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More robust implementation of circular economic model needed

More robust implementation of circular economic model needed

13 Jul 2023

THE traditional linear economic production models in Malaysia have proven to be unsustainable and insecure in the face of economic development and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The take-make-dispose approach of linear economy posed an imbalance of economic growth with sustainability which contributed to carbon footprint, resource depletion, waste generation, and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Recognising the need for change, Malaysia has committed to enhancing the low-carbon economy and reducing GHG emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 45 per cent by 2030, making circular economic models a top priority to accelerate some pressing crosscutting sustainable development challenges and reverse the adverse impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, unsustainable waste, and pollution while fostering economic growth.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) defined circular economy as promoting the reuse of products and the efficient use of waste, rather than discarding them and extracting new resources. This model has great potential for rapidly developing Asian economies like Malaysia, as it enhances resource efficiency, competitiveness, and innovation.

Malaysia has taken steps to embrace the circular economy through various policies, such as the National Sustainable Consumption and Production Blueprint 2016, National Solid Waste Management Policy 2016, Malaysia Plastics Sustainability Roadmap 2021-2030, and National Cleanliness Policy 2020-2030.

These policies reflect the country’s commitment to transitioning towards a circular economy where resources are used efficiently and waste is minimised.

Challenges hindering the circular economic transitions in Malaysia include lack of comprehensive conceptual knowledge on the model, limited innovation, lack of financial investment on R&D, and integrated data, particularly on waste management and sustainable consumption and production.

I participated in the Asean Youth Economic Forum 2023 in Jakarta. It was the first and largest youth-led economic forum, dedicated to discussing cooperation between Asean and Japan for adopting sustainable and circular economic models in the region.

The final policy recommendations have been shared with key Asean Government Officials, who will implement them in their national-level policies as part of the Asean Framework on the Circular Economy.

Recognising this, youth play a vital role as change agents and fostering collaboration in Asean, including Malaysia, to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy. Empowering youth by providing them a platform can assist in creating an enabling environment and actively participate in promoting inclusive policies that are crucial for building a resilient and circular future for generations to come.

For instance, integrating circular economy principles into education, capacity building and training can support their engagement and empower them to lead transformational efforts not only to disseminate theoretical knowledge.

The UN initiative such as the Youth 2030 Agenda should be revisited to involve and enhance youth development in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Their energy, innovation, and commitment are key to driving the transition to a circular economy.

Asean also outlines the region’s climate goals and strategies, which include a focus on promoting low-carbon development and enhancing climate resilience, as well as promoting youth engagement in climate action.

To build a more innovative strategy for the agriculture sector, advocating for the widespread adoption of biochar technology can promote circularity by utilising agricultural waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

More investment should be enhanced to support youth-centred Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and establish dedicated agencies that focus on facilitating technology transfer. Increasing climate financing and exploring untapped financial opportunities are essential for supporting circular economy businesses.

However, this cannot be achieved without a proper and comprehensive concept of a circular economy since the circularity paradigm has not gained much traction in Malaysia.

Developing common operational guidelines on circular economy with the use of big data analytics must be utilised to help any businesses comply with more sustainable practices.

By having a clear concept of how we would like to drive our country to be more circular, it will ensure consistency, standardisation, and maximise asset utilisation. Let us seize this opportunity and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

The writer is a Research Analyst at Institut Masa Depan Malaysia (MASA)

Source: NST