Circular Economy, Sustainability and Business Opportunities

By Rashmi Anoop Patil, Sudiptal Seal, and Seeram Ramakrishna



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.

Please login or register to continue reading... Registration is simple and it is free!

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 ( 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 ( 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 (


  • Balabanic D, Rupnik M, Klemencic AK (2011) Negative Impact of Endocrine-disrupting Compounds on Human Reproductive Health. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 23(3):403{416
  • Bisinella V, Albizzati PF, Astrup TF, Damgaard A, Life Cycle Assessment of grocery carrier bags
  • Cao G, Zhang X, Zheng F (2006) Inventory of Black Carbon and Organic Carbon Emissions from China. Atmospheric Environment 40(34):6516{6527
  • Chandrappa R, Das DB (2012) SolidWaste Management: Principles and Practice. Springer Science & Business Media
  • Chen X, Geng Y, Fujita T (2010) An Overview of Municipal Solid Waste Management in China. Waste management 30(4):716{724
  • Chen X, Li C, Grätzel M, Kostecki R, Mao SS (2012) Nanomaterials for Renewable Energy Production and Storage. Chemical Society Reviews 41(23):7909{7937
  • Dhakal S (2009) Urban Energy Use and Carbon Emissions from Cities in China and Policy Implications. Energy policy 37(11):4208{4219
  • EIU (2009) European Green City Index: Assessing the environmental impact of Europes major cities, Sponsored by Siemens
  • EIU (2012) The green city index. a summary of the green city index research series. URL: https://www international/all/en/pdf/gci report summary pdf (accessed 24/03/2016)
  • EMA-Singapore, Piped Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Finnveden G, Hauschild MZ, Ekvall T, Guinee J, Heijungs R, Hellweg S, Koehler A, Pennington D, Suh S (2009) Recent Developments in Life Cycle Assessment. Journal of environmental management 91(1):1{21
  • Gollin D, Jedwab R, Vollrath D (2016) Urbanization with and without Industrialization. Journal of Economic Growth 21(1):35{70
  • Guinee JB (2002) Handbook on Life Cycle Assessment Operational Guide to the ISO Standards. The international journal of life cycle assessment 7(5):311{313
  • Hales M, Pena AM, Peterson E, Dessibourg-Freer NM, Wang J, Chen P, Zhou P (2019) A Question of Talent: How Human Capital Will Determine the Next Global Leaders; 2019 Global Cities Report by A.T.Kearney
  • Ibrahim RK, Hayyan M, AlSaadi MA, Hayyan A, Ibrahim S (2016) Environmental Application
  • of Nanotechnology: Air, Soil, and Water. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 23(14):13754{13788
  • ICLEI-USA, NYC Solid Waste, In association with The Mayors Oce of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, City of New York., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Jain SK (2011) Population Rise and Growing Water Scarcity in India { Revised Estimates and Required Initiatives. Curr Sci 101(3):271{276
  • Kaza S, Yao LC, Bhada-Tata P, Van Woerden F, What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050.Urban Development; Washington DC: World Bank., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Kloeper W (2008) Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of Products. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 13(2):89
  • Korhonen J, Honkasalo A, Seppälä J (2018) Circular Economy: The Concept and its Limitations. Ecological economics 143:37{46
  • Lee J, Mahendra S, Alvarez PJ (2010) Nanomaterials in the Construction Industry: A Review of their Applications and Environmental Health and Safety Considerations. ACS nano 4(7):3580{3590
  • MacWhinney R, Klagsbald O, Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2015, New York City Mayors Oce of Sustainability., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Mao SS, Chen X (2007) Selected Nanotechnologies for Renewable Energy Applications. International journal of energy research 31(6-7):619{636
  • Massaad C, Entezami F, Massade L, Benahmed M, Olivennes F, Barouki R, Hamamah S (2002) How Can Chemical Compounds Alter Human Fertility? European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 100(2):127{137
  • MEWR-Singapore, Semakau Landfill: Limited Waste for Our Growing Amount of Waste., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Murray A, Skene K, Haynes K (2017) The Circular Economy: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Concept and Application in a Global Context. Journal of Business Ethics 140(3):369{380
  • Narayana T (2009) Municipal Solid Waste Management in India: From Waste Disposal to Recovery of Resources? Waste management 29(3):1163{1166
  • Nascimento DLM, Alencastro V, Quelhas OLG, Caiado RGG, Garza-Reyes JA, Rocha-Lona L, Tortorella G (2019) Exploring Industry 4.0 technologies to enable circular economy practices in a manufacturing context: A business model proposal. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management 30(3):607{627
  • NCCS-Singapore (2012) Climate Change & Singapore: Challenges. Opportunities. Partnerships. pp 1{140
  • NEA-Singapore, Waste Management: Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • PACE, The Circularity Gap Report – Circle Economy
  • PACE, WEF, Strategy A, Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Circular Economy Consumer Electronics and Plastics Packaging
  • Poongothai J, Gopenath T, Manonayaki S (2009) Genetics of Human Male Infertility. Singapore Med J 50(4):336{347
  • Qu X, Alvarez PJ, Li Q (2013) Applications of Nanotechnology in Water and Wastewater Treatment. Water Research 47(12):3931{3946
  • Ramachandra T, Sreejith K, Bharath H (2014) Sector-wise Assessment of Carbon-footprint Across Major Cities in India. In: Assessment of Carbon Footprint in Different Industrial Sectors, Volume 2, Springer, pp 207{267
  • Satterthwaite D (2008) Cities’ Contribution to Global Warming: Notes on the Allocation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Environment and urbanization 20(2):539{549
  • Serrano E, Rus G, Garcia-Martinez J (2009) Nanotechnology for Sustainable Energy. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 13(9):2373{2384
  • Sharholy M, Ahmad K, Mahmood G, Trivedi R (2008) Municipal SolidWaste Management in Indian Cities { A Review. Waste management 28(2):459{467
  • Theron J, Walker J, Cloete T (2008) Nanotechnology and Water Treatment: Applications and Emerging Opportunities. Critical reviews in microbiology 34(1):43{69
  • Tsutsumi O (2005) Assessment of Human Contamination of Estrogenic Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals and their Risk for Human Reproduction. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 93(2-5):325{330
  • UNDP, Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities., [Online; accessed25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 13: Climate Action., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 14: Life Below Water., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 15: Life on Land., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. html, [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • UNDP, Goal 8: Decent Work and economic Growth., [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Varghese OK, PauloseM, Grimes CA (2009) Long Vertically Aligned Titania Nanotubes on Transparent Conducting Oxide for Highly Efficient Solar Cells. Nature nanotechnology 4(9):592
  • Varma RS (2012) Greener approach to nanomaterials and their sustainable applications. Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering 1(2):123{128
  • Victor K (2018) How Long Have Humans Been On Earth?, World Atlas [Online; accessed 25-September-2019]
  • Zhang DQ, Tan SK, Gersberg RM (2010) Municipal Solid Waste Management in China: Status, Problems and Challenges. Journal of environmental management 91(8):1623{1633
  • Zhang XP, Cheng XM (2009) Energy Consumption, Carbon Emissions, and Economic Growth in China. Ecological Economics 68(10):2706{2712

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.