NEW DELHI : Concerns over resource depletion have soared in India because of rising factory output, urbanization and population putting pressure on existing resources.
Against this backdrop, the Union environment ministry has drafted a National Resource Efficiency Policy, aiming to double the recycling rate of key materials to 50% in the next five years and enable upcycling of waste.
“The agenda is to develop a circular economy. This can be achieved by two measures—firstly by recycling the materials, and secondly, by increasing the efficiency of use of these resources. These are the policy aspects that we are looking at. Recycling is about industries, which will do it. Resource efficiency is a concept which needs to be followed across all sectors,” Union environment secretary C.K. Mishra said.
At least 96% of India’s mining capacity is located in the 13 mineral-rich states of Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharasthra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Goa and Rajasthan.
Though India can meet its current demand for raw materials for thermal power generation, iron and steel, aluminium, cement and mineral fuels for coal and lignite, it remains import dependent for critical materials such as molybdenum, copper and nickel. This could make it vulnerable to supply shocks, considering rising material consumption, which is up sixfold from 1.18 billion tonnes in 1970 to 7 billion tonnes in 2015.
“Linear production and consumption is leading to a lot of wastage in the entire value chain. Opportunities exist at each and every stage of the product cycle which can be utilized, especially at a time, when the economy is going through a rough patch. The automobile sector is under serious stress and dependent on import of a lot of materials; this is the right time for India to position itself better to future demands,” said Souvik Bhattacharjya, fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in New Delhi.
The draft policy, released on 23 July envisions setting up a National Resource Efficiency Authority which will help develop resource efficiency strategies for different sectors and adopt them into a three-year action plan. To begin with, seven key sectors have been identified—automobile, plastic packaging, building and construction sector, electrical and electronic equipment sector, solar photo-voltaic sector, and steel and aluminium sector.
The National Green Tribunal had imposed ban on diesel vehicles more than ten years old in the National Capital Region in view of the rising pollution levels. Following which, more vehicles will end up as end-of-life vehicles. Under the policy, the government plans to set up centres to collect such vehicles and carry out the deregistration process, and shredding centres which would segregate materials for recycling. As many as 20 official dismantlers would be established across major urban centres by 2020. The plan is to ensure 75% recycling rate for vehicles made before 1990, 85% recycling rate for vehicles made between 1990 and 2000, and 90% recycling rate for vehicles made after 2000.
“Be it the electronics and telecommunication sector, plastic industry, photo-voltaic, battery manufacturing and storage, the future depends on how efficiently the raw materials needed are used, how strategically we procure the resources from outside and ensure efficient use of the available ones to reduce wastage. It’s not just about raw materials but critical resources like water too,” said Bhattacharjya.
Another concern is plastic waste, contributing 8% of the total solid waste. The draft policy aims to achieve a 100% recycling and reuse rate polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic by 2025.
The draft policy also aims to gradually reducing dependence on virgin materials and enhance re-use of construction and demolition waste. There will be emphasis on developing codes and standards for quality of secondary raw materials to ensure confidence in the product, so that by 2025, at least 30% of total public procurement of materials for civil construction can be from recycled materials.
“We are a consumerist society and the sustainability of consumption is not that well-recognized. The document has come at the right time, when sustainable uses of resources really need to be pushed forward. The policy is like a guiding document. Now, we need action on ground by the respective ministries and departments. Every sector should move towards sustainable use of resources,” said Shilpi Kapur Bakshi, fellow at TERI, in Mumbai.