Promoting Circular Economy | 03 Jan 2023

This editorial is based on “Circular Economy – Is India Ready to Come Full Circle in Sustainability?” which was published in The Hindu BusinessLine on 28/12/2022. It talks about the significance of Circular Economy and major challenges that are associated with its promotion.

For Prelims: Circular Economy, Battery Waste Management Rules 2022, Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2022, e-Waste Management Rules 2022, EPR Certificates

For Mains: Circular Economy - Significance, Challenges and Measures that can be taken to promote it.

In recent years, the concept of Circular Economy (CE) has gained increasing attention as a way to address a range of environmental and economic challenges. With the growing recognition of the finite nature of many resources and the negative impacts of waste and pollution, the circular economy offers a more sustainable and resilient alternative to the traditional linear model of economic growth.

Governments, businesses, and other organizations around the world are increasingly exploring ways to adopt circular practices and transition to a more circular economy. The COP27 meet also brought to fore the circular economy’s relevance in mitigating carbon emissions for India by ensuring responsible consumption and sustainable resource management.

What is A Circular Economy?

  • About:
    • A Circular Economy is the one where products are designed for durability, reuse and recyclability and thus almost everything gets reused, remanufactured, and recycled into a raw material or used as a source of energy.
    • It includes 6 R’s - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbishment, Recover, and Repairing of materials.
  • Need for Circular Economy:
    • CE focuses on minimising waste while maximising utilisation and calls for a production model aiming to retain the most value to create a system that promotes sustainability, longevity, reuse, and recycling.
    • Though India has always had a culture of recycle and reuse, its rapid economic growth, growing population, impact of climate change and rising environmental pollution, the adoption of a circular economy is more imperative now.
    • CE can lead to the emergence of more sustainable production and consumption patterns, thus providing opportunities for developed and developing countries to achieve economic growth and inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Global Response to Circular Economy:
    • Germany and Japan have used it as a binding principle for reorganising its economy, whereas China even has a law on it (Circular Economy Promotion Law).
  • India’s Initiatives to Promote Circular Economy:

What are the Roadblocks to Achieving Circular Economy?

  • Unclear Vision for CE: Despite the Government’s policy efforts the progress has been underwhelming; one of the major challenges is the lack of a clear vision towards the end-goal of India’s circular economy mission and gaps in actual implementation of the policies.
    • Also, the efforts for promoting CE are made at the very end of value chains, resulting in sub-optimal economic and environmental outcomes.
  • Reluctance of Industries: The Industries are reluctant in adopting the circular economy model due to supply chain limitations, lack of incentives to invest, complex recycling processes and lack of information to support participation in reusing/ recycling/re-manufacturing processes.
  • Lack of Awareness and Understanding: Many people in India are not aware of the concept of a circular economy and its benefits making it difficult to gain support for implementing circular economy initiatives.
  • Infrastructure Challenges: India's infrastructure is not well-suited to support a circular economy. For example, there is a lack of recycling facilities, which makes it difficult to recycle and reuse materials.
  • Cultural Challenges: There is a cultural resistance to the idea of reusing and recycling products in India making it difficult to change consumer behaviour and shift towards a circular economy.

What Steps can be Taken to Promote Circular Economy?

  • Statutory Reforms: The challenges mentioned above 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.
    • A streamlined framework on circular economy reporting, clarifying the mechanism surrounding trading of EPR certificates and providing fiscal incentives to businesses to complete the supply chain will also help.
  • Syncing Laws with Implementation Strategies: The government’s initiatives need to be in conjunction with implementable actions with industry collaboration to reap the benefits of the circular economy.
    • A combination of the government’s current efforts along with relevant implementation strategies will instil a sense of confidence in businesses to adopt the circular model of production.
  • R&D Investments: The renewable energy industry should invest in the research and development of recycling technologies. Investments in R&D could help discover new ways of recycling that result in higher efficiency and a less environmentally damaging footprint.
    • Industries should also explore technology transfers with global recycling firms for establishing domestic waste recycling facilities.
  • Technology Driven Recycling: Government should encourage R&D in the field of waste recycling at University and School levels to promote active participation of masses in technology enhancement in the field of waste management.
    • Also, composting centres can be established in cities to reuse organic waste, which will enhance soil carbon content and eliminate the need for chemical fertilisers.

Drishti Mains Question

“With the growing recognition of the finite nature of many resources and the negative impacts of waste and pollution, the circular economy offers a more sustainable and resilient alternative to the traditional linear model of economic growth”. Comment