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Institutional Drivers and Barriers of Circular Economy: China, US, and Europe Compared

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Introduction - Circular Economy Drivers and Barriers in China, US, and Europe

The “Circular Economy” concept stands for a financial system that is meant to be curative and procreant; more precisely, the system maximises the worth of goods, resources, and materials while minimising waste output (Corvellec, Stowell and Johansson, 2021). As a result, the CE method has gained more consideration lately as a means of attaining a “sustainable economic model”. This is a very rich topic conceiving a range of diverse aspects. The purpose of this review is to gain a thorough knowledge regarding the topic of “Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe”.

The purpose of reviewing is to shed light on the state of understanding, clarify apparent discrepancies, propose areas for more research, and even forge a consensus where none previously existed. Since evaluations are frequently mentioned, they aid with recognition and publicizing.

The abstract

 An abstract permits reader to swiftly clench the essence of a paper or article, consenting them to regulate whether to continue reading (Alsaghir, Abdallah and Bazan, 2020). It orients the reader to the particular facts, analysis, and arguments included in the body of work.

The abstract of the journal depicted that the “Circular Economy (CE)” is a viable alternative to the linear economic paradigm (Ranta et al., 2018). It analysed that “Circular economy research” has so far concentrated on how to better conserve value in material flows and vividly explained that classifying and analysing the “drivers of and barriers to CE adoption” will be advantageous for accelerating the growth route. It apprehended the core of the article by integrating the notions that says, regulations have strengthened recycling activities by both integrators and manufacturers. Like established normative markers, increased reuse encounters cultural-cognitive hurdles.

The abstract minutely conceived all the minute and diverse aspects associated with the article. Thus, looking from the microscopic view of assessing the clarity of the article, it can be said that the abstract is in much synchronization with the entire article. But it could be enhanced if the keywords sections were bigger thus it would be easy to internalize the core ideas.

Research methods

“Qualitative case research” is a well-established approach for performing exploratory and “theory-building research” and has previously been used to examine recycling and the CE. Along with it, the multiple-case study approach with six scenarios to evaluate the CE's varied institutional characteristics was also chosen. This study is based on a collection of “primary and secondary” information from a variety of sources. When a broad variety of accessible data is utilized, “secondary data” has been recognized as a viable basis of crucial information for a “case study”. Additionally, by utilising a large quantity of data acquired from numerous sources, data triangulation was boosted. The chief method of “data collection” in this research was through the usage of the “news search engine” “LexisNexis” and documentation of the “retrieval times” and search phrases utilised (Gilbert and Tropin, 2021). The “LexisNexis”-attained “news-data” was then supplemented with “corporate annual reports” company-specific product information, “investor relations presentations”, and news stories from other reputable sources. “Academic papers” were also utilised as secondary sources in circumstances where recent academic research material was accessible. Two thematic interviews were conducted to supplement the main data in the European instances. The vast data collection for this investigation totals 401 papers.

The method of case analysis was based on the “pattern-matching method”, which employs a outline that is theoretical to deduce “empirical patterns” from data. As a result of the analytical framework's essential aspects illuminating varied institutional indicators, manifestations of such indicators were explored in the data. Like, if the information for a specific case indicates that regulation hindered (or encouraged) the “case initiative” in several manner, it was noted as a barrier (or driver) from a CE viewpoint in the case's regulatory pillar section. To ascertain whether the institutional indicator acted as a driver or a barrier, its effect on the “3R principles of CE” was assessed—that is, whether it supported them (i.e., acted as a driver), inhibited them (i.e., acted as a barrier), or did neither. As an illustration of the study and accompanying “qualitative evaluations” in the case of UPM, the Profit goods won several design awards owing to the product's recycled components (Ranta et al., 2018). It was chosen as a “normative indicator” and a “driver” due to its pro-recycling stance. To improve the study's dependability and excellence, researcher triangulation was employed, with each researcher doing analysis, comparing evaluations, and agreeing on the findings. Six case analyses were proceeded by a cross-case analysis in which the regional case sets were pattern-matched utilizing “replication logic”. The resultant general drivers and obstacles were classified to ascertain which “institutional drivers” seemed to be parallel among the 6 cases.

