27.07.2020 // New standards and products

Circular economy - Going further or staying put

The next steps in the standardization of the circular economy

The circular economy (CE) is an economic model designed to ensure the careful use of resources. In particular, the model serves to optimize ecological and social aspects without neglecting economic advantages.

The circular economy is not anything new. There has been considerable research, as well as successful stakeholders and projects, and the first national management standards have been in use for a few years now in France and England, among others. The circular economy is gaining in importance worldwide and is finding its way into political agendas and programmes in more and more regions. This is driven by ecological and economic necessities and other aspects of sustainability.

In September 2018, the international standardization organization ISO took up the topic of the circular economy by creating its own technical committee (ISO/TC 323). The objective is to develop relevant and globally recognized standards that support the transition from a linear to a circular economy.
In the meantime, the technical committee can draw on a network of over 200 experts and international organizations. The standardization programme initiated by ISO comprises standards for the management of the circular economy and contains a consistent set of terms, principles, guidelines, performance criteria, evaluation methods and other aids.

Throughout 2019, ISO/TC 323 established its project organization and in January 2020 proposed four standardization projects, which were accepted by the ISO/TC 323 members. These are the projects in question:

  • Circular economy – Framework and principles for implementation
    ISO 59004
    The standardization project sets the tone for all three other projects with regard to terms and definitions and basic concepts of the circular economy.
  • Circular economy – Guidelines on business models and value chains
    ISO 59010
    Central to the standardization project are guidelines for CE implementation with a focus on business models and the value chain.
  • Circular economy – Measuring circularity framework
    ISO 59020
    The content of ISO 59020 centres on the measurement and evaluation of circularity. The measurement and evaluation focuses on relevant aspects of circularity and is intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of circularity (total value in relation to an underlying circular economy application); the contents of ISO 59020 are supplemented with topics such as measurement aspects, indicators and data quality. It is planned to include appendices with practical examples.
  • Circular economy – Performance-based approach – Analysis of cases studies
    ISO TR 59031
    The standardization project addresses the performance-based approach, i.e. the criteria for the selection of use cases are to express the total value of a circular economy application (all stakeholders involved). In addition to ecological benefits, economic and social benefits are also considered.


The first three standardization projects are to be developed in 36 months and have the status of an international standard.
The case studies are to be published as technical reports.
None of the standards listed above is planned as a management system standard with verifiable requirements, such as ISO 14001:2015.

Annual meeting with Swiss participation
The technical committee met for the second time virtually from 15 to 19 June 2020. A total of 220 experts delegated by their national standardization organizations attended. The SNV delegation included five persons from the national mirror committee INB/NK 174 “Environment and sustainability”.

Next steps
The international work on standards development will start in July/August 2020. The first drafts of the standardization projects will be available within the next six months. These will then be subjected to various international assessments until the standards can be published after a consensus has been reached.

Source: René Wasmer, chairman of the national standards committee INB/NK 174 «Environment & Sustainability»

More informations:

The circular economy features prominently in the European Commission’s Green Deal. The Circular Economy Action Plan is designed to support sustainable growth. Harmonized standards are a tried and tested means of specifying regulations and directives and providing users with tools to help them implement the legislation.
Standardization mandates for the development of new harmonized standards have been received by CEN-CENELEC in the following areas, are already in progress or foreseeable:

  • Batteries
    In March 2020, the European Commission approached CEN-CENELEC with a draft standardization request (SReq) concerning the performance and sustainability requirements for rechargeable batteries with internal storage. The standardization request aims to support the new legal framework for batteries. This legal framework is intended to establish essential requirements (for example, design for re-use and recycling) for the placing on the market and putting into service of rechargeable batteries.
  • Plastic products
    Standards are intended to support the European Directive 2019/904/EU “on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment”. Under the revised standardization request of the European Commission, submitted to CEN-CENELEC in March 2020, plastic caps and lids of disposable plastic beverage containers with a capacity of up to three litres, which remain attached to the containers during the time of intended use, are to be standardized. The final standards are to contain detailed technical specifications and test methods necessary for compliance with the directive.
  • Textiles
    Standardization mandates could follow as part of the overall EU strategy for the textile sector. This includes, for example, standards for circular design, methods for determining the proportion of recycled material, high-quality textile-to-textile recycling and the labelling of durability and recyclability.
  • Recycling of plastics
    The European Commission mentions standards in several cases as a tool to achieve the target of 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic in new products by 2025. The Circular Plastics Alliance, an initiative within the framework of the European Strategy for Plastics (2018), states that standards for assessing the quality of sorted plastic waste should be developed.

Your contact person for further information:
Lea Leibundgut, , Tel: +41 52 224 54 21

You are invited to participate!
Would you like to participate in the international development of standards? By participating in the national standardization committee INB/NK 174 “Environment and sustainability”, you will always be up to date. As a committee member you will meet other national industry experts and can discuss new draft standards with them. You also have the opportunity to make international contacts.

Further benefits of an SNV membership: Find out more!

Your contact person for a SNV-Membership:
Birgit Kupferschmid, , Tel: +41 52 224 54 18

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