In order to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, it is vital we speak with a common voice, using a common language and definitions that can be used by all.

This glossary designed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation aims to increase understanding of the circular economy. It includes definitions for commonly-used terms such as recycle, reverse logistics, and finite resources. It also explains the difference between virgin, non-virgin, and renewable materials, biological and technical cycles, and reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing.  

The terms in the glossary can be applied to any sector of the economy.

By establishing a common language, and defining terms that are often misunderstood, the aim is to make it easier for businesses, policymakers, and cities to align on what the circular economy is and how they can adopt truly circular models.

The intention is to expand the glossary over time. The Foundation also published more detailed, sector-specific definitions for plastic packagingjeans, and Circulytics — the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's circular economy performance measurement tool — and plans to publish further fashion and food definitions. 

glossary snippet


The circular economy glossary was created in collaboration with IKEA, one of the Foundation's Strategic Partners.