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The circular
building

Arup’s circular building project, launched in September 2016, used technology to maximise utilisation of components and materials. Arup designed the building for disassembly, using non-toxic and pre-fabricated components that can easily be taken apart. 

Arup applied BIM to enable the building to function as a material bank. The 3D BIM model for the building provided transparency into building material composition, and digital technology tagged all items, from window frames to individual fittings, each with a unique QR code containing information needed for reuse. 

This improved access to information helped multiple stakeholders collaborate more efficiently on building design, construction, and operation and enabled Arup to contract with suppliers to take back materials after their use. 

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India's first net zero
energy building

The Indira Paryavaran Bhavan office building houses the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on seven floors in New Delhi. The building, reportedly the first net zero building in India, has achieved net zero energy consumption through a two-pronged approach – minimising energy demand and meeting the demand with renewable energy. 

Building design features minimise energy and water consumption for total energy savings of 40% and water savings of 55%. The building has the largest rooftop solar system among multi-story buildings in India, with an installed capacity of 930 kW peak solar power supplying the total energy needed by the building. 

The configuration and orientation of the building optimise ventilation by separating blocks with connecting corridors built around a large central courtyard. Chilled beam air conditioning reduces energy consumption by 40%, compared with a conventional system, by cooling the air via water in pipes throughout the ceiling. Energy-efficient lighting further reduces energy consumption, and even the passenger elevators generate energy during use. 

Water-efficient fittings, rainwater capture, and the reuse of treated water for plant irrigation and cooling systems reduce water demand. Sewage is treated on site and the resulting clean water irrigates vegetation around the building, meaning that no water escapes from the site. 

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Biopolus: the future of
urban water systems?

Redesigning the urban metabolism encourages cities to invest in effective water management solutions that close water, food, nutrient, and energy loops while delivering social benefits. Biopolus offers an integrated network of water treatment facilities (metabolic hubs) in aesthetically appealing multi-functional buildings that can provide sanitation solutions for informal settlements, luxury residential communities, and industrial parks alike. 

Each hub can serve 5,000-50,000+ people. The hubs use innovative Metabolic Network Reactor (MNR) technology in a controlled, bio-engineered process to tailor water output for specific uses, including irrigation, industrial processes, and potable water. 

The hubs occupy as much as 60% less land, save up to 35% on operating cost compared with traditional solutions, and can be installed with minimal disruption to local residents. The hubs can be designed in modules to provide functions of the community’s choosing, such as water reuse, energy or materials recovery, bathroom blocks, laundry facilities, and even food production. 

Coupled with the Biopolus Aero.Green aeroponic food growth module that uses a unique method of production in a lightweight and mobile system, the hubs can support the provision of healthy, nutritious food where water is scarce, space limited, and the population large. The system uses an atomised nutrient solution to control nutrient content and minimise water use, producing plants with aerated root systems that are less susceptible to infection by pests and disease.

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The rice-duck farm

Takao Furuno, a Japanese farmer, has developed a duck/rice/fish farming system that avoids using lots of fertilisers and pesticides in growing rice and produces a wide range of additional food products. This system has boosted the farm’s rice yields 20-50% beyond industrial rice systems’ yields, and gross income from the six-acre farm sometimes exceeds the income of an American 600-acre rice farm.

The complex system required careful planning. After the rice seeding, ducklings go into the paddies to feed on insects that attack young rice plants. Then fish and paddy weed are introduced. The paddy weed fixes nitrogen and provides food for the fish and the ducks. The nitrogen and the droppings from the fish and ducks provide all the nutrients that the rice needs. The ducks oxygenate the water and encourage the roots of the rice plants to grow, while digging up weeds with their feet.

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e-Choupal internet
access

Launched by the Indian conglomerate ITC, e-Choupal seeks to increase the economic and competitive capacity of farmers and agricultural communities by providing internet access to rural farmers.

The e-Choupal platform gives farmers access to market information and best practices via computers in the homes of farmers trained to use ITC’s agricultural website. The system provides demand information for available markets, reducing the mismatch of supply and demand that often forces farmers to discard parts of their produce. Pricing information positions farmers to exploit trends and time their sales to get the best price. 

The e-Choupal platform builds farmers’ understanding of the market, reducing the need for the intermediaries who traditionally control the trading process. e-Choupal also enables farmers to share advice on managing risks like soil contamination or salinity. 

