As we know, increased soil erosion, the excessive extraction of groundwater reserves, ocean acidification, deforestation, declining fish stocks, the unpredictable risk multiplying effects of climate change, and other environmental effects have started putting limitations on economic activities. Resource-related shocks that humanity is facing are unprecedented, as there has never been such a demand for different resources. Furthermore, demand will increase as economic forecast says up to 03 billion more middle-class consumers will emerge in the next 20 years compared to the 10.8 billion today. This will create a large volume of wastes.
Wastes accumulated across different industries is the other factor that questions the rationality of the current economic system. Even though recycling has become a common practice, it captures only a small fraction of the original raw materials’ value. Today, it takes the Earth almost one and a half years to regenerate what is used in a year. Even if population dramatically decreases, which is very unlikely, the problem with resources will not be solved. Current linear system of resource use threatens welfare and wellbeing, as well as competitiveness of businesses, their profits and the business continuity at large.
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Increased price volatility, supply chain risks, and growing pressures on resources are warning business and policymakers that it is necessary to rethink the ways materials and energy are used today. Facing limits posed by nature can be a challenge but it is also an opportunity to be creative and make the most of what is available. Circular economy can be a solution. This is what the circular economy is about–keeping products, components, and materials at their highest utility as long as it is possible. Growth within a circular economy is gaining increasing attention all around the world as a potential way to increase prosperity of the society, while reducing its dependence on primary raw materials and energy.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY EXPLAINED AT LARGE
As discussed, circular economy is a paradigm for economic development and a policy initiative. It is a response to the unsustainable, conventional ‘take-make-dispose’ model. The circular economy comprises the 3R concept. The 3R concept can be described as reducing or least using raw materials, reusing the products and services, and recycling high durable raw materials and components.
Our current system resembles a liner model where a product is designed, manufactured, and distributed, and once the lifetime of the product is finished, it turns into waste that is disposed of. In the traditional linear economic system, high levels of waste are generated through single-use products ignoring all other social and environmental causes. In contrast, the circular economy strives to have opposite effect to this current system. It focuses on eliminating waste by reducing, reusing and recycling equipment, products, machinery, and infrastructure for a longer duration. It is an ecosystem where products do not lose much of their value. This contributes towards eliminating waste and the probability of the products ending up in landfills.
In short, traditional linear economy focuses on the creation, use and disposal of products and materials, whereas circular economy aimed at using and reusing resources as long as possible, keeping the environment in the forefront. It is thus called a closed and regenerative economic model; a system where waste is designed out, materials’ value is preserved at the highest level possible and natural systems are regenerated which is the basis for action-based solution for sustainability. Now practitioners are crucially exploring how a more holistic approach could pave the way to a better and more inclusive future for all: a circular economy with social and ethical concerns at its heart. If managed well, the circular economy has the potential to create new and decent jobs, ensure a more equitable management of resources and combat inequalities and social crises.
WHY SHOULD BANGLADESH SWITCH TO CIRCULAR ECONOMY?
The circular economy is important as it promotes sustainable development. The global population has appreciated drastically and exponentially. This factor has negatively impacted the resources that are available across the globe. Since resources are limited, so is the availability of raw materials for processing various types of finished products. Additionally, the extraction of raw materials has led to increased carbon emissions across the globe and adversely impacts the environment. Therefore, the world has to switch to a circular economy to lower carbon emissions and promote recycling and efficient raw materials.
The circular economy is the key to sustainable development because it eliminates waste, supports the economy, and focuses on products that are designed with a positive impact on the environment. This will guarantee that for future generations, there are enough natural resources for them to be supported.
IN ADDITION TO ITS CLEAR ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS, THE ACADEMIC STUDY OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND ITS REAL-WORLD PRACTICE HAVE BEEN LARGELY FO- CUSED ON THE ECONOMIC SPHERE: THE BENEFITS IT COULD BRING FOR BUSINESSES AND PROFITS. MORE RECENTLY, SCHOLARS HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN AMPLIFYING THE SOCIAL SIDE OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY WHICH ALSO REFERRED TO AS A CIRCULAR SOCIETY.
