Researchers from India and abroad, senior policymakers, practitioners, and representatives from municipal corporations and civil society groups got together in New Delhi on 18-19 March to discuss alternative approaches and solutions that India can adapt towards managing its waste better. Attended by more than 100 experts, the conference dwelled deep into finding the relationship between a circular economy, waste reduction, and jobs, and showcasing businesses that have successfully adopted newer models to become more circular and sustainable. The different sessions highlighted the innovations that are reducing waste and enhancing livelihoods and examined the role that data and evidence can play in designing policies for India’s waste sector.

At the conference, talking about the need to create value out of waste – Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson, National Green Tribunal said, “Better monitoring, increased awareness and use of technology can help us in scientifically managing this problem. Marketing strategies have to be brought in to create livelihood options.”

Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, while delivering the keynote address added, “We need to reduce and segregate waste at the household level and the political leadership of municipalities has to be held accountable for this. A huge mass movement has to happen to create this new India.”

The conference organized by Chintan in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC India) was attended by A.K. Jain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Henriette Faergemann, Environment, Climate and Energy Counsellor of the European Union Delegation to India among other sector experts from around the world.

Bharati Chaturvedi, Founder, and Director, Chintan said, “The circular economy is not just India’s future but it was our way of life till recently. India and the world must resurrect the skills and culture of circularity but also insert it into the manufacturing, urban planning, and product and service design in the 21st century.”

While talking about the importance of data and scientific evidence in policymaking, Dr. Ken Lee, Executive Director EPIC India added, “India today stands at a point where there is an increased need of approaches that bridge the gap between informal and formal sectors to increase safer recycling and disposal. We are applying the latest research methods in applied microeconomics and working closely with Chintan to find out ways to channelize e-waste from the informal sector to cleaner, authorized channels of recycling.”

The conference that was also attended by practitioners talked in great detail about how Indian policies have primarily focused on the collection and recycling of waste, and increasing the responsibilities placed on corporations. However, waste reduction has the potential to become a more active part of the state approach by supporting a more circular approach to the economy and there may be an opening to create new demand for business services, such as reverse logistics.