Providing an economy-wide monitoring framework for the circular economy in Austria: Status quo and challenges

The circular economy (CE) concept is gaining momentum among industry, politics and academia, putting forward a number of claims about environmental and climate-related benefits. Recently, the European Union has enacted a policy package calling for a transition from linear- towards circular production cycles across its Member States by 2050. The majority of research so far has focused on the micro- and meso-level, investigating CE implications on the product- and firm-level. On the national level however, a CE monitoring framework has yet to be developed. To take up this challenging task, we develop and apply an economy-wide monitoring framework to the case of Austria, by substantially extending previous work linking official data from economy-wide material flow accounting (ew-MFA), with waste and emission statistics. Herein, we present results of our circularity assessment for the year 2014. We find, that Austria exhibits a 8.5% share of secondary raw materials in processed materials (Input socioeconomic cycling rate - ISCr), while the share of recycled materials in interim outputs (IntOut)) is at 16.8% (Output socioeconomic cycling rate - OSCr). Challenges to the robustness of those estimates may be grounded in gaps in data availability and reporting both at the input and output side, which need to be harmonized for achieving an effective, combined CE monitoring. Furthermore, we find that there is a strong nexus between the CE and energy use and that the CE subsequently could contribute to climate change mitigation.