sustainable circular economy by integrating resource and socioeconomic perspectives, in order to understand material circularity in a holistic way. To this end, we aim to address the overarching research question: What are the hidden potentials for improving resource management in Switzerland, and how could they pave the way towards a sustainable circular economy?


To achieve these objectives, this project will carry out and consolidate economic and ecological analyses of selected value chains, to help policy makers improve regulatory frameworks and develop incentive systems to provide adequate framework conditions for a sustainable circular economy.

Original title

Towards A sustainable CircuLar Economy – Combining a material flow with a business and policy perspective (TACLE)

Project leaders

Project leaders​

  • Prof. Dr. Volker Hoffmann, Group for Sustainability & Technology, ETH Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. Stefanie Hellweg, Group for Ecological Systems Design, ETH Zürich

Project partners

  • Climate-KIC
  • EMPA
  • Isofloc
  • ISOVER St. Gobain
  • Pavatex
  • Swisspor
  • Thermo Natur

Further information on this content



Prof. Dr. Volker Hoffmann Group for Sustainability & Technology, ETH Zürich WEV J412
Weinbergstrasse 56/58
8092 Zürich +41 44 632 05 40

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