The Role of Property Rights in Waste in Promoting Transitions Towards a Circular Economy

  • Katrien Steenmans (Speaker)
  • Rosalind Malcolm (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Within the context of global resource and waste crises, there are increasing calls to manage waste effectively and transition towards circular economies where resources and wastes are reused, recycled, or recovered instead of sent to landfill or incinerated in order to achieve both economic prosperity and environmental protection. The challenge lies in operationalising such transitions. One possible mechanism that can be used is property rights, which has received much attention in wider legal literature as a means for managing resources effectively. This paper investigates what impact property rights can have on the implementation of circular waste economies within the context of the European Union. For this purpose, this paper first distinguishes between property rights regimes – private, communal, state, and no property – using the Hohfeld-Honoré conception of rights. These regimes are then applied to understand current property rights in waste when it is produced and treated or abandoned. Next, the implications of property rights for facilitating transitions towards circular economies are discussed. This paper argues that even though different property rights regimes can apply to waste during its creation, disposal, and recovery, the waste management regulatory and legal system is currently predominantly set up to support waste within classic forms of private property ownership. This tends towards commodification and linear systems. It is recommended that adopting state or communal property approaches instead could effect systemic transformative change by facilitating the reconceptualisation of waste as a resource for everyone to use.
Period28 Aug 201930 Aug 2019
Event title7th annual European Environmental Law Forum: Environmental Law for Transitions to Sustainability - Circular economy, climate change, water resource management and sustainable biodiversity
Event typeConference
Conference number7
LocationUtrecht, NetherlandsShow on map