CircuLearn Dictionary

Welcome to this initiative to learn the most important concepts of this new model. We need to be on the same page when it comes to sustainability. Here you will find some definitions with their sources together with articles and reports to improve your knowledge.

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Circular Economy

“A circular economy aims to maintain the value of products, materials and resources for as long as possible by returning them into the product cycle at the end of their use, while minimising the generation of waste. The fewer products we discard, the less materials we extract, the better for our environment. This process starts at the very beginning of a product’s lifecycle: smart product design and production processes can help save resources, avoid inefficient waste management and create new business opportunities.”

Monitor the progress of your country here!

Source: European Commission


Linear Economy

“It is the traditional model based on a ‘take-make-consume-throw away’ pattern. The environmental impacts of today’s ‘take, make, waste’ or ‘linear economy’ are dramatic and extensive. Resource extraction has tripled since 1970 and it is projected to grow by another 70% by 2050, with the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution being felt all around the world.”

Let’s check the last United Nations’ report here!

Source: United Nations


Blue Economy

“The European Union’s blue economy encompasses all industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts, whether they are based directly in the marine environment (e.g. shipping, seafood, energy generation) or on land (e.g. ports, shipyards, coastal infrastructures). According to the most recent Blue economy report, the traditional sectors of blue economy provide 4.5 million direct jobs and generate over 650 billion euro in turnover.”

Check the last European Union report here!

Source: European Commission


Regenerative Economy

“It is an economy built on patterns and principles which views the economy as a sustainable system for creating conditions conducive to life for current and future generations.”

Check the Circulab website here!


Cradle to Cradle

“Cradle to cradle’ goes beyond ‘cradle to grave’ and conforms more to the model of the circular economy. In a cradle to cradle model products would be designed in a way so that at the end of their initial life they can be readily reused, or recycled, and therefore avoid landfill altogether.”

Get to know more about environmental terms here!




“Permaculture is a holistic approach recreating the complexity of an ecosystem while removing motorization from crops and gathering several plant varieties with complementary properties in the smallest possible area. Permaculture reduces the pressure of farming activities on lands and increases fertility, reinforcing sustainability in farming and food production, eliminating chemical input to recreate biodiversity and reducing fossil fuels.”

Read this article for more information!

Source: Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE)



“Biomimetics, a name coined by Otto Schmitt in the 1950s for the transfer of ideas and analogues from biology to technology, has produced some significant and successful devices and concepts in the past 50 years, but is still empirical. Biomimetics is the imitation of the systems and elements of nature for the purpose of solving technological problems. Merging biomimetic approaches with nanotechnology opens new horizons for the future of nanofabrication.”

Here you can find scientific articles related to this topic!

European Commission CORDIS

Source: Journal of the Royal Society Interface


Life-cycle-assessment (LCA)

“Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a process of evaluating the effects that a product has on the environment over the entire period of its life, thereby increasing resource-use efficiency and decreasing liabilities.”

Check the UN Environment Programme ( UNEP) website for more information!

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)



“Microplastics are solid plastic particles composed of mixtures of polymers and functional additives. They may also contain residual impurities. Microplastics can be unintentionally formed when larger pieces of plastic, like car tyres or synthetic textiles, wear and tear. But they are also deliberately manufactured and added to products for specific purposes, such as exfoliating beads in facial or body scrubs.”

Check out the European Environmental Bureau´s (EEB) report!

Source: The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)


The 7 R’s

“Circular economy aims to optimise the use of materials at their highest value and optimal use for an increased efficiency of products and a reduced environmental impact. The use of R’s as operational imperatives of the circular economy answers to a need of conceptualisation and modelisation of the circular economy principles. Here are the 7 R’s of the circular economy: Recycle, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Re-gift and Recover.”

Get to know the European Week for Waste Reduction here!


Zero waste

“Zero waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health”

Find out more about the zero-waste programme for Europe at the EUR-Lex website!

Source: Zero Waste Europe



“The mould is the hollow form in which molten plastic is poured to form a designed shape when the material cools. There are different types of moulding:

Blow Molding

Method of fabrication in which a warm plastic hollow tube is placed between the two halves of a mould cavity and forced to assume the shape of that mould cavity by use of internal pressure. This process forms hollow articles such as bottles, tanks, etc.

Injection Moulding
Method of forming objects from granular or powdered plastics, most often of the thermoplastic type. During the process the material is fed from a hopper to a heated chamber, there it is softened after which a ram or a screw forces the material into a mould. The pressure is maintained until the mass has hardened sufficiently for removal from the mould.

Insert Molding
Process of moulding plastic around preformed metal inserts. This process is compatible with both thermoplastic and thermoset materials.”

Find out more about the different processes of moulding at the European Commission website!

Source: Plastics Recyclers Europe


Textile Composting

“The controlled biological decomposition of organic material in the presence of air to form a humus-like material. Controlled methods of composting include mechanical mixing and aerating, ventilating the materials by dropping them through a vertical series of aerated chambers, or placing the compost in piles out in the open air and mixing it or turning it periodically.”

Check this United Nations’ article to find out more about composting!

Get more info about textile recycling at the EU Commission website

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)


Reverse Logistics  

“Reverse logistics is the process for capturing the remaining value from the end-of-use (EOU) and the end-of-life (EOL) products and also for the proper disposal of the non-reusable and non-recyclable parts. Put in other words, all physical and administrative processes related to the movement of trading and packaging materials from the point of use to the point of manufacturing, encompassing collection, inspection, disassembly, re-processing and/or disposition of returned items.”

Read more about Reverse Logistics on this paper!

Source: International Journal of Production Economics


New materials  

“A multitude of human and economic resources are currently being invested in R&D in the textile industry, with nanotechnology playing a basic and fundamental role in the development of new materials. Nanoparticles are used to manipulate matter to create new materials, such as nanofibres, with unique properties, which can be called ‘intelligent fabrics’.

Lyocell and many other ‘artificial’ fibres (half natural and half synthetic) are being brought to the market as a sustainable solution for the fashion industry: they offer a less pollutant and a more breathable product compared to synthetic fibres.

The form of rayon known as Lyocell (originally developed as Tencel®) involves the dissolution of wood chips using either the sulphite process (sulphurous acid) or the sulphate (kraft) process, to produce a pulp from which most of the lignin and hemicellulose has been removed.

Mestic® is a bio-engineering company that uses the waste from manure create products, fibers, and textiles. Mestic® generates new sustainable raw materials (bioplastics) that can be used by the manufacturing industry, thereby spurring the settlement of new industry and the development of new innovative technologies in the future.”

Source: Exploring the potential for adopting alternative materials to reduce marine plastic litter by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET)


CO2 dyeing  

“The technology uses (reclaimed) CO2 as the dyeing medium in a closed-loop process. When heated and pressurised, CO2 becomes supercritical, a phase between a liquid and a gas. In this state CO2 has a very high solvent power, meaning the dye can dissolve easily and deeply into fibres, creating a vibrant colour.”

Check out this article issued by the European Parliament!

Source: European Commission


Traceability and Transparency

“Traceability is the capacity to track and trace a product to its origin, and Transparency is the level of public disclosure of the suppliers in a given value chain. They have become key concepts among apparel and footwear suppliers where value chains are highly complex, and the skills required in this are very specific.”

Find out more information at this article!

Source: European Project Skills 4 Smart Industries



“Packaging shall mean all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw materials to processed goods, from the producer to the user or the consumer. Non-returnable items used for the same purposes shall also be considered to constitute packaging.”

Check out this article issued by the European Commission!

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)



“The integration of environmental aspects into the product development process, by balancing ecological and economic requirements. Eco-design considers environmental aspects at all stages of the product development process, striving for products which make the lowest possible environmental impact throughout the product life cycle.”

Check out this article issued by the European Commission!

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)


Closing the loop

“The transition to a more circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised, is an essential contribution to the EU’s efforts to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy. Such transition is the opportunity to transform our economy and generate new and sustainable competitive advantages for Europe.”

Source: EUR-Lex  


Organic farming

“Organic farming is agriculture that makes healthy food, healthy soils, healthy plants, and healthy environments a priority, along with crop productivity. Organic farmers use biological fertilizer inputs and management practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation to improve soil quality and build organic soil matter. By increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil, organic farmers enhance the soil’s ability to absorb water, reducing the impacts of drought and flooding. Improving soil organic matter also helps it to absorb and store carbon and other nutrients need to grow healthy crops, which, in turn, are better able to resist insects and diseases.”

Source: Organic farming Research Foundation


Textile processes: carding, weaving, fitting

“Textile processing is usually accompanied by high environmental pollution, high energy, water, and chemical-consuming processes.” The main textile processes are: Spinning, Weaving, Dyeing + Printing + Finishing and Garments Manufacturing. Carding, in textile production, a process of separating individual fibres, using a series of dividing and redividing steps, that causes many of the fibres to lie parallel to one another while also removing most of the remaining impurities. … Carded and combed sliver is then spun.”

Source: Science Direct


Value Chain

“One can define an industrial value chain as value creation stages that enterprises and other organisations go through when designing and delivering goods and services for their users. They are increasingly reconfigured because of cross-border and cross-sectoral collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship between different industries. These interactions and linkages between value chains and industries may lead to the development of emerging industries.”

Find out more at this report by Member of the European Parliament Christophe Grudler !

Source: European Commission