The research methodology section of this particular article is so vast and sustainably that it almost answered each of the “why and how” related to this topic and gave a proper understanding of it. Though secondary Quantitative method as interview could have also been utilized for making it exquisite.


The purpose of the research is to “analyze each region as an institutional environment and considered manufacturer and integrator types of value chain actors due to their central role in CE implementation". The results segment of the article meticulously analyzed CE cases from the “Chinese institutional environment” and it undertook the case of the manufacturer of “Huawei" and the “integrator case” of “Suzhou”. For the CE cases from the US institutional environment, the article analyzed the "Dell manufacturer case”. “Integrator case: Republic Services”. For “CE cases from the European institutional environment”, “Manufacturer case: UPM and “integrator case: Ekokem” were analyzed meticulously in this section.

Comparing institutional settings, as well as the institutional drivers and impediments that exist within them it could be evaluated that-

The article prioritised more detailed findings throughout the within-case analysis stage because they provide insight into the influence of institutional drivers and impediments in individual circumstances. Combining two instances from distinct industries, on the other hand, gave a more comprehensive view of the institutional environment's drivers and impediments. The cross-case comparison identifies parallels and variations in the “institutional context” and “value chain actor type” between the examples, allowing for the detection of developing trends (Ranta et al., 2018).

There is a fairly huge disparity between manufacturer and integrator situations in China. Both share a “cultural cognitive”, shared perception of recycling. In “Suzhou”, recyclables have already a market value for foragers who gather them from houses or roads, and “Huawei” has begun organising auctions for “end-of-life equipment” for example “fibre optic cables”. In the United States, a common characteristic appears to be that recycling is regarded as a normative value and is organised even when state-level legislation does not require it. However, a typical impediment in the United States is the expense of recycling, as recyclable materials such as plastics are transferred to China for onward processing and manufacture in both circumstances. The urge to maximise material use is a typical motivator in European situations. Ekokem enhanced their waste utilisation by merging several processes, and UPM utilises waste and by-products to generate new goods, hence avoiding waste creation for disposal.

Apprising all these, it is evident that the Findings accurately matched with the purpose that weaved the core of the article.


 The findings have several inferences for future CE research and practice but this section could be bigger to conceive minute details such as more examples and more comparison could have been included for an in-depth understanding of this topic. To begin, although the research on how to promote the CE has engrossed on different areas' regulatory strategies, the analysis found that “regulative pillar” is critical, it is not enough for CE accomplishment. Thus, forthcoming research in this field would broaden its scope to include an examination of the degree to which “normative” and “cultural-cognitive” circumstances in various locations assist or obstruct regulatory initiatives. Second, non-regulatory approaches for altering the institutional environment's normative and cultural-cognitive circumstances should be investigated further. According to the study's results, an all-inclusive picture of the CE that incorporates all three “3R principles” (i.e., “reduce”, “reuse”, and “recycle”) is being harmed by prominence on recycling and underperformance of different principles. Impending study topics that might be productive include an examination of why principles other than recycling are neglected and what could be done to increase their validity. This line of research becomes especially critical in light of the fact that this study also demonstrates that recycling may have a null slope if the worth of “recyclables” is less than the price of production. Although this study gives some broad principles regarding the CE's validity, more research including an “institutional theory” viewpoint is required.


 In a nutshell, it can be said that in this article review a thorough discussion regarding the topic was done by minutely evaluating each data of the original article. The clarity of abstract, type of research method, findings and recommendation were appraised in a niche manner which help a proper understanding of the article.


Alsaghir, L., Abdallah, N. and Bazan, S.B., 2020. Optimizing recruitment online: The critical importance of using the right channels. International Journal of E-Business Research (IJEBR)16(4), pp.18-33.

Corvellec, H., Stowell, A.F. and Johansson, N., 2021. Critiques of the circular economy. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Gilbert, I. and Tropin, H.S., 2021. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Business Torts. LexisNexis.

Ranta, V., Aarikka-Stenroos, L., Ritala, P. and Mäkinen, S.J., 2018. Exploring institutional drivers and barriers of the circular economy: A cross-regional comparison of China, the US, and Europe. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, [online] 135, pp.70–82. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344917302653 [Accessed 12 Nov. 2021].

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