Home OPINIONS Embracing the Circular Economy: Revolutionizing Waste Management in India

Embracing the Circular Economy: Revolutionizing Waste Management in India

The circular economy is a strategic, realignment that is reshaping business operations and transcending mere environmental change. It impacts society positively, creating new avenues by offering a sustainable blueprint for the business world and redefining how businesses operate. Not only does it support the efficient utilisation of waste products, but it also encourages people and businesses to use natural resources more effectively.
In India, this movement has received amplified focus because of the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission, also known as SBM),emphasising strategic engagement and collaboration with various groups to implement the world’s largest waste management program.
Today, there is an increased focus on minimising waste while maximising resource utilisation and calls for a production model aiming to create a system that promotes sustainability, longevity, reuse, and recycling.

Reducing Waste Generation

A fundamental aspect of the circular economy is waste prevention. By designing products focusing on durability, repairability, and recyclability, resources can be optimised for use at source. Increased operational efficiency in manufacturing practices and extended product lifecycles can reduce the burden on landfills and incinerators, contributing to a cleaner future. Furthermore, individuals also bear a significant responsibility in encouraging sustainable consumption patterns. By making informed choices about the products they purchase, how they use and maintain them, and how they dispose of them, individuals can actively contribute to waste reduction.
Today, businesses across sectors increasingly collaborate with experts, nonprofits, industry peers, and government agencies to drive innovation and sustainable initiatives. In fact, sustainable packaging solutions have become a focal point of these efforts. Companies are committing to developing and implementing recyclable packaging and/or incorporating recycled materials, underscoring the importance of sustainable design throughout the product lifecycle.

Promoting Recycle and Reuse

The circular economy encourages a shift from the traditional linear “take-make-dispose” model to a more sustainable circular one. This shift entails an integral step towards repurposing and reusing items.
In recent times, we have witnessed a growing trend among individuals increasingly adopting the principles of the circular economy. People are becoming more aware of the environmental repercussions of our linear consumption habits. This heightened awareness has spurred individuals to act by reevaluating their consumption patterns. They are now actively seeking ways to repurpose and reuse items in their daily lives.
In parallel, companies have also recognised the need to align with the circular economy’s principles. They are taking proactive steps to adopt circularity in their operations. Many are launching initiatives to collect and recycle materials, particularly PET bottles. These initiatives represent a crucial facet of the circular economy, as they address the vital aspect of resource regeneration. This reduces the demand for virgin resources and bolsters the market for recycled materials, thus closing the loop in the circular economy.

Enhancing Recycling Infrastructure

Effective recycling infrastructure is vital for a circular economy. India has made progress in this area. Strengthening recycling systems, establishing efficient collection mechanisms, and investing in advanced innovative technologies can enhance the quality and quantity of recycled materials.
However, it is essential to integrate more recycled content into product packaging. Introducing rPET into the manufacturing process allows us to breathe new life into previously used plastics, effectively reducing the demand for virgin plastic production. This integration is not merely an environmental win but also a strategic move towards mitigating the substantial environmental toll exacted by the production of new plastics, which includes resource extraction and energy consumption.
Most importantly, businesses are taking a proactive stance on sustainability by implementing and prioritising eco-friendly packaging solutions aligning with circular economy principles. They are actively working towards incorporating more recycled materials into their packaging. Many companies have come up with public commitments and targets on recyclability and the use of recycled content in their packaging and are actively working towards achieving these goals.

Engaging Stakeholders and Raising Awareness

Active participation and collaboration among stakeholders are crucial to successfully transitioning to a circular economy. Governments, businesses, academia, and citizens must collaborate to drive change. Public awareness campaigns, educational programs, and capacity-building initiatives can help individuals understand waste management’s importance and role in the circular economy.
In the context of waste management, acknowledging the immense contribution of informal waste management workers is equally crucial. Waste pickers play a crucial role in global recycling – collecting and sorting as much as 60% of the recycled plastic waste. Collecting, sorting, and recycling plastics and other materials involves complex and localised value chains. They are also a particularly marginalised group who are suffering unsafe working conditions.
Addressing their welfare is an ethical imperative and an essential element of advancing the circular economy. In this regard, corporates are stepping up with interventions designed to bring about meaningful change for these workers. This includes initiatives to ensure safer working conditions, facilitate access to government benefits, and create opportunities for them to transition into microentrepreneurs.


The waste management challenge in India requires innovative and sustainable solutions, and the circular economy offers a comprehensive approach. This approach is not solely about waste management but about reimagining India’s entire economic and societal structure. It calls for a shift in mindset, where sustainability, responsibility, and circularity are at the core of decision-making processes. Supporting the circular economy is not just an option; it is necessary to secure future generations’ well-being and our planet’s health. Now is the time for us to take bold steps towards circularity and lead the way in building a world where waste is minimised, resources are maximised, and sustainability prevails.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Rajesh Ayapilla, Director-CSR and Sustainability for Coca-Cola India and Southwest Asia (INSWA), is an industry veteran with over 25 years of professional experience across various roles and organizations. Coming from a technical background, he has managed and headed large-scale projects across multiple areas of sustainability and CSR. He also represents Coca-Cola in various industry bodies like CII, and FICCI and is a working member of various national committees on water and other sustainability areas. He is an office bearer of industry associations like PACE and CSSPL which are engaged in the field of plastic waste management.