Resource-Efficient Circular Economy

Every year, more than 350 million tonnes of waste are generated in Germany.

This is a huge waste of raw materials and natural resources, driven by linear production and consumption systems: goods are produced, used and disposed of without systematic consideration of their possible subsequent use. The "throw-away society" significantly contributes significantly to the overuse of natural resources, leading to some planetary boundaries being overshot.

From waste to urgently needed secondary raw materials

Germany has been a pioneer in developing and implementing "end-of-pipe" environmental protection policies. The aim of such policies is to reduce – as far as possible – the environmental and human impacts of generating and treating waste. Particularly due to technical standards and a landfilling ban for untreated waste, waste is disposed of reliably and as "environmentally friendly" as possible in Germany. However, this does not change the main problem of waste generation, and the recycling of waste requires the use of natural resources and cannot completely prevent the loss of raw materials.

Germany and the European Union are aiming to achieve a circular economy transition, in which waste should be avoided, products and their components should be used for as long as possible and waste is regarded as a potential resource. Related challenges and questions focused on the design of infrastructures, necessary innovation processes, policy mixes, and governance structures are the starting point for research in the Circular Economy Division of the Wuppertal Institute.

Specifically, the Wuppertal Institute's Circular Economy Division is divided into three closely connected Research Units Digital Transformation, Circular Systems and Circular Transitions.

Henning Wilts

We already recycle a lot, but results are lacking. Circular economy means recovering high quality secondary materials, not maximising the quantities of treated waste.

Dr. Henning Wilts
Director of Research Division Circular Economy


Read more on our research on circular economy:


Here you find up-to-date information about research findings and activities in the field of circular economy.


Circular economy research takes place on a national and international level. In the following you find selected sample projects. A complete list is available here.

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