Circular Economy at Regional Levels

Circular Economy at Regional Levels

28th April 2018 0 By Anand Ganesa Iyer

Circular economy is a new concept which combines waste management and improving agricultural outputs with a holistic approach.

Farmer forced to manage the entire economic activity

Farmers in India always faced tremendous pressure for survival even without facing any natural disasters. The basic reason is that they have to

  • Procure seeds, fertilizers weedicides and insecticides
  • Prepare the land and undertake the core operation of cultivation
  • Harvest and store their produces
  • Locate a market for selling their produces
  • Selling the produces and collection of the monetary returns
  • Manage the funds
  • Handle the financial issues related to loans and subsidies
  • Rerouting part of the sales proceeds for the operations in the farm

Climate change and allied issues have compounded their problems.

This scenario has lead to a situation where a farmer has a tendency to choose subsidy from an imaginary offering of loans, subsidies and profit with a caveat that only one can be opted for. The basic reason is that generating profit is something a normal farmer cannot even in the present context.

Now, if we look at the activities again, we can see that a farmer is single handedly undertaking all the activities a manufacturing company will have.

This issue has been partially addressed in the various initiatives by Governments, Farmers’ Cooperatives and NGOs but not visualized on its entirety. The current initiatives did create a market for a farmer to sell his produces at a reasonable price and reduction or elimination of the presence of middle men in the sales operation. Even these initiatives are too limited in the current situation since the number of farmers benefiting from these constitutes a miniscule percentage of the community.

Primary concern from a general perception is far from reality in regard to waste management at the level of local bodies. The wastes at local body level include

  • Biodegradable wastes
  • Non degradable wastes of sale value
  • Non degradable wastes which can undergo value addition
  • Faecal Sludge

The general tendency is to use biodegradable wastes for production of compost of indeterminate quality and dump the faecal sludge (also known as septage) secretly in a barren land or a water body while the non degradable solid wastes are handled better by sales to those who handle, reuse or recycle them. Only limiting factor in the latter case is the economies of scale.

Zero Waste, Zero Cost

As part of initiatives to achieve Zero Waste, Zero Cost status for small town, it has been concluded with field data and evidence that there can be produce specific fertilizer manufactured with compost and/or faecal sludge as a platform. The well known cases in South Asia include Balangoda in Sri Lanka (saleable products include HDPE granules, Value added fertilizer), Ponnampatti near Trichy, India (where saleable products include vermin compost, vermiwash, bio compost, value added fertilizer, fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds, saplings egg shell powder and organic dish wash powder from wastes) and Kegalle, near Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The principal source of Phosphorus used in fertilizers is Rock phosphate which at the current rate of usage will last for not more than 100-120 years. The best source of Phosphorus other than Rock phosphate is actually, human waste. Faecal sludge after treatment combined with bio compost has been proven to be of characteristics superior to a normal bio compost. An integrated approach to waste management at the level of a small town can generate 4-5 types of fertilizers which can be modified to suit the needs of the farmers in that area.

If the whole farming and municipal waste management are considered together with a centralised control and localised distribution system for a large area, for example a state like Kerala/Tamil Nadu, the benefits would be multi fold.

Currently serious attempts are made in Ooty and Ketti, Nilgiri District, Tamil Nadu in bringing in treated drainage water too in to the circular economy along with bio compost.

It may be of interest to note that each local body will have a contextual approach while the degradable solid wastes and faecal sludge will be the common thread.

Development of a decision tree too has been undertaken at global level for supporting the decision making process in achieving circular economy.

Motivation, development of appropriate skills, public participation and serious involvement of technical experts hold the key to success in achieving technically and commercially viable circular economy systems.

[The views, thoughts and ideas expressed in this blog post are that of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in this blog post do not reflect the views of Distinct Voices and Distinct Voices does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]