India's Circular Revolution | 26 Jul 2023

This editorial is based on Moving away from the ‘take-make-dispose’ model which was published in The Hindu on 26/07/2023. It talks about the circular economy.

Resource efficiency and circular economy are powerful strategies that can effectively minimize dependence on natural resources, curtail waste and encourage sustainable design practices.

In the collective global endeavour to ensure sustainable development and realize the Sustainable Development Goals, decoupling resource utilization from economic growth is going to be the key. Recognising the need to switch from the ‘take-make-dispose’ to ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ model, India has prioritized ‘Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy’ as one of the three core themes for deliberations in the G-20 forum.

India has embraced four priority areas for the circular economy during its G-20 presidency: circularity in the steel sector; Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR); circular bioeconomy and establishing an industry-led resource efficiency and circular economy industry coalition. There is now heightened recognition of resource efficiency and circular economy strategies within the G-20 community.

Why is Circularity in the Steel Sector Important?

  • Crucial Material for Infrastructure and Industrial Growth:
    • Steel is a fundamental building material for various sectors, including construction, manufacturing, and transportation.
    • As economies grow, the demand for steel increases, putting additional pressure on natural resources.
  • Energy Sector Emissions:
    • Globally, approximately 7% of energy sector emissions can be attributed to iron and steel production.
    • The traditional linear production model leads to higher resource consumption and emissions, contributing to climate change and environmental degradation.
  • Reducing Waste Generation:
    • Circular practices aim to minimize waste generation and promote responsible waste management throughout the steel industry.
    • By adopting a circular economy approach, the steel sector can significantly reduce the environmental impact associated with waste disposal and landfilling.
  • Promoting Sustainable Development Goals:
    • Circular steel practices align with several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including responsible consumption and production, climate action, and partnerships for sustainable development.

What is EPR?

  • EPR is a concept that holds producers accountable for the environmental consequences of their products from cradle to grave.
  • It aims to improve waste management and ease the pressure on local authorities.
  • It reflects environmental costs in product prices and motivates the creation of eco-friendly products.
  • EPR applies to various waste streams, such as plastic waste, e-waste, and battery waste.
  • The E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 introduced EPR for the first time in India.

How can EPR Promote Circularity?

  • Encouraging Eco-Design and Sustainable Materials:
    • To fulfil their extended responsibilities, producers are incentivized to design products that are more durable, repairable, and recyclable.
    • Eco-design principles are integrated to ensure that products have a longer lifespan and create less waste.
  • Resource Conservation and Waste Reduction:
    • EPR drives producers to reduce resource consumption, as they bear the costs associated with waste management and end-of-life treatment of their products.
    • As a result, they are encouraged to use recycled materials and explore more sustainable production processes, reducing the demand for virgin resources.
  • Promoting Recycling Infrastructure:
    • Producers, as part of their responsibility, often establish and support recycling infrastructure to ensure that their products are effectively collected, sorted, and recycled at the end of their useful life.
    • This contributes to a closed-loop system and promotes circularity by keeping materials in circulation.
  • Incentivizing Take-Back and Recovery Programs:
    • EPR schemes often require producers to set up take-back and recovery programs, where consumers can return their used products.
    • This practice ensures that products are properly managed after use, either through recycling, refurbishment, or safe disposal.
  • Creating Market for Recycled Materials:
    • As producers are responsible for managing their products' end-of-life, they are encouraged to incorporate recycled materials back into their production processes.
    • This, in turn, stimulates the demand for recycled materials, supporting a circular supply chain.
  • Government and Industry Collaboration:
    • EPR relies on close collaboration between governments, industries, and other stakeholders.
    • By working together, they can develop more effective and comprehensive EPR policies, enabling a smoother transition towards a circular economy.

What are the Benefits of a Circular Bioeconomy?

  • Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels:
    • A circular bioeconomy relies on renewable biological resources, such as plants, algae, and agricultural waste, to produce bio-based products and bioenergy.
    • By using these resources instead of fossil fuels, it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigates climate change.
  • Resource Efficiency and Conservation:
    • The circular bioeconomy follows the principles of a closed-loop system, where waste and by-products from one process become valuable resources for another.
    • This efficient use of resources minimizes waste generation and reduces pressure on natural resources, leading to more sustainable resource management.
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry:
    • Circular bioeconomy practices encourage sustainable agricultural and forestry practices.
    • For example, using crop residues for bioenergy or bioproducts helps retain organic matter in the soil, improving soil health and fertility.
  • Green Job Creation:
    • Transitioning to a circular bioeconomy creates new job opportunities across various sectors, including agriculture, forestry, bio-based industries, research, and waste management.
      • It boosts rural economies and contributes to social development.
  • Innovation and Technological Advancements:
    • The circular bioeconomy drives innovation and encourages research and development in sustainable technologies and bioprocessing methods.
      • This fosters technological advancements that can benefit various industries.
  • Climate Change Mitigation:
    • Sustainable bioenergy from biomass can help replace fossil fuels in various applications, thereby reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change.
    • The Government of India has been working towards the adoption of biofuels, biogas, and bio-compost through various schemes such as Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana, GOBAR Dhan scheme, SATAT scheme, etc.
  • Enhanced Food Security:
    • The circular bioeconomy can contribute to improved food security by using agricultural residues and waste as feedstock for bio-based products instead of diverting them from food production.

What are the Challenges of the Circular Economy?

  • Infrastructure and Technology:
    • Developing and upgrading recycling and waste management infrastructure, as well as adopting advanced technologies for resource recovery, can be a major challenge.
  • Behavioural Change:
    • Encouraging a shift in consumer behaviour towards responsible consumption, product reuse, and recycling requires effective communication and behavioural change campaigns.
  • Regulatory Framework:
    • Ensuring effective and harmonized policies, regulations, and incentives to support circular economy practices across different sectors is challenging.
  • Financial Investment:
    • Circular economy projects often require significant upfront investments. Attracting private and public investment to fund these initiatives can be challenging.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Incorporate Data and Case Studies:
    • To provide concrete evidence and examples, consider incorporating data and case studies showcasing specific circular economy projects and their outcomes in India.
  • Include Challenges and Solutions:
    • Address challenges faced during the implementation of circular economy practices in India.
    • Include potential solutions and strategies that the country is adopting to overcome these challenges.
  • Involve Stakeholders' Perspectives:
    • Consider including statements or perspectives from government officials, industry leaders, environmental experts, and other stakeholders involved in promoting circularity in India.
    • This will add depth and authenticity to the article.
  • Concise Policy Framework:
    • Provide a concise overview of the policy framework and regulatory measures that India has put in place to promote resource efficiency and circular economy.

Drishti Mains Question:

Circular economy has emerged as key solutions in collective efforts in tackling prevailing challenges. Comment

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Question (PYQs)


Q. In India, ‘extend producer responsibility’ was introduced as an important feature in which of the following? (2019)

(a) The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998

(b) The Recycled Plastic (Manufacturing and Usage) Rules, 1999

(c) The e-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

(d) The Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011

Ans: (c)