Beyond recycling, the role of circular economy in emerging and developing countries

Circular Economy needs to be understood in a matrix form. It is applied to three major human needs – mobility, food, and shelter. It is deployed by optimizing processes and products, recycling materials and components, developing online and connected products, increased automation and restoring health of ecosystems by shifting to renewable energy.


Relying on recycling, as the only way to put circular economy, is not efficient on the long-term.


Circular economy is conversely a whole vision to adopt and several processes to implement. It is the meeting point between different ecosystems: energy, digital, agriculture, industry and services. For this reason, relying on recycling will only cover one part of each ecosystem without making the connection between them. For example, recycling industrial goods without using renewable energy or without verifying the sustainability of those goods ‘origin is limiting the vision of an efficient and complete transition towards circular economy.


Even if the transition to circular economy engenders considerable transition costs, it could be decreased through a better management of the opportunity behind moving to an industrial renewal. Circular Economy also helps energy-poor countries hedging the variation of international markets.


New governance schemes, and the development of smart cities are making the timing opportune for a transition to circular economy. This means that a top down approach is crucial to make the transition easier through structural reforms and political incentives. However, it is necessary to take into consideration the role of the informal sector in developing countries [1] that contributes to the development of waste management solutions and becomes more formalized through the creation of uni-personal start-ups, especially in Africa. In Ghana, for example, a startup named COLIBA[2] is piloting its waste management web and mobile application and launched a pilot program in five schools in Ghana. It aims to help users monetise their waste through satisfying the demand of recycling companies.

Moreover, the more companies reuse their resources the more the cost of raw materials decreases. The transition cost is hence a “one shot” cost -due to the high price of  implementing an adapted infrastructure – that engenders benefits on the long-term basis.


References :
[1]The waste sector and informal entrepreneurship in developing world cities
[2]Disrupt – COLIBA piloting waste management app in Ghana