TRANSITIONING TO CIRCULARITY - A PUSH BY INDUSTRIES FOR A SUSTAINABLE PLANET
MS.TEJASHREE JOSHI Head - Environmental Sustainability Godrej & Boyce
The burgeoning issues of pollution, overflowing landfills, and environmental degradation have compelled the world to rethink its patterns of production and consumption. The long-held adherence to a linear economic model—make, use, and dispose—is a sequence that has left an inexorable trail of waste, fuelled resource exhaustion, and accelerated climate change. Plastics and construction materials make up a significant portion of this waste.
A study by the Un-Plastic Collective reveals a sobering reality: India alone generates a colossal 9.46 million tons of plastic waste every year. Of this, 40% goes uncollected for appropriate disposal. Nearly half of this waste comprises single-use packaging materials. Furthermore, studies (Jain, 2021, Kolaventi et al., 2019) show that India generates 150 million metric tons of construction waste annually – accounting for 35-40% of the annual global construction and demolition (C&D) waste. These figures are concerning and are evidence of India’s mounting waste management problems. According to the draft National Resource Efficiency Policy, 2019, India has resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre which is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre, Low material productivity compared to global average, much lower recycling rate at 20-25% vis-à-vis of as high as 70% in developed countries.
Exaggerated usage of plastic and improper disposal of plastic and construction waste pose a myriad of challenges for the environment, people, and biodiverse ecosystems. Plastics and C&D waste are leading to overflowing landfills and contamination of water and food sources. Indeed, microplastics have found their way into the food chain and signal grave consequences for public health.
However, recent years have witnessed a growing consensus around a more sustainable and economically viable model: the circular economy. The circular economy model aspires to break free from the linear paradigm, replacing it with a system where resource input, waste, and emission or leakages are minimized. Instead of ending in a landfill, products and materials maintain their utility through continuous cycles of redesigning, reducing, reusing, recycling, and recovery.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading proponent of the circular economy, outlines three design-driven principles that act as the bedrock of this sustainable model:
- The eradication of waste and pollution
- Keeping products and materials in use
- Regeneration of natural systems
These principles stand firmly on the premise of transitioning to renewable energy sources and using eco-friendly materials, forming a framework for businesses to navigate their journey towards a circular economy. Enhancing resource efficiency and promoting the use of secondary raw materials has emerged as a strategy for ensuring that the potential trade-off between growth and environmental well-being can be minimized. Governmental regulations play a critical role in managing such waste and driving accountability. Measures like extended producer responsibility (EPR) and the ban on single-use plastics lay the groundwork for managing plastic waste more effectively. However, truly transformative change requires businesses to go beyond merely adhering to regulations and instead, integrate circularity principles into their operational core.
Embracing circularity presents lucrative opportunities for both environmental sustainability and economic growth. The transition enables businesses to unlock new revenue streams, foster innovation, and strengthen customer relationships by delivering greener products and services.
Take, for instance, the recycling of concrete waste at Godrej & Boyce. By utilizing recycled concrete to create blocks and pavers, a vast amount of waste is prevented from ending up in landfills and a new, sustainable product is also created. True to the principles of circular economy, their Recycled Concrete Blocks plant is powered by 100% renewable energy, thereby ensuring that the recycling process itself leaves a minimal carbon footprint.
The plastics industry also stands to gain from circularity. By extending warranties, manufacturers not only ensure longer product life but also remain in a position to control the end-of-life disposal of the product, driving the shift towards a circular model.
In acknowledging the harmful environmental repercussions of plastic waste, numerous Indian corporations have proactively chosen to shoulder the responsibility of plastic waste reduction and uphold environmental stewardship. The India Plastics Pact has been instrumental in bringing together several businesses to voluntarily commit to ambitious targets, driving the nation's plastic sector towards a circular economy.
As we stand on the cusp of a sustainable transformation, businesses have a unique opportunity and responsibility to aid the nation's journey towards net-zero. By adopting circularity, companies can simultaneously tackle climate change and create value, making it not just a responsible choice but a smart business decision. The ambition to harmonise economic growth and environmental sustainability must begin with us reimagining our futures and redesigning our systems. Our journey towards a greener, more sustainable world is an urgent, collective endeavour - circularity, therefore, is not an option, but a necessity.
Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content
Topics : Environmental pollution
First Published: Jun 5 2023 | 9:16 AM IST