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Research projects

Deposit-refund system in a circular economy - understanding social values

About this project

Project information

Project status



Anna Kremel

Research environments

The project "Deposit-refund system in a circular economy - understanding social values" creates knowledge of social values needed to maintain circular systems as well as the values produced by the circular system. The aim is to understand social value creation in a circular solution and how it attracts consumers to participate in it, in this case the Swedish national deposit-refund system for plastic bottles, metal cans organized by Returpack.

Returpack has good knowledge of the environmental effects of recycling and packaging choices, but, like the research community, lacks knowledge of the social consequences of circular systems. The circular economy debate is primarily conducted in technical disciplines and, as a consequence, the social dimensions - cognitive, cultural, structural - receive little attention. Circular economy thereby risks being reduced to economic and environmental sustainability at expense of social sustainability.

Social values, research shows, play a major role in people's behaviour, but have been overlooked in the circular economy debate. By studying social values at different stages and for different consumer groups within the deposit-refund system, the project furthers our understanding of how circular solutions can also be socially sustainable.

To fill the knowledge gap, a project group of experienced researchers has been put together to analyze and supplement data from Returpack, SIFO and Ungdomsbarometern. A reference group of experts in the field, both researchers and practitioners, supports the project team. The Returpack deposit-refund system has successfully attracted consumers to participate in the circular solution for decades and offers a unique opportunity to study the role of social values for circular solutions. The results will be used by Returpack to meet changing consumer behavior, design new strategies, market plans and recycling standards, but will also be disseminated to its affiliated companies and other stakeholders.

Anna Kremel och Sabina DuRietz

Research funding bodies

  • The Swedish Research Council Formas


  • Returpack