For a better understanding of the links between circular economy, agriculture and territory(ies)

The circular economy is a way of organizing the economy that aims to reduce the use of non-renewable resources by promoting links between activities that were previously unlinked. Thus, he proposes moving away from the so-called linear economic model, based on the extraction of resources, their transformation and the massive production of non-recycled waste. For this, it is necessary to create circularities, that is, exchanges between economic actors that allow reducing, reusing and recycling the materials necessary for economic activity, most of the time at a local scale.

Circular economy, territory(s) and agriculture

Through literature reviews and case studies, the special issue “ Circularities in the territories » presents the main challenges of the development of the circular economy in agriculture and forestry, and the territorial dimension of this phenomenon. More specifically, he explains how territories, particularly local ones, with the resources found there, the actors that comprise them and their institutional context, influence the development of this circular economy. And on the contrary, what are the effects of the construction of circularities on the territories.

A first review of the literature offers an overview of the links between the circular economy and the process of territorial development, in particular in the field of industrial ecology. In particular, this raises questions about the implementation of the circular economy: should it be planned or the product of a self-organizing dynamic driven by industry? It seems that this implementation in the territories is more often based on an intermediate model.

Forest-timber, food, methanation

Case studies in different fields (food, forest-timber and methanation) have made it possible to identify modes of coordination that favor the development of circularities at the local level.

For example, local wood labels are the result of interrelationships between logics of linear valorization typical of the sector, but also of circularities resulting from the research of actors in the development of a closed-loop economy and the desire to promote a development of the wood. beneficial resource for the territory. A study also underlines the key role of intermediary actors who occupy a central place in the network by linking the different groups. However, there does not seem to be a typical network structure or single governance mode to build the circular economy.

Other work has shed light on the mesoeconomic dynamics (at the scale of a sector) of the construction of circularity. For example, although located in rural areas, the promoters of collective agricultural methanization projects manage to find a certain amount of necessary resources in their local environment. This in particular by strongly mobilizing their personal networks and bringing together different types of actors who were not linked to each other before the project. The study of the sugarcane sector has also made it possible to highlight the contribution of the circular economy to the establishment of new innovation dynamics based on new cooperation and the development of local resources. Geographical proximity as well as sharing common values ​​and goals also play a role in the construction of collective actions.

The studies also show how the development of the bioeconomy, in particular the choices in terms of valorization of biomass, influences the socioeconomic exchanges of a territory. The increasing allocation of biomass of agricultural origin to methanation and the development of dedicated crops have shown both individual effects, depending on the farmer’s choice, and collective effects on the agricultural system and the maintenance of local diversity. This then raises the question of potential competition for the use of a resource. A concerted creation of biomass of agricultural origin between the different types of local agricultural actors seems desirable to build a truly sustainable territorial bioeconomy.

Finally, the analysis of systems such as food markets has made it possible to establish that the link between producers and consumers favors the development of more circular systems and the promotion of more local resources.

New avenues of investigation

The articles in this special issue show that the construction of circularities creates many challenges for actors in the field and researchers, opening up future research perspectives.

What public policies can promote the most sustainable forms of circular economy involving agriculture? What innovations are needed to develop the circular economy? To what extent do local resources count for developing circularities?

These are all avenues of research that could form the core of future work.


Bourdin S., Galliano D., Gonçalves A., 2021, Circularities in the territories: opportunities and challenges. European Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2021.197317

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