India needs to step up recycling capacity to process 1.45 lakh metric tonne solid waste every day

“Circular economy action plans have been prepared and rolled out for 11 sectors by government of India. In addition, there are policy initiatives like EPR and also research and capacity building towards Circular Economy. The industry will be immensely benefited by adopting the Circular Economy approach which will not only improve their competitiveness but also lead to better compliance for long-term sustainability of the industry.” said Dr. Ajay Deshpande, Adjunct Professor, IIT Bombay at an interactive session on “Promoting Circular Economy for a Sustainable Planet”. The event was organized jointly by WTC Mumbai and All India Association of Industries (AIAI).

Earlier in his welcome remarks, Dr. Vijay Kalantri, Chairman, MVIRDC WTC Mumbai pointed out that Circular approach is the future of our economic model as it can address many of the current challenges such as climate change, pollution, rising input cost and high retail inflation.

Dr Kalantri highlighted the scope for waste recovery in India as the country generates 1.45 lakh metric tonne of solid waste every day. But there is lack of infrastructure to recycle this waste.To eliminate waste, we need to adopt circular approach through reuse, refurbishing, repairing, repurposing and recycling used products, he pointed out.

India can reduce import dependence for bulk minerals, ores and scrap materials if we recycle the locally generated waste, Dr Kalantri opined.“India imports more than USD 5 billion worth of bulk ores and minerals like copper, aluminum, lithium, magnesite, nickel, cobalt etc.,” Dr Kalantri mentioned.

Dr Kalantri suggested policy measures for circular economy model and adoption of futuristic fuel such as green energy and green hydrogen. He also raised concern about the undue delay in implementation of several waste management projects across various municipal corporations.

Dr Kalantri further added, “Government of India can come out with policies for providing viability gap funding to make circular economy business models financially viable. We also need effective implementation of these policies at the ground level. India has strong entrepreneurial capability and skilled manpower. Now, we need funding and cost-effective technologies for enterprises in the circular economy sector. India is home to more than 70,000 start-ups, at least 100 unicorns and 6.5 crore MSMEs, who can make our dream of USD 30 trillion economy a reality by 2047. All we need is the forwarding looking government policy.”

In her remarks, Ms. Tejashree Joshi, Head – Environment Sustainability, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. provided an overview of the sustainable initiatives adopted by the 125 year old business group to promote transition to a circular economy. She said, “The 14 group companies of Godrej & Boyce have so far recycled 18645 standard 40 feet container worth of waste products, generated renewable energy that is enough to electrify 2.02 million homes and recycled 28,000 metric tone of concrete debris so far. Currently, our group companies earn 30% of their revenue from good and green products and by 2030, we aim to increase this share to xx%. Since 2015, Godrej & Boyce companies have been processing 10 metric tone of waste every day and 75% of the input used in our construction aggregates is sourced from recycled or waste products.”

Speaking on this occasion, Dr. Shilpi Kapur, Vice President, Environmental Management Centre Pvt. Ltd. suggested large companies and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to work with their tier II and tier III vendors as well to develop a sustainable and green supply chain. Large companies need support tier II and tier III vendors, in terms of technology, design and financial support to manufacture eco-friendly input materials used in the final product.

“A major challenge faced by tier II and tier III MSME vendors is that they supply materials to different OEMs who have diverse specifications in terms of design and manufacturing. In order to address this challenge, OEMs need to come together and evolve a common standard for design and manufacturing so that their tier II and tier III suppliers can adopt this common standard specification, instead of following diverse specifications of different OEMs,” Dr. Kapur added.

During the session, the award winning start-up woman entrepreneur Ms. Arpita Kalanuria, Founder-Director, AmpleEarth Packaging & Systems Pvt. Ltd. explained the government schemes for financing MSMEs and start-ups in waste management, sustainable packaging and other circular economy sectors.

Mr. Ulhas Vinayak Parlikar, Global Consultant – Waste Management, Circular Economy moderated the panel session.

The event was attended by members of trade & industry, consular corps, consultancy organizations and professionals in the field of sustainable development.

A key highlight of the event was the release of a White Paper on Circular Economy. The White Paper highlights the need to expedite transition to a circular economy so that India can achieve efficient use of raw materials and reduce our import dependence for critical raw materials. According to the White Paper, India can control its widening trade deficit in scrap materials sector from transition to circular economy. This trade deficit has almost doubled from USD 5.8 billion in 2011-12 to USD 10.7 billion by 2021-22 due to sharp rise in import of scrap and recyclable metal products, especially aluminum, copper, stainless steel, nickel etc.,

India can also reduce its annual import of bulk minerals and ores, which stood at USD 5.2 billion (in FY22). India can reduce its import dependence for bulk minerals and ores if it strictly adopts the Circular Economy Practice in metals, automotive, construction and electronic industries.

The White Paper outlines seven actionable policy recommendations to accelerate our transition to a circular economy. Some of the policy recommendations made in the paper are: need to set up a dedicated fund for circular economy start-ups, establishment of raw material depots for manufacturing eco-friendly products, incentivizing reuse and refill model of consumption and promoting blockchain solutions to trace end of life products.