Using a Sustainability Restriction to Promote Circular Economy Practices: The Case of Household Waste in England

Steenmans, K. (Speaker), Melanie McGlone (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Given the estimated economic benefit of GBP 23 billion of a resource efficient economy[1], the UK Government has recently increasingly advocated for the adoption of circular economy approaches, evidenced by, for example, its support for the circular economy in its 25 Year Environment Plan. With ambitions of moving towards a regenerative, circular economy, mechanisms need to be explored to promote the implementation of such approaches. In this paper we submit that one such option can be found in the form of a burden of responsibility over the property of waste – in particular, the ‘sustainability restriction’. The sustainability restriction was developed by McGlone as a Hohfeldian restriction on activities that affect, for example, biodiversity loss, any change in land-use, and change in tree cover [2]. In essence, it requires legal persons not to do something. This paper examines the extent to which this sustainability restriction can be used to promote circular economy approaches within the context of household waste in England. A four-step approach is adopted for this purpose. First, the genesis and substance of the sustainability restriction are described. We then explore its applicability to and relevance within the circular economy context. Third, the specific anticipated benefits and limitations of the restriction in relation to the treatment of household waste in England are set out. Finally, we conclude by examining whether and how such an approach could become a reality. The wider contribution of this paper is thus two-fold: it (1) extends the sustainability restriction to another context, and (2) evaluates the effectiveness of the restriction to inform circular economy practices. [1] Oakdene Hollins, ‘The Further Benefits of Business Resource Efficiency. A Research Report Completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (2011) <> accessed 28 February 2019. [2] Melanie McGlone, ‘The Protection of Land, as Part of the Environment, for the Future’ (PhD draft, University of Surrey 2019).
Period21 Jun 2019
Held atRethinking Property Approaches in Resources for the Circular Economy
Event typeConference
LocationCoventry, United Kingdom