Fostering the transition to a Circular Economy in developing countries: a screening over the potentials of the Brazilian National Waste Policy

by Beatriz Granziera (presenting author)1, Flavio De Moranda Ribeiro2

1: Yale University, United States of America; 2: Sao Paulo State Secretariat for the Environment

Circular Economy has made the headlines as a powerful economic model to enable growth and development along with sustainable use of natural resources. Overcoming the traditional linear model based on the “make, use, dispose” of products, however, is cumbersome and has been particularly challenging for developing countries. One of the many hurdles concerns the role of regulatory frameworks on scaling-up the circular economic model. Governmental policies are key to address regulatory barriers and create the right conditions for change. The present paper provides a screening over the potentials created by the Brazilian National Waste Policy (BNWP) to foster transition to a circular economy. BNWP established a shared responsibility among producers, governments and consumers for collecting, recycling and disposing end-of-life products across sectors. The study demonstrated that BNWP has a high potential to foster transition, with valuable instruments to: improve recycling rates, engage the private sector, decrease costs to municipalities, increase stakeholder participation, allow flexibility to meet targets, create tax incentives and foster green public procurement. However, its implementation has faced significant challenges, and in the first decade only four voluntary agreements were signed with private sector and recycling rates didn’t increase significantly. Among the most relevant barriers to be overcome, stand out the political hindrance to implement economic instruments – mainly tax incentives – and the hardship for municipalities to advance infrastructure. The research concludes that, notwithstanding the potential of waste policies to leverage Circular Economy, even in developing countries, it is key to create boundary conditions to overcome the political and economic hurdles of practical implementation.