For the Indian jugaad, ‘doing more with the less’ is not a new concept. Be it using a cycle to generate electricity or making a multi-purpose rope with mother’s old sarees, circularity is a concept ingrained and embedded naturally in the Indian minds, mostly without the intention of environmental conservation. With the circular economy being one of the buzzwords in the Budget 2022, it is befitting to highlight the importance of a circular economy, the present development towards the same and the Indian attitude towards the global initiatives.
What is a circular economy?
A linear economy is one where we take resources from the planet, use them and throw the waste back into the environment. Contrastingly, a circular economy is one where we aim to reduce waste by reusing and recycling the resources back into the system (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, n.d.). The circular economy model aims to address climate change, pollution, ecological damage and allied challenges by working towards the protection of people, the planet and the economy.
Every system can incorporate a circular economy model – from governments to organisations to businesses since it largely aims to design a model that eliminates waste and pollution by circulating the materials within the system and regenerating nature in a cyclical fashion (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, n.d.).
Figure 1: UNCTAD’s circular economy model and the benefits from the model
A circular economy model helps in optimising the use of natural resources and helps in achieving the goals of sustainable development. Figure 1 captures the benefits of a circular economy as given by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Circular economy is the solution
According to a recent report, humans consume 1.6 Earths annually to make room for providing the resources we need, and to absorb the consequent waste generated (MacArthur, 2022). In other words, it takes the planet 1.8 years to regenerate what we consume in one single year (MacArthur, 2022). At this rate, even if we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement – the most idealistic scenario – the global temperature rise would be inevitable.
Ellen Macarthur highlights that circular economy is the need of the hour to meet the net-zero targets of the Paris Agreement and the Conference of Parties 26. In her recent publication, she has put forth the need for various stakeholders including designers and architects to initiate the shift to a circular economy. (MacArthur, 2022)
In order to hasten and assist the entire fight against the climate crisis, a circular economy might be the tool to not only mitigate pollution, waste generation and biodiversity loss but also to create employment and other opportunities for a more resilient future.
India and circular economy
Budget 2022 included the term circular economy and this is indicative of the country’s outlook towards a circular model from a ‘take-make-waste’ model (Chauhan et al., 2022). According to studies conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the adoption of circular in India has the potential to bring an annual benefit of INR40 lakh crore in 2050 and reduce GHG emissions by 44 per cent (Chauhan et al., 2022). This reiterates the importance of the circular model in meeting the CoP 26 targets and puts India in the right direction in playing its part in climate action.
India, as per the Budget, has decided to incorporate a circular economy across ten sectors (Chauhan et al., 2022) which will further provide the impetus for a green economy. Through the initiatives of PM Gati Shakthi which aims towards “inclusive development; productivity enhancement & investment, sunrise opportunities, energy transition, and climate action” (Sharma, 2022) and battery swapping policy to make room for the electric vehicles market, it has proved to be in line with the country’s promises made at CoP26.
As mentioned above, the circular economy is not a new concept to Indian households; but what we need presently is to grow the microcosmic impact to a macrocosmic one.
Chauhan, S., Raghuram, S., & Aryan, I. (2022, March 10). Putting India on an accelerated path to build a circular economy. Business Today. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/story/putting-india-on-an-accelerated-path-to-build-a-circular-economy-325489-2022-03-10
Chavan, R. (2022, February 1). Budget 2022: Circular economy will help transition to sustainable economic progress. Firstpost. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.firstpost.com/business/budget-2022-circular-economy-will-help-transition-to-sustainable-economic-progress-10337301.html
Ellen Macarthur Foundation. (n.d.). What is a circular economy? Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview
MacArthur, E. (2022, March 18). “The circular economy is needed to get to net-zero emissions”. Dezeen. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.dezeen.com/2022/03/18/circular-economy-ellen-mac-arthur-opinion/
Pacini, H., & Attafuah, K. (n.d.). Circular Economy. UNCTAD. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://unctad.org/topic/trade-and-environment/circular-economy Sharma, M. (2022, February 3). Budget 2022’s vision: A long-term, structured approach towards sustainability. The Financial Express. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/budget-2022s-vision-a-long-term-structured-approach-towards-sustainability/2424267/