In the past the creation of waste in connection with production and consumption was accepted as a necessary evil. Today, that apparent common sense is increasingly being challenged: circular economy, zero waste, closed-cycle, resource efficiency, waste avoidance, reuse, recycling - all these terms can be attributed to the ideal of achieving a world largely without waste, and instead with a responsible attitude to resources, materials, products and the environment. On behalf of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Wuppertal Institute analysed the status quo of the circular economy in Germany. On the waste management side, Germany has long been one of the absolute frontrunners, with impressive recycling rates for almost all relevant waste streams holding steady over many years. The situation is less rosy if we expand the perspective to consider the actual circulation of waste products. Specifically in relation to activities in the "inner cycles" - reuse, repair and extending service life - we find that circular economy in Germany still possesses enormous development potential, especially with respect to product design.
Concepts for individual producer responsibility, statutory requirements for product design, and waste targets orientated more strongly on circular economy and resource efficiency offer possible starting points for such a regulatory framework. But in general we find that Germany has yet to make full use of the opportunities offered by the circular economy. This study therefore begins by outlining the various facets of the concept. Following a review of Germany's progress towards such a circular economy, a number of concrete implementation options are presented. The final chapter presents some important conclusions on the necessary next steps.