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Standards as Enablers for a Circular Economy



KC Morris, Vincenzo Ferrero, Buddhika Hapuwatte, Noah Last, Nehika Mathur


A successful transition to a circular economy (CE) will require global participation, but the path to that transition will follow many unique routes depending on local situations. The transition must have rigorous technical underpinnings and well-conceived social interventions. In addition to solid technical foundations, consensus will add legitimacy to new and revised business practices thereby reducing the risk in their adoption. Standards created by voluntary consensus bodies are uniquely positioned to serve these purposes. In these bodies, stakeholders from a broad spectrum of society (industry, academia, government) come together to define solutions for unique circumstances and communicate them through published standards. Standards are developed by systematically determining the scope of the work, agreeing on terminology, and building on that foundation to create detailed specifications. Early engagement in the standards bodies can position stakeholders to be leaders in the path that lies ahead. This paper reviews several efforts to coordinate industries to facilitate the adoption of circular practices and technologies, highlights opportunities for further development, and discusses the role of consensus-based standards in these efforts. Two recent international standards activities supporting the transition to a CE in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and ASTM International are discussed, followed by an example of a carbon savings measure designed to encourage more reuse of materials. While the initial standards efforts are underway, greater participation will be needed to complete the necessary agreements to establish a successful CE. ISO Technical Committee 323 on Circular economy is developing a set of standards including terminology and fundamental principles, metrics, product circularity data sheet definitions, and documenting business models and industrial case studies. These standards will support the UN Sustainable Development Goals and hence are applicable across many levels of economic and infrastructural development. ASTM International, in contrast, focuses on specialized technical standards to be used to operationalize changes in existing practices. The ASTM Committee E60 Sustainability produces standards for operationalizing sustainability in practice and supports the work of other committees to pursue sustainability objectives. E60 recently developed a roadmap for standards to foster a CE of manufacturing materials and is initiating new work in this area. Finally, the paper concludes with an example for incentivizing broader stakeholder participation in the transition to a CE through metrics for calculating carbon avoidance and the need for standards to support the approach.
Proceedings Title
2023 REMADE Circular Economy Technology Summit & Conference
Conference Dates
March 20-21, 2023
Conference Location
Washington, DC, US


circular economy, standards, ASTM, ISO, carbon avoidance, smart manufacturing


Morris, K. , Ferrero, V. , Hapuwatte, B. , Last, N. and Mathur, N. (2023), Standards as Enablers for a Circular Economy, 2023 REMADE Circular Economy Technology Summit & Conference, Washington, DC, US, [online], (Accessed June 17, 2024)


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Created June 30, 2023, Updated December 13, 2023