A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 17

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 17

Seventeenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.


The global waste crisis is not getting smaller, the world currently “generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33 per cent of that—extremely conservatively—not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Worldwide, waste generated per person per day averages 0.74 kilograms but ranges widely, from 0.11 to 4.54 kilograms” (source). However, with growing recognition of this situation and awareness of where the majority of waste comes from, “though they only account for 16 per cent of the world’s population, high-income countries generate about 34 per cent, or 683 million tonnes, of the world’s waste” (source). Along with how waste is managed within lower-income countries such as India, “every day, India generates plastic waste that weighs as much as 150 large blue whales—the biggest animal known to exist. The problem though is not the volume of plastic waste it generates but the disposal of it” (source) positive steps and partnerships are being made, albeit in incremental measures.


Notably, “sustainable and responsible investments represent high- potential sources of capital for the SDGs… (while) the bond market for sustainable business is growing. In 2018 global green bonds reached US$155.5 billion, up 78 per cent from the previous year” (source). This factor is vitally important. Even though worldwide the amount of waste is growing a new focus on sustainability and creating products that fit within a circular, instead of a linear, economy is growing, which can be seen clearly with large businesses.

Examples of this industry movement are seen by large organisations such as Nestlé, who aim to use 100 per cent recyclable or reusable material by 2025. They want to reduce the use of complex plastic combinations that are inherently difficult to recycle (source). Similarly, Coca Cola has stated that they will recycle a used bottle or can for every one sold by 2030 and has also pledged to increase the amount of recycled material in their bottles along with assessing and experimenting on different collection techniques, including backing government and industry to reduce waste (source). Outside of the food and beverage industry Dell is aiming to use 100 per cent waste-free material with their packaging by 2020 (source). On a parallel note, within India, the e-commerce organisation Amazon is moving toward using “only such plastic material that is more than 50 microns (with at least 20% recycled content), to be procured from those vendors who are registered with CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board)/SPCB (State Pollution Control Board) only” (source).


These steps and openness to new ideas and collaborations hold a key to moving the world to not only addressing large scale issues with the amount of waste produced but also in all other areas discussed throughout this series on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The benefits of large companies making the steps noted above are that many people around the world can see their movements, that are often driven by consumer demand, and replicate this on a small, or individual, scale. Future partnerships and collaborations can grow from small and large stakeholders valuing the world that we live in and maintaining a vision of long term sustainability because without that the goals will not be achieved and dishearteningly humanity's long term existence is at threat. 


More positively though, it has been reported that 25 investors who manage in excess of $1 trillion in assets are aiming to reduce their use of plastic packaging (source). They are being transparent with their goals and ambitions and are getting on board a movement that has been created by everyday people, small and large organisations as well as global institutions such as the United Nations. Each step, each partnership, is moving humanity in a positive direction where we are righting the ship, cleaning the mess that has been made and creating new methods of living that value the finite amount of resources that we have on this planet. Many of these solutions are found in the reduction of use, awareness and education, collaborations and partnerships, and designing a system that functions as part of a circular economy where every stakeholder and resource is valued.