Circularity for a sustainable development in Bangladesh: A call for policy action

Publish: 9:18 PM, January 1, 2023 | Update: 9:18:PM, January 1, 2023

Arup Barua

Since the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the world has been witnessing a wealth of discussion around the circular economy (CE). The CE is considered as an alternative approach to traditional linear production and consumption model. While traditional production and consumption model is based on the principle of a “take, make and waste” or “take, make and dispose” approach, CE underscores waste prevention. CE underlines environmental and energy efficiency – least reliance on new natural resources – connects sustainability of natural capitals. It is the high time for developing countries like Bangladesh to hearken the circular economy practice.In doing so, this article calls for pertinent policy actions for the community of practice.

Circularity/ circular thinking links with all dominant facets of human existence – economic, social and environmental. A growth in CE not only bolsters GDP growth but also growth of the GDP of the poor people across the globe, enhances the quality of natural capitals (UNEP 2021). In that connection, one of the UNEP studies apprise that an allocation of two percent of global GDP aiming a green economy would provide higher economic outputs (UNEP 2021). While a majority of poor population bank on natural resources for their livelihoods, therefore, any exploitative use of natural capitals will produce a poverty trap. Subsequently, it will direct to exacerbate environmental concerns and poverty (UNEP 2021).

Although circular economy agenda is not bluntly mentioned in the sustainable development goals, (SDGs), but the core ideas of CE and circularity are reflected in a number of SDGs, particularly in SDG 12. In addition, circularity as a cross-cutting concern, is linked to some other SDGs such as 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 15. Schroder (2021) presents, circular economy can be instrumental in attaining several targets of SDGs in both direct and indirect ways. He also adds that CE can be crucial in fighting hunger and ensuring food security, furthermore, a circular supply chain in agriculture can contribute to attaining SDGs 2, 8, 12 and 15 through reducing pollution and waste. Arguably, these circular activities would create more income generating opportunities for the poor people and low-income population.

Bangladesh has already embarked on circular pathways to sustainable development. Although her interventions on CE are still in their infancy, these are mentioned in several macro-economic policy frameworks such as the 8th Five Year Plan. In addition, a variety of policy instruments that might bolster the institutionalization of circular innovations and business models. For instance, Bangladesh Climate Investment Plan (2016-21) highlights several components of circular economy in its four pillars, including sustainable development and management of natural resources, and environmental pollution reduction and control.

Furthermore, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) formulated a National 3R Strategy for Waste Management in 2010. It indicated an objective of eliminating waste disposal and promoting recycling of waste disposal that are closely connected with circular thinking. With the rapid population growth and urban expansion, the demand for raw materials is mounting up. According to the World Bank (2018), the growth rate of urbanization is 3.23% in Bangladesh. Consequently, over the years the amount of different categories of waste including sludge is growing manifold. By 2025, municipal waste production might go up to 47,000 tons/day that is approximately 17.2 million tons/year (8FYP,MoP). While only around 44% – 76% of waste are collected in major cities and urban areas, which implies a higher demand improved waste management.

In addition, in 2017, GoB adopted a set of Institutional and Regulatory Framework for Faecal Sludge Management for Dhaka, City Corporations, Paurashavas and rural areas.Although there prevails a data gap, but the poorest and marginalized urban poor population are involved in dealing with urban waste collection and treatment. Resource recovery from disparate types of wastes such as municipal waste, industrial waste, plastic waste can greatly contribute to the CE.A circularity in urban resource system would enable poor people to get more benefit in food, water and sanitation, energy, building and construction, industry and other sectors.

The promotion of circular consumption thickly rests upon consumers, at both individual and organizational levels. Circular production and consumption have a two-way relationships. At present, the status of circular production and consumption in the country is unmapped. Hence, there prevails a knowledge gap, which we need to address first through deeply understanding the opportunities of expanding circular production and consumption. Simultaneously, there remains a gamut of bottlenecksin institutionalizing new practices and connecting the population, due to a structural shift in production and consumption.

Contemporary global paradigm shift toward CE is going to determine the economy of Bangladesh to some degree. Therefore, in near future the country’s economy will have to adopt and champion some practices of circularity. In the end, this article calls for a set of policy tools to explore how CE can be harnessed in Bangladesh; potential consumption and production related behavioural change among disparate communities in adopting circular practices, contributing to a green growth.

The writer is a policy researcher and an Erasmus Mundus Scholar (Global Public Policy). He can be reached at