Circular Economy simplified: Every ending is a new beginning

by Sanjeevan Bajaj (presenting author)

Sukhbir Agro Energy Ltd, India


During the 2018 High-Level Political Forum of UN, CE was repeatedly mentioned as a key solution at the Expert Group Meeting and in-depth review of SDG 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), also covering issues concerning climate change, ocean action, and food waste and loss. CE protagonists are imagining an economy where waste and pollution do not exist, products and materials remain in use for the longest time ever, and resources are replenished by design.

To transition from imagination to reality implies that we need to break the vicious linear take-make-break model and introduce benign circular loops of restorative and regenerative economic activities. However, the nuts and bolts of how this revolutionary change can happen are far from clear. What seems clear is that entrenched production methods and consumption patterns must give way to new ways, turning much of current wisdom on its head. What also seems clear is that the new ways will require cooperation of stakeholders across the entire spectrum. No group of stakeholders can do it alone, and no group can be left out. Everyone has a role to play in this transition by supporting practical actions and putting pressure on businesses and governments to accelerate implementation activities. But do we really understand what should we be trying to accelerate?

This submission looks at the concept of CE through a lens of pragmatic and practical actions, and navigates through the maze of ideas on CE with an eye on four key questions:

1. What does CE look like in imagination and in practice?

2. Where do we see the biggest opportunities to build and expand CE?

3. What are the barriers impeding CE and how can they be addressed?

4. Which unintended consequences do we need to guard against?