The proposed systemic shift in the organisation of food systems, developed in the above analysis, would respond to critiques by Kirchherr et al.  and Weigend Rodríguez et al. , that there is currently insufficient focus on systemic shifts and possible futures in CE debates. Therefore, having identified this possible future let us examine how the CE debates might add further value.
The systematic analysis of 114 CE definitions conducted by Kirchherr et al.  examined how the various definitions addressed the 4R framework—reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. They found that CE is most commonly used in reference to reduce, reuse and recycle activities, often not highlighting that CE necessitates a systemic shift. The need to recover materials and keep them circulating within the production-consumption-production cycle was generally ignored. Furthermore, CE theorists differed from practitioners who frequently neglect ‘reduce’ in their CE definitions, “since this may imply curbing consumption and economic growth”.
This last point is an important critique of much of the CE debate. CE is often regarded as a strategy for continued economic growth, implicitly suggesting that this is the only pathway to prosperity. Increasing the output from the economy purportedly demonstrates increasing abundance. Yet, as previously demonstrated, this abundance is rarely, if ever, distributed fairly to all the participants in the economic system. In addition to this social justice critique of economic growth, there is also the environmental critique that infinite economic growth is not possible on a finite planet.
These critiques are well known and need not be discussed further here as there is a third critique that simply relates to the way in which the abundance or surplus is calculated. This brings us back to the formulation of EROI—energy return on investment. In the pursuit of endless economic growth, CE is perceived as a strategy that benefits businesses, increasing sales opportunities and output, or reducing costs, always with the aim of increasing profits. CE could also be understood as a system for reducing the cost of living, particularly by reducing amount of work (energy invested) to access food (energy output). EROI can be more effectively increased by reducing input work and energy, than by increasing output.
To clarify this further, consider the different types of CE identified by Bauwens et al.  in Circular Futures: What will they look like? To synthesise the various ways of understanding the circular economy (CE), Bauwens et al.  developed the 2×2 matrix shown in Figure 2. The matrix has two axes—centralised to decentralised governance on the Y-axis, high-tech to low tech on the X-axis. This generates four CE typologies, planned circularity, circular modernism, bottom-up sufficiency and peer-to-peer circularity.
Circular modernism represents the principal conception of a CE in European countries and adopted in Australia. It emerges as an extension of the waste management hierarchy: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover. Recovering waste and valuing it as a resource closes the loop and converts a linear economy to a circular economy. William McDonough’s Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things  highlighted the importance of the initial product design in enabling resource recovery at the end of a product’s useful life. The cradle-to-cradle model also distinguishes between the technical (inorganic) cycle and the biological (organic) cycle.
In the circular modernism approach to a CE, the governments set certain eco-efficiency standards, identify priority areas, offer funding or other incentives and generally set the direction for the transition to a CE. Corporations then respond, innovate or adopt appropriate technologies and adapt their business practices. Sometimes corporations lead and governments follow. Either way, in this model, the whole society is guided by central governments and large corporations who set the pace and scope of the transition to a CE. This is a supply-side, production-focused, profit-maximising strategy, wherein the goods supplied to the market incorporate circular innovations, while consumers have negligible influence on driving these innovations.
This can be contrasted with the strategy described in the Bauwens matrix as bottom-up sufficiency. This primarily relates to small-scale, self-sufficient communities who focus on the circular economy of organic materials, integrating various agricultural processes to minimise waste and reduce costs. Eco-villages that adopt permaculture principles are examples of bottom-up sufficiency. Permaculture is a holistic system-thinking approach to land management that seeks to integrate people and food systems into the ecological systems of a locality .
Circular modernism and bottom-up sufficiency are vastly different approaches to the circular economy. The former seeks to maximise production and supply, generally ignoring the costs, wastage and inequalities involved in distribution. The latter seeks to match local supply with local demand. This empowers local communities, requiring that they manage themselves, their land and local ecosystems. In contrast, circular modernism retains the current system, whereby communities remain dependent on external authorities motivated by outside interests.
Planned circularity is the third type of CE and is also centrally managed by government. This approach has been most readily advanced in China, with implementation lagging elsewhere. CE practices in China consist of three strategies at three different scales—micro, meso and macro [2, 19, 22]. The micro scale relates to individual products, product life cycles and cleaner production, consistent with circular modernist strategies. At the meso level, the aim is to develop symbiotic relationships between different but complementary economic activities through co-location. Examples include eco-industrial parks, eco-agricultural systems, environmentally friendly parks, waste trade markets and venous industrial parks. Zhang  describes eco-industrial parks as “practical examples illustrating the environmental and economic advantages that can be achieved through the process of industrial symbiosis”. Industrial symbiosis is the cooperative management of the resource flows of geographically clustered firms. This appears to be a key approach to establishing a link between CE and sustainability practices in China .
One similarity between planned circularity, as it applies to eco-industrial parks, and bottom-up sufficiency, is that they are place-based strategies. They do not apply to one product or industry but to a place. The circularity relates to the management of resource flows and energy, so that the waste from one activity can be fed as input into another complementary activity, benefiting both.
The macro level in China relates to the scale of the city, province or state. This seeks to create still more symbiotic relationships such as by creating a regional network of eco-industrial parks. This concept of networking CE precincts could be applied to eco-villages and regenerative villages . As these tend to focus on necessities, such as food, water, energy and housing, the ability to network with other villages can enable the collaboration for sharing of rarer skills or the satisfaction of more complex needs and wants. This would result in the formation of a trading network of villages leading to improved resilience and increased capacity due to the network effect.
Networking between villages need not be limited to physical connections. Online platforms, blockchain and other distributed, Internet-enabled, technologies can build virtual connections. The fourth type of CE identified by Bauwens et al.  is peer-to-peer circularity, which relates to the formation of virtual connections in this way. Like bottom-up sufficiency, this is a demand-side strategy and relates to the shift from ownership to access in the sharing economy. Loosely defined as the sharing or gig economy, mobile platforms allow people to share, barter, swap or access goods and assets without buying to own them. Using the 4R waste management framework, bartering and swapping allow people to refuse or reduce their purchase of new products. Utilising the spare capacity in existing assets also enables a reduction in demand for new assets. As these sharing economy platforms are invariably not directed by government and industry incumbents, they are referred to as economic disruptions.