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3R of Sustainability and Circular Economy

Contributed by: Mr. Yeshey Penjor

Green Public Procurement in Bhutan (GPP Bhutan) project participated in the 12thAsia Pacific Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production held at Apsara Angkor Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia. During the course of the presentation on Waste Management & Circular Economy, I particularly felt that the circular economy proponents have a misconception on 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) in waste management. On clarifying the difference between circular economy and 3Rs in waste management vis-à-vis Circular Economy, the speaker, Mr. Mikael Boldt, in his presentation titled “The role of waste management in promoting SCP and circular economy in Asia”, explained that 3Rs is applicable only when the product turns obsolete in usage.

Simply put, circular economy he explained focuses on waste generation post production stage of goods. If this is anything to go by, reduction of waste at source is narrowly perceived as reducing amount of waste generated at source which apparently happens only after goods are produced. This is a very narrow interpretation of the 3Rs waste management principle.

‘Reduction’ in 3Rs has much broader implications and encompasses reduction of wastes generation in the different stages of consumption and production. Through effective policies and strategic planning amount of waste generated can be minimized. Packaging materials can be designed in such a manner that the amount of waste from packaging materials can be reduced. Eco- designed products will ensure that components of a product can be utilized as an input to produce a new or a refurbished product, thereby, bypassing the need to use virgin resources in every production cycle. It challenges the ‘take-make-dispose’ mentality of a linear economy. When viewed this way circular economy and 3Rs concept are interchangeable in the context of waste management.