We all know our resources are limited; therefore, we must ensure the maximum use of our resources mindfully because resources impact the economy, ecology, lifestyle, culture, and overall living standard. Hence taking care of our ecology and economy is an indispensable factor for sustainable living.
One question that is in everyone's mind is what is happening to our economy and ecology? Do we need to consider a new economic model and consumption pattern?
The answer is a resounding Yes. It's time to move on from the Linear economy to the Circular economy Model. Linear economy represents a linear mode of production to consumption. It sets the idea of producing, using, and disposing of. On the other hand, the circular economy offers a circular way of consuming produce, using, repairing, reusing, and recycling, which refers to a more sustainable way of living by consuming mindfully.
According to the Ellen McAurther Foundation, "Circular economy gives us the tools to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs. It gives us the power to grow prosperity, jobs, and resilience, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution."
34 countries from around the world, including countries like Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, France etc., have committed to shifting their economic pattern to a circular economy from a linear one. This can have long-term impacts on the economy, society and natural resources.
The linear economy represents a model which is bound to dispose of modes that generally encourage manufacturing using natural resources. These modes damage our economy, nature, and social environment, slowly but surely.
In contrast, the circular economic model mostly follows the 3R approach where the first R represents (Reduce), meaning reducing consumption of resources by applying lean design principles and producing products that are made to last. The second R symbolises (Reuse), reusing products by transferring them to another user. The last R is for Recycling resources by disassembling components and separating parts.
Repairing and reusing the same product lowers the material use, and recycling the rest of the materials in various ways leads to lessening production costs. Production efficiency leads to low carbon production and greenhouse gas emission, eventually transforming the economic, ecological and living patterns from a consumption-based to a mindful-consumption based one.
There is a significant link between the circular economy and climate mitigation. The European Environment Agency (EEA) upholds that switching to a circular economy can remarkably mitigate carbon dioxide emissions that emerge from production, manufacturing, construction, transportation and consumption.
According to UNDP, up to two-thirds of greenhouse gas emission is derived from materials management, including the production, consumption, and disposal of materials, products, and infrastructure. Circular economies minimise the need for producing new materials unnecessarily, while maximising the reuse of resources, thus eliminating the carbon costs of producing new materials.
Unfortunately, the economic structure of Bangladesh is still linear (consumption-based). A research by Pilat and Selim, 2018 projected that the linear economic model resource consumption would be higher in Bangladesh within the next two decades because of the ever-increasing population and mismanagement in the production system and consumption.
The concept of circular economy is yet to be explored in Bangladesh. It is confined to recycling plastic products and remnant cloth (Jhut cloths) recycling, which is very negligible.
A study by Circular Fashion Partnership (CPF) in 2021 found that "Less than 1% of materials we used to produce clothes is recycled, demonstrating a loss of more than $100 billion in materials each year."
Only 37.2% of the plastic waste in Dhaka is recycled, as found by Word Bank in 2021, and we are not considering the rest of the districts.
But then again, the circular economy is not confined to recycling plastic, glass, tin, remnant cloths and solar energy. They are only a part of the circular economy. The circular economy is an essential model from changing phycology and style of consumption, to radically changing production and distribution, which we call circular culture.
To tackle the crisis of the world due to excess population, merciless resource use, natural disasters, and man-made disasters (war, famine), we should embrace the principles of the circular economy. We can eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature. Thus, introducing a circular economy in Bangladesh as soon as possible is a must, because we are already losing our resources and chances of sustainable living.
Dr Munjur-E-Moula, Aalto University (Finland), Founder of Circular economy in Bangladesh (CFB), can be contacted at email@example.com
Laboni Khatun, M. Phil Researcher (DU) and Development Worker, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.