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 systematically considering their subsequent use possibilities. Our "throw-away society" significantly contributes to the overuse of natural resources, leading to an overshoot of some planetary boundaries.

From waste to urgently needed secondary raw materials

Germany has been a pioneer of developing and implementing "end-of-pipe" environmental protection policies. The aim of such policies was to reduce - as far as possible - the environmental and human impacts caused by the generation and treatment of 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 central 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 target a circular economy transition, in which waste should be avoided, products and their components should be used 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 Division Circular Economy of the Wuppertal Institute.


Dr. Henning Wilts

Tel.: +49 202 2492-290

Fax: +49 202 2492-108

We already recycle a lot, but with insufficient results. Circular Economy means recovering high quality secondary materials – and not maximising the quantities of waste treated.

Sören Steger
Research Fellow


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. Here you find selected sample projects.

See all projects dealing with resource management here.

You find a complete list that you can apply different filters to and search through on our project overview.