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A ZERO WASTE OR CIRCULAR ECONOMY MODEL FOR THE FUTURE OF EARTH

Most of the wastes produced are not managed properly. The idea of circular economy is a model where we try to find value based wastes and focus in resource recovery of wastes. The main ideology of circular economy usually rests around waste segregation and auditing which could help to find and separate the wastes that are produced, decreases the chance of mixing of different kind of wastes so that the waste resources can be recovered in the most value optimized way possible. This further expands the possibilities of reuse or recycle of wastes into something meaningful thus expanding the life cycle of any material that would otherwise go to landfill and pollute the environment we live in. this shall also aid in wise utilization of resources as when goods are manufactured by recovering from wastes, no new materials are harvested or mined from the nature helping in natural healing process and demotivating the over exploitation of resources that the earth can regenerate in a certain time frame.

The circular economy model usually benefits the people who live in low income areas and since they are the most vulnerable groups to experience the effects of poor waste management and the problems that arise along with it aftermath, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the circular economy model is an inclusive ideology. People living in low income areas of a big city are the ones who usually have a lifestyle that makes it unaffordable for them to utilize the services provided by the government or the private sector associated with waste management because of the costly and inefficient disposal at overfilled dumpsites. When generally looked at the situation of the world, it can be concluded that the private sector usually overlooks income generating opportunities that comes from waste management such as recycling and composting. Uncollected waste causes severe health and environmental problems, and represents a missed opportunity from a development and economic perspective. This can be generally associated and rooted with inefficient educational systems that do not preach the importance of circular economy and the advantages it brings to the quality of life of people.

The hardest thing to do is start with changing the system and manage a platform or a market for an alternative waste value chain. The management of missing links in a poorly managed waste value chain such as a recycling and sorting centers, composting facilities for the organic waste treatment and also a marketplace for the value based recovered waste materials. In most of the developing countries, there seems to be a problem in extensive research methods on operationalizing new recycling technologies as well as strengthening existing recycling industries.

So why would a country like Nepal invest in a Circular Economy model? Don’t we have other basic issues still unsolved which should be prioritized before waste management?

A Circular Economy Model will solve half of our problems to a certain extent. Circular Economy believes in education for all, safe environment for all, cleanliness for all, opportunities for all and not leaving even a single stone unturned for resource recovery and management. The World Bank claims that waste production is growing faster than urbanization rates and since Nepal has an ever-growing trend of moving to larger cities, this trend has immensely affected the waste management system and overwhelmed landfills. The rich people and their neighborhoods usually do not have to deal with this but the whole weight falls upon low-income neighborhoods who have high population density and lack of infrastructure. This is in fact a vicious cycle of problems for the poor.

The most important benefit of circular economy is thus, its inclusivity. It allows low income families to learn and gain value from their waste resources and it also keeps their surrounding clean (the problem of sanitation is usually a big deal in low-income societies because of expensive management fees).

The circular economy model shall also include entrepreneurs and smart people to act as a private sector when it comes to management of wastes and create revenue streams in unconventional ways by using technology. It aids on being a value for money management system as resource recovery lies at the heart of this value chain and also is an environmentally conscious step which makes entrepreneurs run their business ventures like a social enterprise.

The main problems, however seems to be poor institutional capacity and lack of will among people in power to address the problems of waste management.

To address these, we can conclude the following things about circular economy:

  • It basically means transitioning a disposal driven waste sector towards a more sustainable, recycle, reuse, reduce, repurpose and resource recovery driven waste sector.
  • Since it motivates affordability, collection and management rates are going to peak like never before in the waste sector.
  • This will in turn directly affect the quality of life of people living in service areas, mostly in sensitive sectors like health and sanitation.
  • This shall be good for the environment, reduce GHG emissions, turn wastes into value-based end products and thus, contribute in an economical level also. It shall help in direct and indirect job creation.
  • This idea shall raise awareness among people which will make it easy to source cleaner and well segregated waste products. This shall aid in improving supply chains which will in turn add value to undervalued waste to value products market, it is a process.
  • Optimization of opportunity costs of resources by efficient management practices can be largely expected.
  • Circular Economy is basically aligning our waste management goals with Sustainable Development goals. If proper awareness can be raised in different levels of policy formation, bureaucracy and community levels, it is definitely achievable. We must learn that small changes made by each individual helps create a large impact.
  • -Samikshya Poudel

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