Viewpoint: Waste Management and the Circular Economy
26 MAY,2022 | MEDC
Businesses; governments and responsible citizens around the world increasingly recognize the threat to our planet caused by our flippant approach to production and consumption patterns. In 2019; over 92 billion tons of materials were extracted and processed; contributing to about half of global carbon dioxide emissions. The world now generates 53 million metric tons of e-waste annually. Introducing circular practices in e-waste management is complex but necessary for a more sustainable global socioeconomic future. The circular economy; promoting waste management and the optimal use of natural resources; offer us a viable alternative potentially yielding up to $ 4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030.
In India; a report prepared by experts from the IITs; reputed research institutes and government entities is gaining ground. Titled Circular Economy in Municipal Solid and Liquid Waste; it comes at a time when many Indian cities are struggling to get rid of mountains of municipal waste. The report has estimated that material recycling facilities can help improve recovery from the current Rs. 5;197 crores per annum from dry municipal waste to Rs. 17;023 crores by 2025. It has been estimated that the proper treatment of municipal solid; liquid and construction waste can generate annual revenue of almost Rs. 30;000 crores and generate employment opportunities for over a crore Indians by 2025. These figures are too large to take lightly. A circular economy also positively impacts the environment in the form of lowered levels of congestion and pollution; and thus; improved public health.
According to some estimates; India’s circular economy could touch $45 billion by 2030. This is also an opportunity that startups could potentially benefit from. Adopting circular economy practices could garner savings of over $600 billion by 2050; especially across key sectors such as food; agriculture; construction and mobility. Sectors such as fashion; construction; agriculture; mobility and rare earth materials could provide the biggest opportunities for circular economy startups. With the right public-private partnerships in place; it could have a positive and cascading effect on the Indian economy.
Investing in creating a circular economy will be a key factor in India’s ability to sustain its long-term growth and adhere to its environmental commitments. Reforming our existing food value chain is a classic example of where to begin. The Ukraine crisis is battering a global food system already weakened by Covid; climate change; and an energy shock. The coming months threaten the world of a looming food shortage that could last for years. If India gets its act together here; we have much to gain. Feeding a fragile world through pragmatic food management techniques is everyone’s business – both from a social as well as an economic perspective. Especially for a country like India; all policy impediments arising in this process need to be systematically removed.
As far as the environment goes; the world has reached a stage wherein it has to swim together or sink. Creating an effective circular economy requires change within and throughout our economic systems. Waste management (including e-waste) is a logical place to begin; especially as rapid innovation and the lowering of costs have enhanced access to digital technologies; which assist hugely in scaling operations. We need to make some fundamental changes to our daily lives; if we are to usher in a more sustainable world.