The transition to a circular economy requires actions and policies. In the praxis of governance, a common way to steer the transition to a different state proceeds through the setting of targets. Thus far, no study has investigated circular economy targets in a systematic way. To bridge this gap, this study examines which targets can facilitate the transition towards a circular economy. The analysis focuses both on existing and new targets; the latter complement existing targets which are limited to a few discrete cases addressing only partially the goal of a more circular economy. A framework based on 10 common circular economy strategies (i.e. recover, recycling, repurpose, remanufacture, refurbish, repair, re-use, reduce, rethink, refuse) is applied to scrutinise the selected targets. The study clarifies that existing targets for recovery and recycling do not necessarily promote a circular economy, though they are the most commonly applied targets so far. Because of lack of efficacy of recovery and recycling, targets should instead favour other more powerful circular economy strategies. In relation to these, the study looks into new and existing targets showing how they can reduce waste, increase efficiency, close production loops, and maximise retention of the economic value of materials and products. In particular, the study proposes an expanded set of brand new targets for the transition to a circular economy together with a fresh view on targets aimed at scholars and decision-makers alike.
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