Farmers have definitely benefitted from e-Choupal. Data on acreage and yield, 2000 — 2012, shows that profits of farmers accessing the e-Choupal platform almost tripled. Soya farmers learned how to apply scientific farming practices to reduce seed use from 40-45 kg per acre to 30-35. In 2015 four million farmers used the service via 6,500 e-Choupal access points spread over 40,000 villages in 11 states.

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Institute of natural
organic agriculture
(INORA)

An NGO based in Pune, INORA works in research, education, and technology transfer for regenerative farming and nutrient recovery, specifically composting and anaerobic digestion. INORA’s decentralised technological solutions enable the transformation of food waste into nutrients that the agricultural system can use in both rural and urban settings. 

INORA serves single households, housing complexes, industrial kitchens, farms, and municipalities. The company processes material for over 300 housing societies, 35 schools, and 14 industrial projects and works with some 100,000 citizens and 300 organic farmers.

INORA’s anaerobic digestion technology can be small enough for use in a single building, with units built to digest about 3 kg of food waste a day that produce 90 minutes’ worth of gas for cooking, as well as 60 litres of liquid organic fertiliser. This fertiliser contains enough nutrients for an urban farming project, such as a small roof-top garden with about 250 plants. INORA’s larger anaerobic digestion plants can process approximately 5 tonnes of food waste a day and produce biogas equivalent to 300 kWh of energy, as well as some 10 tonnes of biogas slurry. 

INORA has also implemented industrial composting solutions that can process 2 tonnes of food waste a day and produce 400 kg of compost. 

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Mahindra e2O and
zoomcar

Mahindra launched the e2o, an EV designed for urban use in 2013. The car is available for purchase or use through car-sharing pools.

The EV has a charging cord that plugs into a regular 15 amp socket and needs 90 minutes to power a cruising range of 100-130 kilometres. The car is complemented by an app for monitoring performance metrics, charging status, remaining range, and other features.

Innovative solutions enable more efficient utilisation of the car and its components. Mahindra’s collaboration with the car pool Zoomcar allows users to pay per hour, day, or week, rather than having to own the car.

In Bhutan, customers can also opt for the ‘Goodbye Fuel Hello Electric’ programme. When they buy the EV, Mahindra retains ownership of the car battery, guaranteeing its performance for a monthly usage fee.

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Riversimple vehicles as
a service

UK-based car manufacturer Riversimple provides vehicles as a service. Instead of buying cars, customers pay a monthly fee that covers use, maintenance, insurance, and fuel, while Riversimple retains ownership. Riversimple thus takes a whole system approach to its value chain and strives to maximise use of materials and components. 

Riversimple leases most car components from suppliers, assembles the car, and leases it to customers. The business model makes efficiency profitable and gives both Riversimple and its suppliers an economic incentive to design the car and components to last. The longer the car and its components last, the longer Riversimple and the suppliers generate revenue from them.

Riversimple cars operate efficiently. Rasa, Riversimple’s first and only model, uses a hydrogen-powered fuel cell that does not emit any GHG, only water. The car is made of strong, light composite materials that reduce its kerb weight to 580 kg, allowing a range of around 500 kilometres. The Rasa is set to be commercially available by 2019, and Riversimple is planning to make the technology open source to enable fast adoption in different markets. 

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Helsinki's plan for its
future mobility

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is planning to transform its transport system by implementing a point-to-point, mobility-on-demand network by 2025. The network will integrate all transport options, including buses, taxis, car pools, and shared bikes, on a single payment platform.

The user will access the platform via a smartphone app. The app will function as a journey planner, with the user entering origin and destination and receiving available travel routes. The digital system will enable purchasing mobility in real time with a single click or touch.

The transport system will be flexible and effective. The user will buy kilometre-based packages based on time of day, weather, and other variables. Bus routes will be dynamic, changing based on demand. Users will input preferences in the app if they have special needs. Ultimately, the transport system is expected to be convenient enough to compete with private car ownership.

