SLINTEC Building Structure 1500x110-04

Circular Economy

Waste is a pressing issue in the world. The amount of waste generated has risen tenfold over the last century, due to the increase in population, urbanization and consumption trends. This figure is expected to double to reach more than 6 million tons of waste per day by 2025 (World Bank, 2017). The rise in waste generation has imposed serious consequences for cities around the world and waste management has become one of the most burdening costs to national budgets diminishing allocation to crucial areas of development such as health and education.

Circular economy is a concept, a model and a systems focused approach in production and consumption based on reusing, sharing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products for longer period of time enabling maximum use (EPA, 2021). Once a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy hence the term circular economy.

This is an exit from the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume-throw away. 

Sustainability – The way forward…

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Similarly, waste generation in Sri Lanka has also been on the rise and the accumulation of waste without proper strategies has led to health hazards in several areas. Attempts now have to focus on science and technology integrated innovative practices that provides sustainable solutions to the country’s waste problem. Hence, circular economy model provides a sustainable way forward.

According circular economy model differentiates biological and technical products (Samarawickrema, 2016). Biological items are designed to re-enter the biosphere safely and technical items are designed to circulate at high quality in the production system without entering the biosphere (Samarawickrema, 2016).    

European Union’s (EU) Circular Economy Framework has already introduced higher recycling targets and a landfill ban on recyclable materials across all EU member states. This is on par with other developed countries such as Japan and New Zealand.

Sri Lanka at present, faces challenges in energy, pollution, water and food security and especially waste management. Most of the raw materials and products are imported. Thus adopting circular economy approaches could alleviate economic pressures through efficient use of available resources and will also enable protecting the natural environment in the country by the reduction of waste generated (Samarawickrema , 2016).    

Sri Lanka is small enough to make this possible and big enough to be showcased as good example, at least in the region (Samarawickrema , 2016). Therefore, the time is opportune to make right decisions to ensure that Sri Lanka grows towards a sustainable future.  

Resource conservation

A circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. It is a change in the model in which resources are mined, made into products, and then become waste. Therefore, the circular economy model enables resource conservation.

Figure 1: System diagram illustrates the continuous flow of technical and biological materials through a circular economy Source: EPA- US – https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy/what-circular-economy

Supply Chain Security

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The world’s population is growing and projected to reach 8 Billion by 2025. The demand for raw materials will also increase accordingly for production of goods. However, the supply of crucial raw materials and resources are limited. In addition, extracting and using raw materials has a major impact on the environment. It also increases energy consumption and CO2 emissions. However, a smarter use of raw materials can lower CO2 emissions enabling reducing the impact of Climate Change.

Finite supplies also means some countries are dependent on other countries for their raw materials especially the case for Sri Lanka. The supply of raw materials is also associated with risks, such as price volatility, availability, and import dependency.

Hence, this model enables extension of the life cycle of products and materials minimizing waste. Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the supply of raw materials enabling supply chain security, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth.

Figure 2: Evolution of Circular Economy and Sustainable Living concept

Source: Miyako Ecology Centre, Japan

Circular Economy and SLINTEC

Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) is a pioneer in nano and advanced research & technology in Sri Lanka. We have focused our resources to create technologies that will solve many pressing problems in emerging nations such as Sri Lanka.

An example of a circular economic approach from SLINTEC is the sustainable packaging solution to replace polystyrene (Styrofoam). This research project was commissioned by a private entity to address environmental issues such as materials efficiency, the source of raw materials, and reuse or recycling of packaging at end of life. SLINTEC continuous to work on sustainable packaging with various biodegradable and reusable materials. SLINTEC also has also developed sustainable textile dyes from waste tea. SLINTEC has developed an oil water separation technology using waste cotton for absorption which has the capability of reusing the absorbed waste oil which can be applied for ocean and water pollution reduction (oil spill cleanup). Electronic waste recycling and sustainable use is also a concern and SLINTEC is carrying out Lithium-Ion battery recycling at present. SLINTEC has made an innovative sustainable solution Low cost compact design water filter unit securing access to clean water to everyone

SLINTEC applies the circular economic model in addressing areas of food security, and clean energy, safe drinking water, healthcare and sustainable economic development. In aligning with our founding mission, we have dedicated all our resources to find innovative and internationally competitive solutions to these issues.

SLINTEC continues to engage in embracing circular economy best practices and continue to address challenges mentioned through application of science and technology. 

Finite supplies also means some countries are dependent on other countries for their raw materials especially the case for Sri Lanka. The supply of raw materials is also associated with risks, such as price volatility, availability, and import dependency.

Hence, this model enables extension of the life cycle of products and materials minimizing waste. Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the supply of raw materials enabling supply chain security, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth.

Author- Ravinda Soysa , Graphics – Lahiru Ranathunga

References

Anon. What A Waste: A Global Review Of Solid Waste Management. World Bank, 2017. Web. 22 May. 2017, Accessed on 22 May, 2022.

 Anon. EPA- US, 2021, https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy/what-circular-economy, Accessed on 22 May, 2022.

Anon. 2018, Miyako Ecology Centre, Japan, https://www.miyako-eco.jp/about-miyako-ecology-center/english/, Accessed on 22 May, 2022.

Samarawickrema S, 2016, https://www.ft.lk/Columnists/sustainability-now-creating-a-circular-economy-for-sri-lanka/4-563285, Accessed on 22 May, 2022.