The European Union (EU) has set its sights on becoming a circular economy, envisaging a transition that implies systemic changes in natural resource transformations and material flows; and offering a response to what is commonly labelled as the ‘take-make-dispose’ conventional economic model. What does the transition toward a circular economy entail and what can it do? This paper analyses the emergence and mobilisation of expectations that are shaping the EU transition to a circular economy. It traces the narrative elements through which the circular economy is configured through an analysis of position papers presented to inform the debate on the European Commission’s circular economy package. Expectations for the circular economy are articulated as: (1) a perfect circle of slow material flows; (2) a shift from consumer to user; (3) growth through circularity and decoupling; and (4) a solution to European renewal. Extending boundaries of what is ‘in’ benefits actors driving the circular economy as, in the short-term, they can actively support a deliberately vague, but uncontroversial, circular economy. On the one hand, the expectations present a strong sense of a collective ‘we’, on the other hand we are yet to see the contentions and contestations being full playing out.