Factors of uneven progress of the European Union countries towards a circular economy

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The increased final consumption exacerbates the problem of the scarcity of natural resources and leads to environmental pollution. The concept of circular economy, which implies the formation of closed-loop chains of production and consumption with maximum regeneration and recycling of materials, is considered as an alternative to the firmly established “linear economy” (take-make-dispose). As a part of sustainable development strategy, the European Union adopted a general policy on the transition to a circular economy. However, for objective reasons, such transition is quite uneven at the level of member countries, which adversely affects the total progress. Therefore, the need arises to assess the positions of individual countries and identify major reasons for the uneven transition to support the countries that are lagging.
The goal of the study is to identify the factors of uneven progress of the EU countries towards a circular economy. For that reason, a set of empirical data (20 indicators) has been compiled; cluster, classification, and parametric analyses have been conducted. As a result, three clusters of the EU countries have been obtained and six indicators, included into combinations that make all clusters different, have been identified. These indicators can be interpreted as the key factors contributing to the uneven progress of the EU countries towards a circular economy. The difference in harmonic means by clusters allowed quantitatively estimating a “circular gap”. It is of practical value for the EU policy aimed at bridging the gaps between member countries during the transition to a circular economy.

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    • Table 1. List of the key indicators of circular economy in the EU member countries
    • Table 2. Clusters of the EU member countries according to the circular economy development indicators
    • Table 3. Combinations of circular economy indicators, which absolutely separate the clusters of the EU countries
    • Table 4. Results of parametric analysis by the indicators included in the combinations, which separate the clusters of the EU countries
    • Table 5. Difference between the harmonic mean of the indicators, included in the combinations of IGF, as an assessment of “circular gap” between the clusters of the EU countries*
    • Conceptualization
      Maxim Polyakov, Igor Khanin, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev
    • Investigation
      Maxim Polyakov, Igor Khanin, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Methodology
      Maxim Polyakov, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Project administration
      Maxim Polyakov, Vladimir Bilozubenko
    • Supervision
      Maxim Polyakov, Igor Khanin, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Writing – original draft
      Maxim Polyakov, Igor Khanin, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Writing – review & editing
      Maxim Polyakov, Igor Khanin, Vladimir Bilozubenko, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Data curation
      Vladimir Bilozubenko, Gennadij Shevchenko
    • Formal Analysis
      Vladimir Bilozubenko, Maxim Korneyev, Gennadij Shevchenko