Circular Economy

What are the pillars of the Circular Economy: the 9R Strategies Framework

The foundation of the Circular Economy lies in "The 9R Framework on the Circular Economy," a practical outline for the effective implementation of circular models.

Simone Tabellini per Sfridoo

Simone Tabellini

Green Marketer

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The importance of the Circular Economy in businesses

By now we know how crucial the Circular Economy is in accompanying companies within their own circular transition paths.

A transition that can bring several benefits to businesses: from economic benefits to social and especially environmental benefits.

To achieve these benefits, there is a useful tool for companies to understand in a concrete and operational way how to approach Circular Economy models.

This tool is called “The 9R Framework on the Circular Economy

What is the “9R circular economy framework”?

The 9R Framework. Source: Adapted from Potting et al. (2017, p.5) 

The 9R tool of the Circular Economy (The 9R Framework on the Circular Economy, theorized by Kirchherr et al. – 2017, p. 224, Potting et al. – 2017) is a system for highlighting key Circular Economy strategies that companies in different sectors can adopt.

These actions have been identified and classified to have different degrees of circularity.

In fact, from R0, which would be “Reject,” to R9, which would be “Recover,” the degree of circularity of the solutions tends to decrease, partly due to the influence of four main factors that are taken into account:

  • innovation in enabling technologies;
  • innovation in product design;
  • innovation in business models;
  • innovation in cultural change.

What are the 9Rs

As we mentioned earlier, these strategies include a range of interventions that facilitate the implementation of circular approaches within traditional production models.

These strategies are identified through nine distinct actions in three main categories:

  • Intelligent product use and production
    • R0 – Refuse
    • R1 – Rethink
    • R2 – Reduce
  • Extend the useful life of the product and its parts
    • R3 – Re-use
    • R4 – Repair
    • R5 – Refurbish
    • R6 – Remanufacture
    • R7 – Repurpose
  • Useful application of materials
    • R8 – Recycle
    • R9 – Recover

However, the number of these strategies can be further increased by different combinations among actions, which allow the generation of new approaches.

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This strategy involves avoiding the wrong use of a product by getting the same utility from a radically different product.

A perfect example of this approach is found in so-called multifunctional products, i.e., products that can be used for different purposes, minimizing the use of single products.

We find cases of application of these products in different sectors such as cosmetics or the agricultural sector.


This approach is based on a more intensive use of the product, trying to lengthen its life cycle, with the integration of more innovative and sustainable managements.

An example is the various sharing economy services, which promote the shared use of products to maximize their usefulness.


This sustainable strategy focuses on greater efficiency in the production and use of natural resources within products.

In practice, this means adopting production methods that limit waste and promote responsible consumption behaviors.


This strategy brings to light the need to understand how a product considered as no longer usable, but still in good condition, can be used to perform its original function.

In fact, this approach allows products that are no longer up to some performance to be useful to another consumer or consumer.


This approach is based on using and sharing specific skills to restore an item that no longer performs, so that it can return to its original function.

A concrete example are the repair cafés, also present in Italy, which are real hubs where people can bring their objects to be repaired.


This strategy involves various activities to refurbish the product in order to extend its useful life.

Items, which are considered obsolete, are refurbished to meet consumer needs by reducing the need to produce new ones.

One area where this practice is now widespread is the EEE (Electrical and Electronic Equipment) market, with the creation of several online stores for refurbished products such as Back Market, Refurbed, and Swappie.


This approach is based on reusing objects or parts of objects to make new products with the same functions.

The manufacture of these new products, is thus based on the paradigm of thinking of a product that is no longer usable as a useful element in the production of another, reducing the need to source virgin raw materials.

This approach is widespread within the technology and fashion sectors.


This strategy focuses on reusing objects or parts of them to make new products with different functions.

In this context, sustainable ways are sought to extend the useful life cycle of the object by looking for destinations and fields of use in new markets.


Recycling materials makes it possible to generate new raw material without having to draw on virgin raw materials.

In fact, through these processes, it is possible to create materials, of the same or lower quality, that can be used within the company’s production processes.


This approach is based on recovering the energy contained in materials through waste-to-energy.

Although a waste material can no longer be recovered for a variety of reasons, as a last horizon there is precisely incineration at special plants.

This is one way to create new value from the material, although it turns out to be a practice that makes a significant impact on the environment.

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The crucial role of this tool

As you could understand, this strategic tool is one of the main theoretical models for understanding how the principles of the Circular Economy work.

Principles that as we mentioned earlier can bring several benefits to companies:

  • A saving in waste disposal costs.
  • Better efficiency in managing its processes.
  • Lower environmental and social impact.
  • New strategic collaborations with a view to Industrial Symbiosis.
  • Competitive advantage over competitors and the market.
Simone Tabellini per Sfridoo

Simone Tabellini

Green Marketer

One of the challenges of the Circular Economy sector, is to be able to clearly and effectively communicate the benefits that this economic model can give companies. By investing in it, we can increase awareness and knowledge in people.

Article updated on 17/11/2023