Learn and Co-create

Dr. Purva Tavri (Researcher and Chartered Waste Manager) considers the evolution of the circular economy through reusing, reclaiming and recycling, the lessons learnt along the way and the solutions they pose.

It has been a decade since I have been working, learning, researching, advocating, and practising reuse, reclaim and high-value recycling. My goal and purpose to learn and contribute towards long-term sustainability by adopting circular practices triggered when I facilitated best practice reuse and recycling options for the built environment sector. This is one of the sectors that in the UK generates the largest waste stream in quantitative terms.

Baudrillard[1] in 1998 said the cycle of consumption and destruction is especially predominant among the affluent inhabitants of developed countries. However, currently, consumerism is by no means confined to the developed nations; it is becoming ever more globalised. In developing nations such as India and China, resource usage or consumption among the broad middle class is rapidly approaching the level seen in developed nations (Wijkman and Rockstrom, 2011)[2].

It was during the early 18th century when in the UK reuse, repair, reclaim was not a choice but a normal practice for most (Stresser, 1999)[3]; similar to most of the developing nations today due to several socio-economic issues. Nonetheless, among developed nations including the UK, the government and stakeholders are nudged, enforced, and encouraged to bring stringent targets to deal with ever-increasing environmental and sustainability issues. For instance, COP26[4] goals aim to adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise finance and work together to deliver the challenges of the climate crisis. From a waste and resource management perspective, this means moving back to preventing waste by adopting reuse, repair, reclaim and similar practices.

Learning from international experiences and co-creating ways for local, regional, and national levels is one of the ways to adopt circularity that comes to my mind when I compare my lived experience in India with my professional experience in the UK. On the one hand, in the UK, high consumptions level, climate emergency, and other global climate factors is directing the industry to move up the waste hierarchy from recycling and recovery to prevention and reuse. On the other hand, in India, instead of cherishing the established resourceful market (primarily informal) and co-creating KPIs around the existing infrastructure to enhance its capacity, at the moment, the major focus and resources are directed towards the high-cost recovery practices by simply replicating (COPYING) from the developed nations. One such example is the establishment of incinerations throughout the country with limited research, knowledge, analysis on the types of waste generated[5].

Investment of resources primarily on physical infrastructure with a lack of resource contribution towards measuring and quantifying the power of well-established informal ways of reuse, reclaim and recycle represents a lack of holistic thinking.

Going back to the point I mentioned at the start, ‘the built environment sector is the largest waste stream in the quantitative terms’. Quantitative measure (in tons/kgs) is one of the common ways of capturing the waste and resource evidence. Currently, both developed and developing nations lack quantitative data on materials that are reused and reclaimed. The developing nations have an opportunity to establish precedence in this area, given reuse and reclaim is a common practice.

Additionally, nations around the world have an opportunity to collaborate and learn to co-create systems for capturing reuse and reclaim data tailored to their needs at local, regional, and national levels. One of the ways is to unleash the link and create synergy among waste and resource management, transport emissions, cost, time, space, and other operational measures by using digital technology. This could enable stakeholders to view the issues of waste and resource management from a wider perspective. Thus, take the industry away from the current silo working model.

The aim and goal should be not reinventing the wheel rather collaborate and work in partnerships to fill the gaps and establish strong links that could naturally enhance sustainability and circularity, thus making resource efficiency a norm.


[1] Baudrillard, J. (1998) The consumer society myths and structures. London: Sage publications.

[2] Wijkman, A., and Rockstrom, J. (2011) Bankrupting nature: Denying our planetary boundaries. London: Earth Scan from Routledge.

[3] Strasser, S. (1999) Waste and want: a social history of trash. Henry Holt and Company, New York: Macmillan.

[4] HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

[5] Can incinerators help manage India’s growing waste management problem? – The Economic Times (indiatimes.com)

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