The explosive growth in GDP across countries might make it seem like all is hunky dory with the world. But this has also brought along a heap of other issues that we have all turned a blind eye to. Right from inequality, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, to devastating consequences of climate change, and pandemics, we are seeing the effects of a resource-intensive model of development. This take-and-waste system is failing the people and the planet they inhabit.
This is where the concept of the circular economy can actually help us. In contrast with the prevalent system, a circular economy focuses on reducing waste through reuse, repurposing, and recycling. Not just that, the circular economy model also ensures resource efficiency. But how exactly?
In a circular economy, the process of production and consumption creates the least possible amount of waste. Aimining at sustainable development, a circular economy decreases overall consumption of resources by using them more efficiently. Plus, materials created are not disposed of; they are used again and again to continue to be of value.
When it comes to the future of job creation, a circular economy can go a long way in increasing the number of jobs available in the world. According to World Bank estimates, climate change results in GDP losses of 7.5 per cent in East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia. Not just that, it also limits the right to work and “widens inequalities, particularly for women and vulnerable workers like migrants, people in poverty, and Indigenous and tribal peoples”. For instance, we all know how severe air pollution reduces productivity by decreasing working hours and deteriorating the health of workers. Moreover, if children in a family are affected by pollution, it usually falls upon the women to take care of them, thus exacerbating the gender divide at workplaces.
But in a circular economy, these issues can be resolved equitably and sustainably. If one looks at jobs in waste management and recycling, they are often assigned to the poorest of people, and entail terrible working conditions as well. But when you introduce circularity in these processes, they bring about increased material efficiency by incorporating technology to optimize use of resources, rethink existing models, and enable everyone to create value through collaborations. A circular economy can generate jobs for a range of skill types as well, allowing a larger proportion of people with low and intermediate skills to be gainfully employed. The jobs become more dignified, more green, and much less harmful to the health of the people and the environment. A circular economy can help us redesign entire labour markets, thus offering us all the chance to narrow the gender divide to include women, youth, and other marginalised communities.
An extensive development of the circular economy is the need of the hour, and if executed as we have envisaged it, it has the potential to significantly reduce unemployment and aid the prosperity of everyone involved.