In India, we are driven by need — conserve and reuse to save money. As incomes rise, behaviour could tilt towards throwaway choices. Responsibility requires that, by understanding the impact of our choices, we reduce our footprint.
Finally, recognition of business opportunities towards wealth creation from recycling and reuse. As economies evolve, we see these different drivers taking hold. For instance, in 2015, India produced 9% but consumed 5% of global plastic. But recycling rates for e-waste in 2020 were just 11.7% in largely developing Asia compared to 42.5% in Europe.
Hyderabad-based Banyan Nation has developed a plastic washing technology using which recycled plastic can substitute for virgin plastic in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries. Ecoware (with a factory in Greater Noida) treats sugarcane bagasse to make food-grade packaging containers.
- The ban on single-use plastics has not been followed through.
- In the absence of effective standards in India for biodegradable materials, the startups must invest in getting certified in developed countries.
- Although expensive, this is critical for product and quality differentiation.
- Bank loans for the startups in circular economy are too small.
- The absence of enabling policies keeps circular economy businesses small-scale, often informal, uncertified and undifferentiated.
- Innovation is key, and startups in the circular economy need innovation in product and process.
- Informing customers is crucial. From explaining what biodegradable means to offering online courses on sustainable living.
- Digitising thousands of informal recyclers, to trace its supply chain.
- Policy could mandate an increasing share of recycled plastic in FMCG industries (just like policy mandated renewable purchase obligations for power utilities).
- The idea of growth needs redefinition. Rather than repeat sales of unsustainable products to meet quarterly targets, in the circular economy growth indicates: scalable models; minimalist lifestyles; women’s entrepreneurship; gender-sensitive employment; and including informal enterprises in formal value chains.
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