Numerous definitions have been proposed. In general terms, it represents the goal of keeping resources in use so that products and systems can be sustained indefinitely within the resources available to us on Earth.

The concept contrasts with the ‘linear’ economy, which is characterised by extraction of raw materials and disposal of items as waste at the end of their period of use. Mimicking natural systems, in a circular model materials are almost endlessly incorporated into new cycles, purposed in different ways but retaining their value as resources. Adopting a circular approach requires designs that make use of materials already in use, avoid additional extraction and, at the end of life, facilitate the re-use of materials in future cycles.

In addition to material resources, products and systems in a circular economy must be sustainable considering their impacts on the natural environment and on the global population. By reducing negative impacts, the circular model has potential to tackle the root causes of global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and inequity.

Best practice

An inventory of the systems / approaches appropriate at different stages of the journey towards circularity


Risk based analysis framework

A framework and suitable KPIs supporting the lifecycle assessment of resource use and impacts


Resources and training

Guidance, training seminars and on-line materials for managers and practitioners

Making it useful

Various criticisms have been levelled at the circular economy concept: it is sufficiently vague to provide cover for a lack of progress, it may result in displacing rather than avoiding harmful activities, and it may ultimately be unachievable considering the energy needed to recover all materials. Despite these challenges, considering current road construction and maintenance activities, we believe a common definition of circular economy for the roads sector can provide a helpful stimulus to changes that are needed:

  • Design standards and specifications that are more open and flexible, and address the future proofing of resource needs from the outset
  • Standardised data, shared equitably with stakeholders that support benchmarking and performance assessment within and between NRAs
  • Tools to support procurement based on whole life value, with the expectation that resources will be in place for a long time and must be adaptable for future new uses
  • Tools to manage the uncertainties of a fast-changing environment
  • Training to support the development of knowledge and competencies across the industry.

The CERCOM project will contribute by providing best practice, defining a risk-based framework for assessing maintenance options over multiple lifecycles, identifying supporting indicators / performance metrics and recommending how to embed this thinking into public sector procurement practices.

Become part of the solution

It is our hypothesis that in order to address these gaps and increase the pace at which NRAs transform their organisational culture and embed resource efficiency into their economic / business models and processes, a wide range of supporting activities are needed, to raise awareness, develop capability, and adopt new standards, assessment methods, innovative procurement practices and training (technical, operational and change in culture).

The CERCOM project will deliver an innovative risk based framework and management tool to facilitate a step change in the adoption of RE & CE principles in procurement and multilifecycle management by NRAs across Europe. The consortium considers that bidding for both Topics A and B provides the optimum means of undertaking this work and the highest value for money. Logically, the definitions of RE & CE and risk based frameworks developed under Topic A are required to define the public procurement options and training in Topic B and this can best be delivered by a single coherent project. This holistic approach will enable us to fully understand stakeholder needs (NRA and supply chain), to develop technical solutions and provide resources that NRAs can use to deliver the necessary change. The consortium partners are uniquely placed to achieve this aim, having been at the forefront of the application of these methods in a variety of previously successful CEDR projects.

Funding Partner


The CEDR Transnational Research Programme (TRP) operates through a series of annual transnational calls on topics that address the needs of European road authorities.

To address some of the challenges associated with improving resource efficiency (RE) and transforming to a circular economy, the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR) launched a Transnational Road Research Programme Call 2020, managed by the Danish Road Directorate.

Roads and climate change

Call 2020 Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy

The aim of this research programme is to accelerate the transition of the road infrastructure sector in Europe, from linear economy, into resource efficient circular economy.

Find out more here >


CEDR (Conference of European Directors of Roads)

CEDR is an organisation of European national road administrations promoting excellence in the management of roads.

The CEDR Strategy comprises the Vision, Mission and Strategic Goals.

Find out more here >

Case Studies

Testing the validity of the risk-based analysis framework

Our case studies will test the validity of the risk-based approach developed in WP3 over a range of technical areas at different levels of development and maturity.

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Comparing maintenance options for asphalt pavements

Assessing the technical, economic and long-term environmental viability of preservation techniques, high-recycled content asphalt, and incorporation of waste resource streams as secondary materials

Investigation of recycling concrete technologies

Comparison of current practice with innovative methods for concrete recycling into high-end products

Strategic Approach to Transitioning to CE

Exploring the practical implementation of RE and CE principles in the delivery of road infrastructure projects.