Circular economy will put less strain on the planet

LETTERS: Last year, the human population reached more than 7.7 billion and is expected to reach more than 9 billion in 2050. The more population we have, the more we put pressures on global resources to sustain our lives.

We continuously disturb Earth's natural system by producing huge amounts of waste. Meanwhile, our middle-class population keeps on growing. The richer we are, the more we pollute. At the current rate of our consumption, Earth will be unable to cope with the strain.

Our society is now aware of the human impact on the environment. More government and businesses are shifting from linear to circular economy. The current practice of linear economy of "take - make - dispose" leads to excessively high energy consumption and wastage.

The wastes, including plastics, food and e-waste, are slowly killing our environment, taking its toll on our wellbeing. Something needs to be done to save the future of our next generation. We need to be bolder to save our world's resources.

Circular economy by definition is an economic model that promotes regeneration and repurposing of used materials to ensure that it can be diverted back to industrial or biological nutrient cycles.

This sustainable economic model encourages waste elimination and continuous utilisation of natural resources. According to World Economic Forum, circular economy can contribute up to US$4.5 trillion in terms of economic gain in 2030.

Given the advantages, it is a shame that only 8.6 per cent of world practise it, according to the World Circularity Gap 2021 Report.

The circular economic model is still at its infancy in Malaysia, although measures were taken to promote it. For example, in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation last year, Malaysia envisioned to move towards single-use of plastics for a cleaner and healthier environment by 2030.

Malaysia also developed the National Sustainable Consumption and Production Blueprint that will serve as a pathway for sustainable consumption and production from 2016 to 2030.

This blueprint consists of 10 pathways to achieve the goals in 2030 and the shift towards a circular economy system is outlined in pathway number 4. All kinds of waste will be holistically managed with the life cycle approach and not by simply dumping them.

Legislation will be improved to activate consumers and industries as waste generators and holders. It is hoped that by 2030, landfilling will be ultimately phased out in Malaysia.

In Malaysia's 2019 Budget, a financing scheme of RM2 billion was announced to support the government's effort in accomplishing 17 of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Led by Malaysia Development Bank Bhd, this initiative is to finance eligible clients whose operations contribute positively to any one of the 17 SDGs. At the city level, Petaling Jaya City Council had won the city-level circular economy initiatives by implementing the food waste circularities model.

Regenerative by design, the circular economic model could ease the burden imposed on the environment by maintaining products and materials.

It makes a significant contribution to meet global climate goals by eliminating waste and emissions, keeping goods and resources in use, and regenerating rather than destroying natural environments.


Ecotechnology Programme
Faculty of Applied Sciences
Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam


Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Applied Sciences
Universiti Teknologi MARA

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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