By Annanya Agarwal
The planet has been driven close to the point of no return by both human activity and the linear economy approach of ‘take-make-dispose’. With growing populations and a cultural mindset of consumption, urban, industrial and agricultural waste generation will continue to grow. Industrial waste is easily the largest contributor to our landfills. To put this in perspective, this year as a species we will generate around 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste, whereas the USA alone will generate 7 billion tons of industrial waste. Industrial waste around the planet just this year could be to the tune of 100 billion tons. The effects of this are already being felt in the form of climate change, ozone layer thinning, and increasing sea levels.
A change is required right away.
There is a growing global understanding that circularity holds the key to finding the solution. By establishing closed-loop cycles where waste is reduced to a minimum or eliminated and resources are repurposed, circular thinking decouples economic activity from the use of resources like energy and materials. In reality, the idea of a “circular economy” has been around for a while—at least since the 1970s, when resource depletion and environmental degradation were major problems. Since then, nations have adopted a circular economy as a policy objective and a vision for the global community, including the UN.
Circularity a business goal
Circularity has been chosen as the goal for the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Vision 2050. There are several companies now adopting circular economy models. Technology and innovation have to be the key levers to drive this agenda. The interventions need to show potential for scale, while also presenting a financially sustainable outcome to the industry. Regulation and legislation are the next tier of intervention driving sustainable development. Legislators can be more and more decisive and stringent in their approach, encouraging industry to take on transformative change.
Technology to recover metallic aluminium
There are several examples of successful interventions in this space. Interventions that have shown huge benefits for the planet, and for the industry too. In India, the total aluminium production currently is about 6.5 million tonnes per annum. That will translate to about roughly 100,000 tonnes of dross, which is a hazardous waste that was being disposed of in secure landfills. A Mumbai-based sustainability startup company has implemented an innovative solution that uses patented technology to recover metallic aluminium from the dross and convert the residue into niche, premium value-added products used in steelmaking. The process is zero waste, zero discharge, no waste contributed to our landfills, and uses minimal energy in doing so.
Circularity is a catalyst for opportunity
In fact, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the circular economy model is particularly well adapted to the metals and mining sector. As these metals are infinitely recyclable, and have a naturally long lifespan, in addition to their high value, it encourages maximum reuse and recycling. The circular economy system offers a structure for the transformation. Waste is reconstituted into saleable products, metals are looped back into the system, growth is decoupled from consumption, and materials are retained in productive use.
The concept of waste is redefined by innovative business models and cutting-edge new technologies, which is another way that circularity is a catalyst for opportunity creation across industries. Ethical process has become the most crucial part of the solution for a sustainable future in the resources sector. It is essential that they quicken their ascent toward circularity.
(Annanya Agarwal, Co-founder, Runaya)
Views are personal.
Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels to stay updated with the latest CSR news and exclusive updates.
By donating to India CSR as you feel moved, you become more than a reader—you become a partner, a co-navigator charting the course for a more enlightened future.