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CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN PAKISTAN – THE UNTAPPED POTENTIAL OF WASTE TO RESOURCE

CIRCULAR ECONOMY

ISLAMABAD: The Institute of Urbanism (IoU) in collaboration with Heinrich Boll Stiftung (hbs) presented a panel titled ‘Circular Economy in Pakistan – The Untapped Potential of Waste to Resource’ at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s 26th annual Sustainable Development Conference (SDC). The panel delved into the challenges and opportunities surrounding waste management in Pakistan, emphasizing the need to transition from a linear model of economy to a circular one. The esteemed speakers at the event shared valuable insights and perspectives on the critical issue of waste management in the country.

The panel brought together a diverse array of experts. Ms. Mehrunisa Malik, COO of Saaf Suthra Sheher, discussed business challenges and opportunities, while Ms. Farah Rashid, Sustainability Lead at Engro Foundation, emphasized resource efficiency and support for SMEs. Dr. Bishnu Raj Upreti, Research Director at NCCR, provided insights into successful circular economy cases in South Asia, and Ms. Li Stephanie Choo from ESCAP explored global trends.

Dr. Ali Malik, Deputy Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Youth Program, closed the session, stressing the vital role of youth. Ayesha Majid, Senior Program Coordinator at the Institute of Urbanism, presented research findings on waste as a resource, offering a comprehensive view of the current landscape in Islamabad and Lahore.

Notably, 35% of Islamabad residents and only 10.3% in Lahore engage in waste segregation for economic reasons, involving the sale of recyclables to local scrapyards. Disturbingly, 24% of respondents in Islamabad and 12.3% in Lahore reported resorting to burning waste in their localities. The research report titled “Waste as Resource: Case Study of Lahore and Islamabad” brings to light the pressing issue of waste management in Pakistan, unveiling an annual production of approximately 50 million metric tons and emphasizing the imperative to embrace sustainable practices.

The findings underscore a clear call for municipal intervention, with residents expressing strong support for waste segregation at the household level if facilitated by the municipality through a multiple bin system. The research was done by Institute of Urbanism and findings were presented by Ms. Ayesha Majid. It revealed significant disparities in waste segregation practices.

An average person generates 0.4 – 1.4kg of waste per day, with 60% of household waste and 90% of office waste by volume being recyclable. over 1000 tons of waste are generated daily in Islamabad, a substantial portion of which is improperly disposed of through burning or open dumping in streams, green areas, and parks. There is urgent need for businesses to adopt environmentally responsible practices and innovate in waste management for a more sustainable future. It was shared by Ms. Mehrunisa Malik while talking about the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses at both community and policy levels in Pakistan for solid waste management.

Effective management of Municipal Solid Waste (MSWM) in urban areas of South Asia poses a significant challenge according to findings from the regional research project titled “Challenges of municipal solid waste management: Learning from post-crisis governance initiatives in South Asia” (2018-22). The research, implemented across India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, reveals common conflicts in MSWM observed at various levels and for multiple reasons. Notably, the findings underscore the emergence of circular economy practices in South Asia, with numerous waste-based enterprises successfully operating within this framework. Dr. Bishnu Raj Upreti provided insights into the landscape of circular economy in South Asia, particularly in terms of reusing waste.

In addressing Pakistan’s waste management challenges, existing private sector entities play a pivotal role in ensuring resource efficiency. Their leadership is crucial not only for sustainable waste practices but also in fostering the active participation of youth and SMEs, catalyzing a shift towards a circular economy and sustainable waste-to-resource initiatives. Engro has initiated a comprehensive Circular Plastics program featuring a three-pronged approach.

The Circular Plastic pilot unit aims to reduce plastic waste at scale by incubating and investing in financially sustainable, decentralized municipal solid waste pilots. The Circular Plastics Institute will collaborate with stakeholders to develop an evidence-based pathway toward a zero-plastic waste future. Additionally, the Circular Plastics Seed Investment Fund will play a crucial role in supporting and investing in circular plastics business models. Ms. Farah Rashid’s insights underscored the importance of private sector leadership and collaborative efforts in steering Pakistan towards a circular economy for plastics.

Embracing a circular economy can have a profound impact not only on environmental sustainability but also on the generation of employment opportunities. To enrich the discourse further, it is essential to incorporate a gender perspective, acknowledging the vital role women play in waste management. Recognizing and empowering women in this sector can contribute to a more inclusive and effective approach to addressing Pakistan’s waste management challenges. Ms. Stephanie Choo’s holistic view encourages a consideration of diverse perspectives in crafting sustainable solutions for a circular economy.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Ali Malik underscored the pivotal role of youth in steering sustainable economic models and urged their active engagement in waste management initiatives to propel the transition towards a circular economy. Emphasizing the significance of initiatives like the Green Youth Movement, he highlighted the government’s role in fostering a green mindset among the youth by offering entrepreneurial opportunities in environmentally conscious sectors. Dr. Malik’s remarks conveyed a call to action, encouraging the younger generation to play a central role in shaping a more sustainable and circular future while showcasing the instrumental role of government support in facilitating green initiatives.

The panel explored key questions, including policy and practice issues hindering the use of waste as a resource, economic growth challenges, and learning from neighboring countries. The collaborative effort aims to accelerate the transformation of solid waste management in Pakistan, making it climate-compatible and environmentally inclusive, with a particular focus on engaging the youth in sustainable economic models.

Written By

I Am A Dynamic Professional, Specializing In Peace And Conflict Studies, Conflict Management And Resolution, And International Relations. My Expertise Is Particularly Focused On South Asian Conflicts And The Intricacies Of The Indian Ocean And Asia Pacific Politics. With My Skills As A Content Writer, I Serve As A Bridge Between Academia And The Public, Translating Complex Global Issues Into Accessible Narratives. My Passion For Fostering Understanding And Cooperation On The National And International Stage Drives Me To Make Meaningful Contributions To Peace And Global Discourse.

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