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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Repair Cafés and Precious Plastic as translocal networks for the circular economy

Spekkink, Wouter; Rödl, Malte; Charter, Martin


The literature on the circular economy is dominated by visions that either disregard the role of civil society in (transitions to) a circular economy or depict civil society actors merely as passive consumers. However, there are organized citizen initiatives that align with circular economy thinking and that envision a much more active role for civil society in (transitions to) the circular economy. This paper explores Repair Cafés and Precious Plastic as two examples of such initiatives based on exploratory questionnaire surveys conducted among the associated communities, supplemented with evidence from documents from the initiatives. Repair Cafés and Precious Plastic can be understood as translocal communities that strive toward creating a circular economy through, for example, local repairing and recycling of plastic waste. This article is the first to study translocal communities in the context of a circular economy. In theory, such communities can develop transformative potential to challenge, alter and/or replace dominant institutions. This requires them to develop a critical mass, a shared identity and a political voice. The study shows that networking (and thus the development of critical mass) occurs primarily in specific countries (in the case of Repair Cafés) and not necessarily community-wide (in the case of Precious Plastic). Evidence for a shared identity does exist in both communities, although more clearly in the case of Repair Cafés. The study does not provide evidence for an explicit political voice developing in either community, although in the case of Repair Cafés, the Repair Café International Foundation does take up lobbying activities. Thus, the ingredients for transformative potential in these communities are present only to a limited extent. This study contributes to the circular economy literature by showing how civil society actors can engage with (transitions to) the circular economy through organized citizen initiatives, a phenomenon that has thus far been largely neglected in the literature on circular economies. The study also adds to the limited pool of empirical knowledge on two rapidly growing citizen initiatives toward circular economies.


Circular economy; Translocal networks; Repair; Recycling; Citizen-driven initiatives

Published in

Journal of Cleaner Production
2022, Volume: 380, number: Part 2, article number: 135125

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    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

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