Circular economy in India

Rethinking growth for long-term prosperity

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See the story

India is experiencing unprecedented economic dynamism

7.4%

economic growth per year in the last decade

1.7bn

people in 2050. India is projected to be the world's most populous country in 2022

Entrepreneurial and dynamic working population

Shaping the future

Today, India stands at the threshold of profound choices, and can look beyond the linear 'take, make and dispose' model. With its young population and emerging manufacturing sector, the country can make systemic choices that would put it on a trajectory towards positive, regenerative, and value creating development.

Implementing the circular economy, one that is restorative and regenerative by design, could make more effective use of materials and energy in a digitally enabled model of development.

Learn more about the circular economy

The benefits of a circular economy in India

By embarking on a circular economy transformation, India could create economic, environmental and social value for its businesses and population. The benefits could include:

₹40
lakh crore
(US$ 624 billion)

Annual value created in 2050, amounting to 30% of India’s current GDP

44%

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 compared to the current development path

Profit opportunities and material cost savings for businesses

Lower use of virgin materials, water and artificial fertilisers

Reduced traffic congestion and air pollution

Advantage taken of the impending digital revolution

Reinforcement of India’s position as a hub for innovation and technology

Increased household disposable income through lower costs for products and services

India's competitive advantage

High-growth markets like India could move directly to a more effective system and avoid getting locked into linear models and infrastructure, as is the case in mature markets. The findings are relevant not only to India, but also to other emerging economies.

Where could the circular economy have most impact?

3 focus areas
Cities & construction, food & agriculture, mobility & vehicle manufacturing...

...have been identified as accounting for more than two-thirds of average household spend, and have the highest expected growth rate. They constitute the biggest source of employment, but also the majority of resource consumption and negative externalities. 

Cities and construction

60%

of India’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 – up from about 30% today

70%

of buildings that will exist in India in 2030 are yet to be constructed

Vision

Liveable cities with buildings and infrastructure appropriate for India’s expanding population.

Choices made today will determine India’s mid- to long-term development, and India could help meet the needs of its growing population while avoiding getting locked into resource-ineffective buildings and infrastructure.

Applying circular economy principles to developing this vast amount of infrastructure and building stock could create annual benefits of ₹4.9 lakh crore (US$ 76 billion) in 2050, compared with the current development path, together with environmental and social benefits.

  • Urban planning to optimise land utilisation and transport flows
  • Infrastructure for effective nutrient and material cycles
  • Sharing and multi-use of spaces
  • Buildings designed for energy and water efficiency
  • Modular construction 
  • Selection and looping of construction materials

Case studies

Food and agriculture

50%

of the working age population is employed in agriculture

61%

of land is used for farming

Vision

A regenerative, restorative agricultural system that combines modern technology with traditional regenerative practices to meet India’s growing food demand.

Growing food demand and environmental challenges associated with climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss are increasing pressure on the system. 

Applying circular economy principles to the development of the Indian food system could create annual benefits of ₹3.9 lakh crore (US$ 61 billion) in 2050; reduce GHG emissions, water usage, and environmental degradation; and play a vital role in securing the long-term food supply.

  • Regenerative agricultural production
  • More resource-efficient agricultural practices enabled by technology 
  • Digitally enabled asset- and knowledge-sharing solutions
  • Digitised food supply chains
  • Peri-urban and urban farming
  • Returning nutrients to the agricultural system

Case studies

Mobility and vehicle manufacturing

2%

of the population currently owns a car

x3

demand for personal mobility will triple by 2030

Vision

Designing a convenient, multimodal transport system enabled by digital technology for less resource-intensive but very effective mobility.

Mobility is vital to economic growth as it gives people access to employment, goods, and services and affects business productivity. As India is building new infrastructure to meet its growing mobility needs, today’s choices will determine the mid- to long-term development of the mobility system. 

A circular economy development path for mobility and vehicle manufacturing could create annual benefits of ₹31 lakh crore (US$ 482 billion) in 2050, compared with the current development scenario. Applying circular economy principles could also create a highly innovative and effective mobility system, with reduced negative externalities.

  • Innovative transportation infrastructure
  • Vehicles as a service
  • Technological innovation for transport planning and vehicles
  • Electric vehicles
  • Long vehicle lives through repair and maintenance
  • Looping of components and materials

Case studies

Start the transition

Capturing the benefits of a circular economy requires action by various stakeholders. Recommendations for businesses, policymakers, and other organisations can be found in the full report that you can download below.

Find out more

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