Circular economy has been promoted as an alternative to the linear production and consumption patterns prevalent since the industrial era. The implementation of circular economy has proceeded in multiple ways, with different leading actors, e.g. strong industry champions (bottom-up) or with strong government involvement (top-down) and different environmental and economic drivers. This dissertation focuses on the realization of circular economy in a developing economy where there is no strong champion to promote it. It is argued that sustainable entrepreneurship can be a key mechanism for the development of circular economy activity. A circular economy focused incubator can provide a mechanism to identify and develop circular opportunities and find nascent entrepreneurs interested in sustainable enterprise.

First, a conceptual and theoretical framework is developed that modifies the traditional incubator to promote circular economy. The new incubator model engages additional actors to provide information needed to identify circular economy opportunities and provide support to develop solutions. Two main challenges are identified to implement this modified incubator in a developing economy. First, environmental data and information to support opportunity identification is often lacking, mainly due to weak institutional capacity. Second, it is not clear how to develop and organize a supportive network to nurture opportunities found within the economy.

Strategies to address these challenges are explored via a case study of plastic flows in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) - a small island with a developing economy. First, the problem of lack of data is addressed by leveraging data sources made for other purpose (trade and waste characterization) to develop a materials flow analysis (MFA) that supports circular economy planning. This methodology succeeds in in realizing a fine-grained, disaggregated material flows for plastics in T&T. Lessons from this MFA include a significant share of waste plastics arising from the packaging of imported products. This material flow is then used to recommend CE management strategies for plastics in the country. The resulting method is applicable to other nations with poor data on materials flows in manufacturing but rich trade and waste data

To address the challenges with developing a network supporting the CE incubator, interviews are conducted with potential actors in T&T and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. A major result of the analysis is concerns on government participation raised by some actors. With refined understanding of the obstacles and motivations, recommendations are made on how a CE incubator can be built using local business associations and other actors.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Industrial ecology--Developing countries; Plastics industry and trade--Trinidad and Tobago--Case studies; Sustainable development

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Thomas Trabold

Advisor/Committee Member

Jeffery Wagner

Advisor/Committee Member

Eric Williams


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes