Circular Economy, Sustainability and Business Opportunities

By Rashmi Anoop Patil, Sudiptal Seal, and Seeram Ramakrishna

 

Introduction

Humans exist only on this planet earth and heavily dependent on the natural resources and ecosystems. According to some scientific estimates, humans inhabited the earth for about 300,000 years, and the human civilizations dated back to 4,000 BC (Victor, 2018). For most of human history, they have lived sustainably and pretty much in harmony with the nature. However, industrialization accelerated the pace of humans controlling nature for their lifestyle. Industrialization also catalyzed the linear economy in which take-make-use-dispose culture is accentuated. In the last hundred years, the rapidly growing as well as urbanizing human population is excessively consuming the planet’s limited resources and polluting the ecosystems. This is also contributing to the extreme weather conditions and rise in sea levels.

This calls for a transition from our current unsustainable linear economy to a more sustainable circular economy. This change is appreciated only when it comes with a promise of positive outcomes for all stakeholders. In this article, we have explained how a circular economy is beneficial to humankind for a sustainable future in the long run. The transition also requires investments in infrastructure facilitating circularity of materials, production of clean energy, and innovations to redesign the processes and services.

Circular economy and sustainability have become a burgeoning consciousness in the recent years. To standardize the concepts, the International Standards Organization (ISO) formed a new circular economy technical committee. According to the ISO, a circular economy is one where it is restorative or regenerative. Also reuse/reutilization should lead to reducing waste by careful evaluation of resources.

The ISO also defines sustainability as a state of the global system, which includes environmental, social and economic subsystems, in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It’s evident from ISO’s vision that circular economy and sustainability are intricately connected and will feed on each other.

 
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About the Authors

Rashmi Anoop Patil, (Email: [email protected]) is a circular economy enthusiast and an engineer by profession with a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering from Visveswaraiah Technological University, India. As a freelance circular economy advocate, she is currently researching on Circular Economy concepts at the National University of Singapore (NUS). With Prof. Seeram Ramakrishna (Chair, Circular Economy Task Force, NUS), she has developed research reports on Singapore’s pursuit of circular economy, worldwide e-waste management legislations, and the current trends in solutions for the ocean plastic problem. She is passionate about sustainable development and ecofriendly businesses.

Prof. Sudipta Seal, Trustee Chair, Pegasus Professor, University Distinguished Professor, is currently the Chair of Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF), USA. He is the director of the UCF’s Nano Technology Center and served as Board of Trustees of American Society of Materials Intl. He is a Fellow of ASM, IoP, AAAS, AIMBE, ECS, AVS, MRS, National Academy of Inventors, and Royal Society of Chemistry. He has been recently inducted to World Academy of Ceramics, and Florida Inventors Hall of fame (71 issued patents). He won the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator award and ASM’s Albert Sauveur Achievement Award in Materials Innovation. His h-index is 89. He is an editorial board member of NATURE Scientific Reports. He is on the editorial board of Materials Circular Economy. He is a co-organizer of NSF, USA sponsored conference on materials and circular economy and sustainability (http://www.ceasiapacic.com). He received his B-Tech from IIT-Kharagpur India, MS from University of Sheffield, and PhD from University of Wisconsin (UWM), and pursued Postdoctoral fellowship at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, University of California Berkeley.

Prof. Seeram Ramakrishna, FREng is the Chair of Circular Economy Taskforce at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is a member of the Enterprise Singapore National Mirror Committee (NMC) on ISO/TC323 for Circular Economy. He is an advisor to the Singapore National Environmental Agency’s CESS events. He is a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Committee on Future of Production Sustainability. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Springer Nature Journal Materials Circular Economy. He is an editorial board member of NATURE Scientific Reports. He is a co-organizer of the NSF, USA sponsored conference on materials and circular economy and sustainability (http://www.ceasiapacic.com). He chairs the Future of Manufacturing Group, Institution of Engineers Singapore. His leadership roles include NUS University Vice-President (Research Strategy); Dean of NUS Faculty of Engineering; Director of NUS Enterprise; and Founding Chairman of Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, SERIS. He is an elected Fellow of UK Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng); Singapore Academy of Engineering; Indian National Academy of Engineering; and ASEAN Academy of Engineering & Technology. He received PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK and the TGMP from the Harvard University, USA. He is named among the World’s Most Influential Minds and the Top 1% Highly Cited Researchers in Materials Science by Thomson Reuters and Clarivate Analytics. A European study placed him among the only 500 researchers with H index above 144 in the history of science and technology (http://www.webometrics.info/en/node/58).

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