Adopting a circular economy
EMF (2016) identified three key areas that should be focused upon in the transition to a circular economy, namely cities and construction, food and agriculture, and mobility and vehicle manufacturing. Adopting a circular economy pathway could yield annual benefits of around US$624 billion by 2030-2050 (EMF, 2016; F1CC1, 2019). This is equivalent to 30% of India’s GDP. Cash-out cost in the three focus areas would be US$218 billion (11% of India’s GDP) lower in 2030 and US$624 billion (30% of India’s GDP) lower in 2050, compared with the current scenario (NPC, 2019). In addition to creating cost savings for businesses and households, a circular transition would reduce negative externalities. For example, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be 44% lower by 2050 compared to the current scenario, and congestion and pollution would fall significantly, leading to health and economic benefits to citizens.
A number of legislative measures have been put in place in the country. Comprehensive amendments to various waste management rules, including those on municipal solid waste, plastic waste, hazardous waste, bio-medical waste, and electronic waste, have been developed (NPC, 2019). India’s National Manufacturing Policy focuses on promotion and adoption of green technologies and manufacturing, especially amongst its medium- and small and mediumsized enterprises (MSMEs). It has embarked upon an initiative of creating 100 smart cities across the country, and waste management and resource conservation are a significant part of this initiative. The Zero Defect, Zero Effect scheme aims to improve the quality of Indian manufacturing while minimising any negative externalities. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change established the Indian Resource Panel to partner with other governmental ministries and private/public organisations to facilitate the use of recycled materials, act as a hub for resource efficiency, and provide the right policy and technological support. A national action plan on climate change (e.g., comprising National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, and National Water Mission) aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the economy. The government also introduced Plastic Waste Management Rules 2018 to reduce and manage plastic waste. One key feature of this was the introduction of extended producer responsibility (EPR). Under EPR, producers are made responsible for collecting and processing their manufactured products at the end of their lifetime. The national and several state governments also have a firm commitment to the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission), with, for example, severe penalties for non-compliance with the EPR (e.g.. losing one's license to operate). In addition to these macro-initiatives, the government has also introduced several sector-specific rules to help catalyse circular business models. For example. Mission Zero Waste aims to convert waste into valuable products utilising scientific approaches in 400 targeted cities in the country. However, confusion and inconsistency of implementation of these policies exist.
In 2019, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) released the Status Paper and Way Forward on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy (MoEFCC, 2019). The document outlines 30 recommendations for transformation to resource efficiency and a circular economy in India. These recommendations include the formulation of a national policy on resource efficiency and circular economy, establishment of a Bureau of Resource Efficiency (BRE), and R&D for scalable technologies. Four sector-specific papers on resource efficiency in steel and aluminium, construction and demolition waste, and the electrical and electronics sector have also been released. The government has developed a viability gap fund/ grant to encourage value creation from activities such as composting, waste to energy, utilisation of plastics waste in road construction, and more sustainable management of construction and demolition waste. A number of initiatives have been put in place, including the use of recycling for plastics, bricks made from fly ash, furniture made from tetrapak, the introduction of eco-friendly cutlery, biodegradable shopping bags, and encouraging the reuse of treated wastewater (NPC, 2019).