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24 January, 2020 00:00 00 AM

Ensuring sustainability through a circular economy

Bangladesh currently has a few practices that are followed to show a CE approach
Arif M. Faisal and Umama Ahmed
Ensuring sustainability through 
a circular economy

After you’ve discarded your trash and the rubbish truck has picked it up, where does it go? What happens to it? Most people don’t give much thought to this very common everyday act of ours. Internally, we all probably have this sense that us humans with the collaboration of nature have the power to somehow make our daily waste disappear. Another common thought may be landfills; but what is the process?A common misconception we have is that it evaporates as soon as it reaches the landfill. Unfortunately, that is never the case. Not all waste easily decomposes into nature.

For a long time, our economy has been ‘linear’. This means that raw materials are used to make a product, and after its use any waste (e.g. packaging) is thrown away to the environment since environment is considered as ‘free riding’ in ‘linear economy’.When it comes to our purchases, we manufacture, we buy, we dispose and then we start again. We do not reuse or recycle old materials like nature does. We simply keep walking in a straight line (linear) when it comes to our economy. A new product comes so we trash the old one. We throw out the packagingof our food. We are consuming finite supply of material resources and this is producing toxic wastefor the environment. This simply can’t work long term.

It is time to break from the ‘take-make-use-dispose’ pattern of growth. The concept of ‘circular economy (CE)’ is about closing this loop. It is based on the principle of a natural ecosystem where there is no waste output.

Here, every input and waste output comes toward the circle of the ecosystem. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

Plastics is an essential part of our everyday lives.Usage of single-use plastics are increasing at an alarming rate in Bangladesh and the world. A report published by Earth Day Network (2018) ranked Bangladesh in 10th position out of top 20 plastic polluting countries of the world. Plastics contribute 8 per cent of the country’s waste, which is equivalent to 0.8 MT. Around 0.2 MT goes to the oceans and rivers, polluting the water body and destroying aquatic resources. Most of the used plastic materials are non-biodegradable and the end-used materials decompose at different rates in the environment. Hence, managing the post-use plastic waste is increasingly becoming a major environmental and economic concern for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh currently has a few practices that are followed to show a CE approach. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles (mainlyfor water and soft drink bottles) in Bangladesh get converted into granules, to be reused or sold to outside manufacturers. The virgin form of Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) can be used for a variety of products like garments bags, squeeze bottles, etc. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) can also be reused or recycled into vast range of products like shopping bags, shampoo bottles, buckets, etc.

One of the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs showed an innovative idea to promote CE in the garments sector.

He designed a low-cost solution for making sanitary napkin from recycled garment products which he named as ‘Ella Pad’.During his time as a research affiliate at the D-Lab of MIT, he realised how much poor women who worked in garments factories (in Bangladesh) were in dire need of hygienic sanitary products. Many women had to miss work and even lost their lives due to unhygienic ways of dealing with menstruation. He discovered that the leftover cloths (jhuta), when making clothing at the factories, was a great source material to make sustainable sanitary pads. These were at a low-cost to make and the women in factories themselves could learn to make them.

Nowadays, Ella Pad are currently also in the process of making women’s underwear and reusable sanitary napkins from leftover cloths.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched in 2010, to dedicate itself to inform and help the globe transition to a CE. According to the charity, it is the lack of knowledge that has been identified as the greatest barrier for the shift. Businesses fear the financial costs to transitioning to making re-usable materials. They also fear that the practices may lower the efficiency of their businesses.

This is why the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) needs to take a greater initiative to inform business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers about importance and benefits of CE. The GoB can introduce a mix of policy instruments, such as fiscal incentives and mandates, that may provide the signals for change. Adopting a CEdoctrine requires strong market drivers for low-emission or low footprint products, services and technologies in the industrial sector. Policy instruments such as setting of portfolio standards, blending mandates for financing, mandatory performance standards and labelling, and green public procurement guidelines can be used to build new business opportunities and create markets for low-carbon or recycled or reused products and technologies.

Both technological support and financial incentives from the GoBcan be instrumental for the transformation of the existing production system to an environment friendly circular one. There is congenial policy environment in Bangladesh to promote CE. These policies and legal framework include Draft National Environmental Policy (2018), Solid Waste Management Rules (2010),National 3R Strategy for Waste Management (2010), Draft Solid Waste Management Rules (2018), Draft E-Waste Management Rules (2018), Draft SRO on Plastic Waste Management (2019), Renewable Energy Policy (2008), National Sustainable Development Strategy(2008), Bangladesh Industrial Policy(2016),Compulsory Use of Jute Package Act (2010) and its subsequent Rules (2013), City Corporation Act (2009), Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 (with amendments),Bangladesh Environment Conservation Rules 1997 (with amendments), etc.

The number of countries that has the status of being ‘developed’ is much less than the countries that are known as ‘developing’. Mother Earth has given us so much for survival but it’s slowly dying. We must help to regenerate it – and transitioning to a CE could do that. The Earth does not have enough material resources to help every country become a developed country – unless we follow circularity to help her back.

The writers work for UNDP Bangladesh



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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