Switching to a circular economy approach will create a long-term value for the environment because of its ability to reduce pollution and waste infiltrating in communities. Implementing this approach will effectively make all products and practices sustainable, thereby securing a clean and green environment for future generations.
In addition to its clear environmental focus, the academic study of circular economy and its real-world practice have been largely focused on the economic sphere: the benefits it could bring for businesses and profits. More recently, scholars have been interested in amplifying the social side of the circular economy which also referred to as a circular society
By circulating resources multiple times, the circular economy tackles issues of scarcity and allows all to access what they need without overburdening the earth. If it is implemented in a holistic way, affording attention to social considerations and the fair distribution of resources, it will also offer a pathway for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formulated by the United Nations.
A giant global brand has already adopted reusable and waste-free packaging in Europe as a test case for its products, such as shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. which can be returned to the brand and refilled in stores instead of turning into waste. This is a major leap forward, not only for businesses, but also for consumers and the future generations on a sustainable planet.
Bangladesh has experienced continuous economic growth over the past few decades and is on track to graduate from its status as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by 2024. However, this graduation will also come with challenges, as the country will no longer have access to certain benefits such as duty-free and quota-free market access. This could make future exports more difficult if the country is not well-prepared to address these changes. Besides, technology-based and global competitiveness will be the crucial factors for driving growth and development. In this context, the circular economy model could provide a sustainable approach to reducing resource gaps and promoting sustainability in Bangladesh. This model has the potential to support the country’s ongoing economic development while also addressing the challenges posed by the loss of benefits associated with LDC status.
Bangladesh holds immense potential for the implementation of a circular economy. It has the shortage of resources despite being the eighth-most populous and sixth-most densely populated country in the world with a population of 165 million. Waste Atlas says, the per capita waste generation in Bangladesh is 149.7 kg per year. Studies have shown that post-harvest waste of vegetables and fruits can be as high as 30 to 40 percent and food wastage is estimated to be about 5.5 percent of total procured food. In daily life, wastage is also a common issue. A circular economy approach can help reduce the use of virgin raw materials and the generation of waste, resulting in positive impacts for both the environment and the economy. By reducing the need for virgin raw materials, this approach can unlock new sources of usable materials and lower greenhouse gas emissions from industrial production processes, which are though currently lower compared to many other countries. Moreover, the implementation of a circular economy is expected to create more job opportunities by transforming waste into revenue streams and saving costs through the use of innovative technologies. It represents a new way to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society both locally and globally.
As Bangladesh is being graduated from being a Least Developed Country (LDC), it is crucial to set an action plan to fully realize the benefits of the circular economy model in order to achieve the national targets and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopting new and innovative business models that focus on reusing products and extending their lifespan is critical for this transition. However, the key focus should be on transforming local waste into valuable resources. Redesigning the existing business models is essential to this effort, as it will help us maximize the potential of the circular economy in Bangladesh. By making the most of the opportunities presented by the circular economy, Bangladesh can become a leader in sustainable development and create a brighter future for its citizens.
CHALLENGES OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY-BASED BUSINESS MODEL
- Businesses pertaining and designed based on a circular based economy are hard to develop as most of the investors invest with a profit motive.
- The demand for circular products is small
- There is not much supply in the service or professional field of design thinking.
- The current economic system is fuelling the linear economy model of production.
- Laws and regulations are not prepared for this kind of innovation.
- The switch from short-term monetary goals to long-term sustainable goals is required and not much popular
- The GDP index does not consider sustainability as a part of value addition, thereby making its role in the economy irrelevant.
Ultimately, the shift towards a circular economy is a call to better understand the limited resources of our planet, which have been largely overlooked in modern society. It is imperative to address this resource gap by redesigning and re-engineering economic and business models in a sustainable and resilient manner, taking into consideration the importance of environmental and societal benefits as integral parts of our economic system. Adopting a circular economy on a large scale requires an open mindset and a willingness to embrace changes that challenge traditional and consumerist attitudes. The leadership of relevant actors is crucial for promoting and embracing these new ideas. The private sector, being the key driver of economic growth and the largest consumer of resources in Bangladesh, must play an important role in this transition. Therefore, public-private cooperation is essential to transform challenges into opportunities at the national, regional, and global levels.