Ecuador goes circular: the strategy behind

Important foundations for a circular policy framework were laid down between 2014 and 2018, as circular economy related concepts were integrated in key national legislation. Ecuador’s turn towards a circular economy future is manifested in strategic policy initiatives like the National Strategy and Action Plan for the  Circular Economy Transition (due mid 2021), the Law for the Circular Economy (under approval by the National Assembly), and the endorsed National Development Plan 2017- 2021 (“Toda una Vida”) which embraces principles of the circular- and the bio- economy, encouraging recycling and extending product lifetime. Ongoing policy processes include the Law for Extended Producer  responsibility, a specific normative for electronic waste (expected to be adopted in 2021), and updates to the legislation on nonrecyclable plastics.

Ecuador is a country of great natural riches and a growing economy, facing the challenges that come with the intensification of industrial activity and changing consumption patterns. For instance, only 6% of the produced waste is recycled nationwide (National Institute of Statistics and Census, 2018). Despite a number of initiatives aiming at improving resource extraction and use, sustainable consumption, reuse of waste materials to manufacture new products, and energy efficiency over the last decade, the concept of circular economy (CE), as such, has until recently been very rarely known in the country.


The Roadmap – how Ecuador is turning circular

CE aspects were duly integrated into Ecuador’s debates on the Agenda 2030 and on the Action Plan of the National Biodiversity Strategy (2015-2030). In 2015, Ecuador adopted a National Strategy for the change of the Productive Matrix that aims at a more responsible management of resources, and the adoption of regulations and incentives for higher environmental standards, ecoefficiency and environmentally friendly practices. These processes led to the development of more comprehensive policy approaches directly focusing on the CE, such as the Law on CE and the National CE Action plan. 

Next to leadership of the Vice-Pesident’s Office shifting to a CE in Ecuador benefited from multi-sector participation. Commitment to the Circular Economy was endorsed with the National Pact for a Circular Economy (2019), signed by over 330 supporting parties who drive the country’s transition to a circular economy, along nine strategic axes, including (among others) industrialisation and use of waste, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, eco-design, sustainable business, progressive substitution of plastics and development of CE indicators.


Based on four fundamental axes: i) Sustainable production; ii) Responsible consumption; iii)  Integrated Waste Management; and iv) Policies and Financing, the White Paper aligns the CE concept to Ecuador’s 2030 Agenda and the corresponding National Development Plan. It pinpoints the most relevant legal mechanisms to support a CE strategy, and identifies 5 priority sectors (manufacturing, agriculture, commerce, construction, and oil
& mining) for the CE transition. 

Widespread awareness on the CE was facilitated by the First National Conference on the Circular Economy (2019) and connected media campaigns, creating a common understanding of the concept. It kick-started the development of a White Paper geared towards a CE-specific policy and
regulatory framework. 

How the EU helped kick off a CE process in Ecuador

Lesson Learnt from the transition process

Understanding the motivation

of key actors helps recognise the topics that drive the debate within relevant sectors and identify factors therein encouraging CE related actions among stakeholders.

Identifying a champion / key player

is instrumental in successfully integrating CE across all relevant sectors and securing a high level of participation in all key milestones. Getting the buy-in and leadership of the VicePresident’s Office, has been one of the largest successes of the EUD in Ecuador.

Creating a common and wide-spread understanding of CE

enables ownership over the topic among stakeholders, facilitates an informed dialogue, and enables actors to formulate coherent strategies.

Committing as EU Delegation to co-lead the process

(even with limited resources) provides an impetus to reach the desired milestones, and become a strong partner to the government in the CE transition process.

Conducting a deep analysis of the country context and its actors

opens up multiple entry points, including at the policy and private sector levels.