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Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture – Productivity and Sustainability

Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture – Productivity and Sustainability


PRELIMS: Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development

MAINS: General Studies III – Economic development, Environment)

In a linear process of manufacturing raw materials in today’s world, raw materials are taken from the environment, turned into raw products and disposed after use. But the process will eventually result in running out of limited raw materials and also waste accumulated incurs additional cost of disposal and pollution.

But in a circular economy, products are designed for durability, reuse and recyclability. Product life cycle has to be longer so that there is less disposal by maximizing output and minimizing input.  By focussing on being a circular economy, India can build a more resource efficient system as it continues to grow and scale new heights.

Process involved in a Circular Economy

Circular Economy = Productivity + Sustainability:

  • The sustainable development focusses on improving the environmental performances of countries, companies and individual processes. This is precisely the aim of circular economy as well.
  • Circular economy is in contrast to traditional linear economy which is based on a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production.
  • A circular economy follows energy and material loops to minimize resource input and waste, emission and energy leakage.
  • 6 ‘R’ of circular economy are: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Remanufacture.
  • The circular economy follows the principle of preservation and enhancement of natural capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource flows.
  • The other principles suggest optimizing of resource yields by circulating products, components, and materials at their highest utility at all times, in both technical and biological cycles.
  • In a circular economy, all the materials used in making a product shall be reused in making a new product rather than discarding it completely. For example, components like Copper, Aluminum, plastic, etc. used in making a mobile phone shall be reused to make a new product after its life ends.
  • It thus, works by extending product life span through improved design and servicing and relocating waste from the end of the supply chain to the beginning – in effect, using resources more efficiently by using them over and over. The challenge lies in building circular economy knowledge and capacity.
  • Circular economy has the potential to increase productivity and create jobs, whilst reducing carbon emissions and preserving valuable raw materials.

Actions required to lead the way to transition to circular economy:

  • To consider discarded materials/ products as legitimate raw materials with circular economy approach.
  • Buildings can be designed to be adaptable to changing needs and contribute to the regenerative urban ecosystem.
  • Building vehicles that rely on zero-emission propulsion technology could reduce GHG emission, pollution, and dependence on imported fossil fuels.
  • Combining local knowledge and traditional methods (like working with a large variety of species) with modern technology (like precision farming, and digitally enabled asset and knowledge-sharing system).
  • Indian businesses can foster innovation to address challenges more rapidly by collaborating with research institutions.
  • Collaboration among stakeholders to address key issues to achieve systemic change. For example, inroads to addressing India’s solid waste management challenge could be made by connecting all kinds of actors along the value chain.
  • Tapping activities of the informal economy (e.g. existing repair and recycling activities for vehicles), in cooperation with the public sector or other organizations.
  • Education about such processes needs to be provided right from the school level to the corporate level.

Steps taken in India towards being a circular economy:

  • India has made a commitment to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions – GHG emissions targets and sustainable development goals by providing clean energy and clean environment.
  • With mission-oriented policies such as UDAY, UJWALA, Swachh Bharat, etc in combination with government initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, Start-up India campaigns which aim to enhance competitiveness and create more jobs, India is poised for growth and it is important to disseminate information on sustainability to all stakeholders.
  • MSMEs utilizing Lean Management cluster Scheme (LMCS), Zero-effect- zero-defect (ZED) scheme and schemes for Energy efficiency provide a comprehensive frame work to attain sustainability using the Circular Economy approach.


India is on the right path of moving towards a circular economy, but the process needs to be speeded up. In India huge wastes in the form of solid wastes, hazardous wastes, bio-medical waste, electronic waste, construction wastes, agriculture biomass, etc is being dumped in the country. But the amount of these wastes is less than 20%. So, the huge potential of reuse and recycling in the country needs to be acted upon very fast. This requires a good policy framework which will expedite the whole process of circular economy.

Circular economy is going to be beneficial to all– consumers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, climate and the overall environment.