CIRCULAR ECONOMY

  • Union Minister says, India set to be major contributor to world’s “Circular Economy”.
  • The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.

The circular economy is based on three principles:

  1. Eliminate waste and pollution
  2. Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
  3. Regenerate nature

It is underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials.

  • A circular economy decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.
  • It is a resilient system that is good for business, people and the environment.
  • A circular economy is characterized as “a model of production and consumption that ensures long-term growth.”

With the circular economy, we may promote:

  1. resource optimization,
  2. recover waste by recycling or giving the product a second life as a new one, and
  3. reduce raw material consumption.
  4. Circular models seek to eliminate four different kinds of waste that are as follows:

Wasted Resources:

Materials and energy that cannot be effectively recycled over time

Wastage Capacities:

Products and assets that are underutilized

Wasted Lifecycles:

Products that prematurely end due to planned obsolescence or a lack of second-life options

Wasted Embedded Values:

Components, materials, and energy not retrieved from waste streams

Circular economy for electronic waste

  • Creating a circular economy for electronic waste will result in zero waste generation and nothing will go into landfills.
  • As a consequence, prolonging the product’s life and reusing components provides even higher economic benefits.
  • There is also the possibility of creating a more circular system in which resources are capitalized on and reused in ways that create a more decent and sustainable environment than they are extracted, used, and discarded.

Importance in India

  • Adoption of a circular economy in India will result in yearly benefits of $624 billion by 2050 and a 44% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Hence, the circular economy plays a pivotal role in preserving the environmental condition and creating a reward system to encourage the recycling of electronic products.
  • By 2030, India is expected to be the world’s third-largest economy, accounting for approximately 8.5% of the global GDP.
  • The circular economy has the potential to fuel India’s growth while also providing significant environmental benefits, making a sustainable and resilient framework.
  • The recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic industry in India is estimated to be worth around US$ 400-550 million.
  • In India, PET is recycled at a rate of 90%, which is higher than in Japan (72%), Europe (48%), and the United States (31%).
  • Thus, there are enormous opportunities for a circular economy in India.

The country is likely to be:

  1. Leading hub for technology and innovation
  2. With its existing IT dominance and pool of tech talent, India is well-positioned to use digital technology to create innovative and cutting-edge circular businesses.
  3. This has the potential to accelerate India to the forefront of the global circular economy revolution.
  4. Early success compared to global economies
  5. India is one of the fastest developing economies and can easily take up opportunities to use circular methods of production, building sustainable designs.
  6. As mature economies have a linear lock-in and switching costs would be costly and time-taking.
  7. Therefore, as an emerging nation, India has a competitive advantage over mature economies.
  8. Easy acceptance of circular products
  9. Several circular aspects are ingrained in Indian mindsets like vehicle over-utilization and repair or extensive recovery and recycling of post-use materials at the household level.
  10. Thus, this widespread cultural acceptance makes India a larger marketplace.
  11. Cost-centric Market
  12. The cost of providing services to consumers will be cheaper for those who would take the circular path than that of the traditional take-make-waste model.
  13. Incorporating circular practices in India could result in US$ 624 billion in savings across construction, food and agriculture, and mobility by 2050.
  14. This will contribute to widespread adoption, particularly among India’s cost-conscious consumers.

Benefits

  • By lowering emissions, consuming fewer natural resources, and producing less trash.
  • By encouraging production models that rely on the reuse of nearby waste as raw material.
  • It fosters the development of a new, more inventive, and competitive industrial model, resulting in higher economic growth and more employment.
  • Reusing local resources can reduce reliance on imported raw materials.

Government Initiatives

Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022:

The Union Environment Ministry has launched this policy to mandate to increase in the thickness of plastic carry bags to over 120 microns and the phase-out of some single-use plastic products.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban 2.0 (SBM-U2.0):

It aims to achieve the objective of safe sanitation in urban areas by making all cities “Garbage Free,” guaranteeing grey and black water management in all cities and making all urban local bodies open defecation free (ODF+) and those with a population of less than 1 lakh as ODF++.

Challenges:

One of the major contributing factors is lack of a clear vision towards the end-goal of India’s circular economy mission and gaps in actual implementation of the policies.

Industry is also reluctant in adopting the circular economy model due to:

  1. supply chain limitations,
  2. lack of incentives to invest,
  3. complex recycling processes and
  4. lack of information to support participation in reusing/ recycling/re-manufacturing processes.

Unsatisfactory outcomes:

  • Another glaring concern here is that efforts are made at the very end of value chains, resulting in sub-optimal economic and environmental outcomes.
  • Such limitations may be overcome through legislative mandates for the procurement of recycled/ secondary raw materials in the initial stages of the production cycle, developing a unified legislation addressing the circular economy from a regulatory perspective.

 Way forward

  • India’s rapidly evolving market and high potential for development can provide a competitive advantage over mature economies.
  • The aspirational long-term vision of a circular economy is based on the current strengths of the Indian market and the integration of diverse stakeholders that has the potential to pave the way for fast-tracked sustainable, and resilient prosperity.
  • Circular economy advancements will not only improve urban and agricultural economies’ resilience, but will also provide benefits such as climate mitigation, food, and water security, increased biodiversity, job creation, and empowerment of underprivileged communities.
  • Transitioning to a circular economy necessitates a comprehensive and systematic implementation of a roadmap.
  • The net-zero future is such a significant necessity that it will affect every aspect of our daily lives.
  • A streamlined framework on circular economy reporting, clarifying the mechanism surrounding trading of extended producer responsibility certificates and providing fiscal incentives to businesses to complete the supply chain will also help.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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