The Circular Economy Imperative

Epc World|January 2020

The Circular Economy Imperative
In a major decision, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics authorities have decided that the medals to be given to winners in the games will be made from 50000 tons of electronic waste produced in Japan.

Johnson Controls, USA, has designed a battery that is 99 percent recyclable, which for a product so chemically complex and hazardous is of enormous importance.

Highly deficient in precious-metal resource India, which produces a whopping 2 million tons of e-wastes annually - is at the cusp of mobilizing its recycling strategy. The world seemingly has realized the true need of circular economy!

The rapidly emerging Indian economy will continue to compel geologists, technocrats, economists, manufacturers, service providers and policy-makers to explore superior options to face the challenge of growing material consumption and depleting natural resources. The increasing consumption demand for material is primarily due to increased population and prosperity; demographic changes; lifestyle transformations; and intervention of disruptive technologies. The result is increased volatility in product prices and ecological imbalance, affecting societies adversely. Scarcity of material is a concern but the good news is that the Circular Economy approach can serve as a powerful solution.

Circular economy seeks to eliminate all kind of wastes in market. Here waste does not refer to traditionally what is termed as junk/trash, but refers to underutilization of products. Waste is classified as – (i) Waste of resources - where material/energy cannot be regenerated, eg, fuel; (ii) Waste of capacities - where assets are hardly or not fully utilized, eg, poor utilization of family-owned cars; (iii) Waste of life-cycles - accelerated development of new-products, processes and business-models resulting in difficult-to-serve demand peaks, eg, iPhones; a. Pre and Treated (iv) Waste of embedded-value - precious metals/energy get lost in waste-streams, eg, Gold, Palladium in e-waste.

The widely used linear business-model of ‘mine-refine shape-assemble-use-discard’ ends up in waste generation. As the Indian economy aims to be a $5 trillion economy, demand for material will significantly strain the manufacturing supply-chain in the linear model.

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January 2020