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UK Government Policy and the Transition to a Circular Nutrient Economy

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article numbere3310
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/03/2022
Issue number6
Number of pages19
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The “circular economy” is an increasingly influential concept linking economic and environmental policy to enable sustainable use of resources. A crucial although often overlooked element of this concept is a circular nutrient economy, which is an economy that achieves the minimization of nutrient losses during the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food and other products, as well as the comprehensive recovery of nutrients from organic residuals at each of these stages for reuse in agricultural production. There are multiple interconnecting barriers to transitioning from the current linear economic system to a more circular one, requiring strongly directional government policy. This paper uses interpretive policy analysis to review six UK government strategies to assess their strengths and weaknesses in embracing nutrient circularisation. Our analysis highlights the acute underrepresentation of the circular nutrient economy concept in these strategies as well as the potential to reorient the current policy towards its development. We find significant barriers to transition presented by ambiguity in key policy terms and proposals, the use of inappropriate indicators, the lack of a systematic approach to key sustainability objectives, and the presence of a “techno-optimist imaginary” throughout the strategies. We develop these findings to make recommendations to help integrate definitions, objectives, and activities across the policy domains necessary for the operational development of a circular nutrient economy.