Circular Economy What and Why

1 minute read 2020-12-24

To understand the concept of a ‘circular economy,’ let us understand the traditional ‘linear economy.’ 

In a linear system, there is extraction, production, consumption and disposal. Resource depletion and waste generation are hardwired into this pattern. 

A more sustainable model syncs with the rhythms of nature where there is minimal or zero generation of non-reusable waste. In this economy, every product that is manufactured can be fully consumed or used multiple times. And is fully biodegradable.  This, in a nutshell (which is biodegradable!) is a circular economy. 

Foundations of a Circular Economy

Closed Material Cycles and Renewable Energy drive a circular economy.  They ensure that all toxic substances are eliminated and all consumed materials are recycled and reused. In the context of energy, ‘circular thinking’ leads to energy generation through resources that can be naturally replenished by the environment.  Now the biggest obstacle to circular economy is the irresponsible disposal of plastic waste and inefficient waste management systems. So, to embrace circular economy model, it goes without saying that new systems need to be implemented that make sure that plastics never become Waste. 

Feeding the growing belly. 

We live in a heavily industrialised world that is greedy for feedstock - raw material that is used for the industrial process. The circular way of thinking makes certain that plastics are converted into valuable feedstock by addressing the full value chain of plastics, where products are redesigned and plastics are recovered and recycled.  India’s material requirements are projected by experts to be 15 billion tonnes - even if the economy grows at a medium instead of a fast pace.  This means that India would nearly triple its demand for primary materials from what it was in 2010. The demand of energy carriers, metals and non-metal minerals will also increase substantially. This will also place a huge amount of stress on our lands, forests, air and water resources. 

Removing Unhealthy Dependence on Imports. 

Complicating things further is the fact that we are completely dependent on imports for critical materials like copper, cobalt, nickel and rare earths. This reliance means we are particularly vulnerable to global shrinking reserves, technical constraints, conflicts in mining regions, supply risks and price shocks. India, by adapting the model of the circular economy can reduce the vulnerability posed by these threats. 

International acceptance of the Circular Economy. 

Japan has understood the importance of a circular economy as a mechanism to beat the resource crunch. Today, 98% of the country’s metal gets recycled and more than a decade ago, they were ahead of the curve - even back then, only 5% of their metal waste reached landfills.  Germany recycles 65% of its materials and sends 30% to waste-to-energy plants, while only 5% reaches landfills. The country holds an estimated 1,260 patents that deal with sustainable products, processes and services.

Circular Economy.  India can become Windia! 

The Circular Economy with its twin benefits of economic prosperity and environmental protection is a win-win model. In the long term, it will reduce pressure on the environment, create jobs, boost and stimulate innovation. India has taken steady steps towards becoming a Circular Economy. To quote a study, “The country boasts of one of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world – it recycles or reuses over 90 percent of all the PET that is manufactured in the country. India has also made strides in improving the recycling of electronics. More than 700 electronics producers have signed up for e-waste ‘extended producer responsibility’ authorisation. Car-sharing firms have helped generate thousands of new jobs and reduced congestion in major cities” 

Criticality of Circular Thought. 

Circular economy is a business and ecological imperative today. It is imperative that public, private and government stakeholders join forces and resources to build a truly waste free global community. 

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