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The World needs to shift to a circular economy: UNEP

  • Published
    17th May, 2023

Global plastic pollution can reduce by 80 per cent by 2040 if countries and companies make deep policy and market shifts using existing technologies and shift to a circular economy, according to a new report launched by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Key-highlights of the Report

  • Title:Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy
  • Circular economy approach: The report urged governments and businesses alike to adopt a circular economy approach for tackling the problem of plastic pollution.
  • Cut down on plastic: Countries need to eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic uses.
  • Shift: They need to make three market shifts — reuse, recycle, and reorient and diversify.
  • Even with the above measures, 100 million tonnes of plastics from single-use and short-lived products will still need to be safely dealt with annually by 2040 — together with a significant legacy of existing plastic pollution.
  • However, any delays in executing the necessary shifts will mean higher costs and an additional 80 million tonnes of plastic pollution by 2040.

How would this shift benefit the economy?

  • Savings: Overall, the shift to a circular economy would result in $1.27 trillion in savings, considering costs and recycling revenues.
  • Reduced expenditure on externalities: A further $3.25 trillion would be saved from avoided externalities such as health, climate, air pollution, marine ecosystem degradation, and litigation-related costs.
  • Increased employment opportunities: This shift could also result in a net increase of 700,000 jobs by 2040.

What is Circular economy?

  • Circular economy is an economic model that aims to minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency by keeping products, materials, and resources in use for as long as possible.
  • It is a departure from the traditional linear economy, which follows a "take-make-dispose" pattern.
  • In a circular economy, resources are kept in circulation through strategies such as recycling, reuse, remanufacturing, and sharing, creating a closed-loop system.

Environmental Benefits

Economic Benefits

Social Benefits

  • Reduced Resource Extraction and Pollution
  • Preservation of Biodiversity
  • Mitigation of Climate Change
  • Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency
  • Job Creation and Local Economic Development
  • Enhanced Business Resilience and Competitiveness
  • Access to Affordable and Quality Goods
  • Improved Working Conditions and Labor Rights
  • Community Engagement and Empowerment

Government recent initiative to promote circular economy and sustainable growth

The Union Budget 2023-24 has put the focus on sustainable development and a circular economy

  • GOBARdhan: The scheme aims to promote a circular economy by setting up 500 “waste-to-wealth” plants across the country, including 200 compressed biogas (CBG) plants and 300 community-based plants. The goal is to convert waste into valuable resources, reducing the country’s carbon footprint and promoting sustainability.
  • Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes (MISHTI): MISHTI aims to preserve and restore the mangrove ecosystem and provide livelihood opportunities for local communities.
  • Promoting Conservation Values: Amrit Dharohar: It aims to promote the conservation of wetlands in the country.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022: They mandate to increase in the thickness of plastic carry bags to over 120 microns, and the phase-out of some single-use plastic products.

What are the present challenges?

  • Limited Infrastructure and Technology
  • Complex Supply Chains
  • Policy and Regulatory Hurdles
  • Consumer Mindset and Behavior
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