Expert and Diffuse Design of a Sustainable Circular Economy in Two German Circular Roadmap Projects

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


According to sustainability transitions theory, socio-technical change requires a convergence of politics, social change, technology, and niche innovations. Recently, a circular economy has been proposed as the engine of such change in the EU New Green Deal and Germany. Mainstream circular economy emphasizes the closing of material loops as the way to ensure green growth, and there is a key role for design to achieve such change. According to reports, however, the global appetite for a circular economy remains limited and critics have pointed to several contradictions between the rhetoric and reality of the circular economy and sustainable development. In addition, current formulations of circular economy misrepresent the plurality of discourses for a sustainable circular economy and the role of expert and diffuse circular design. In this study, we employ the recently articulated ten principles for a sustainable circular economy and society to analyze two contrasting circular roadmap projects in Germany, which reflect two contrasting technical and reformist circular discourses, and understandings of the role of design. We find that there are narrow and broad interpretations of design inherent in these circular policies as well as the exemplification of the difference between a technical circular economy and reformist circular society discourses. The practical applied value of this analysis is that the framework can be employed to analyze other policies.


Original languageEnglish
Article number408
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85138715759
ORCID /0000-0003-0937-1927/work/142249170
ORCID /0000-0003-2862-9196/work/142254864


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • sustainable circular economy, circular design, sustainable design