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Legislative instruments refer to the creation and application of compulsory legal rules and/or objectives that directly influence the behaviour of targeted stakeholders[1]. These instruments can be both prohibitive or prescriptive[2] and theoretically guarantee particular levels of prescribed environmental quality, with costs of compliance usually borne by the targeted stakeholders[3].

For each legislative instrument, the circular economy may be stimulated both directly, through the creation of new, targeted legislative instruments, or indirectly, through the removal of perverse legislative instruments that currently act as a barrier towards the adoption of a circular economy[4].

Legislative instruments are at the disposal of multiple levels of government. Where conventions, protocols and agreements can be issues at an international level, national governments can issue legislation and guidelines, and municipal governments by-laws and guidelines[5].


[1] Sánchez, Á,P. & Deza, X.V. 2015. Environmental policy and eco-innovation: An overview of recent studies. Ética Empresarial y Responsabilidad Social. Col. Vol.25(58)

[2] Bouwm, I.M.; Gerritsen, A.L.; Kamphorst, D.A. & Kistenkas, F.H. 2015. Policy instruments and modes of governance in environmental policies of the European Union: Past, present and future. WOt-technical report 60. Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

[3] Somanathan E., T. Sterner, T. Sugiyama, D. Chimanikire, N.K. Dubash, J. Essandoh-Yeddu, S. Fifita, L. Goulder, A. Jaffe, X. Labandeira, S. Managi, C. Mitchell, J.P. Montero, F. Teng, and T. Zylicz. 2014. National and Sub-national Policies and Institutions. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

[4] European Commission. 2014. Scoping study to identify potential circular economy actions, priority sectors, materials flows and value chains. European Commission. Available online via:

[5] White, R & HEckenberg, D. 2012. Legislation, regulatory models and approaches to compliance and enforcement. Available online via

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