Its Right to Repair

When we think of circularity of material flows, we need to understand “outer” and “inner circle” approaches.

The “outer circle” approach creats a closed loop of materials through recycling. In the case of electronic goods, this means recovering of precious metals lodged in our gadgets, something only feasible with a sophisticated technology, requiring a scale and where large companies profit.

The “inner circle” approach is essentially following route of repair, refurbishing and remanufacturing. It is the inner circle approach where we transform our living from the single-use and throw away culture. When we follow inner circle approach, it helps us to save money, conserve our resources, generate employment and come up with innovations. We extend product’s life cycle through reuse. The inner circle is people centric, it is for citizens and supports small companies.

Unfortunately, the inner circle approach to material circulation does not find much space in both public and scientific discussions. We speak more about recycling or the outer circle approach to achieve circularity. We need both – but former should get a preference.

Repair is restoration of a broken, damaged, or failed device, equipment, part, or property to an acceptable operating or usable condition. Repair can involve replacement. Refurbishing is refinishing and sanitization (beyond repair) to serve the original function with better aesthetics. Repaired and refurbished products, although in good condition, may not be comparable with new or remanufactured products. In remanufacturing, the product is resold with performance and specifications comparable to new products.

How do we know if the repaired, refurbished or remanufactured product is good? Can we certify? The “Remade In Italy” label certifies the use of recycled material / reuse in products. The release of the Remade In Italy ® certification is subject to a verification process by a third-party body (and therefore independent) for the certification of both management and product systems. The Remade in Italy ® label highlights the environmental values ​​of the material / product and is characterized by the assignment of a class, based on the percentage of recycled / reused material present.

I may be wrong, but we don’t have such a certification scheme in India and perhaps in several countries in the world.

Remanufactured or refurbished products can help companies compete at a lower price with cheaper or lower quality competitors, without reducing quality, due to the resource savings realised, allowing firms to secure greater market share. Economic incentives and disincentives as well as enforcement of legislation on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) play an important role to move the inner circle.

Recent interest on repair, refurbishing and remanufacturing has led to establishment of reverse logistic chains, i.e. collection and transport systems. Several off the shelf or plugin type technology platforms have evolved such as 12return that help create reverse supply chains from consumers to service providers, operated by “aggregators”.

The repair culture did not have much root in the developed economies due to high costs of labour. Realizing the importance of its promotion however, countries in the European Union (EU) have come up with incentives. In Sweden, a tax-refund scheme operates that on the labour segment of household repair bills for white goods and electronics. On similar lines, in Austria, there is a proposal to make repair cheaper by reimbursement of 50% of the labour costs of repair. In France, there are differentiated EPR scheme fees depending on how easily you can dismantle a product for repair, on the availability of spare parts or on whether the information/instructions on how to repair a product are available. These fees are lowered for producers who inform consumers how long spare parts will be available for the product on purchase.

In the United States (US), eighteen States have proposed “Right to Repair” legislation. The Right to Repair bill will make easier for people to repair their broken electronic equipment—like cell phones, computers, appliances, cameras, and even tractors. The legislation would require manufacturers to release repair information to the public and sell spare parts to owners and independent repair shops. It is going to be however a bumpy ride as giants like Apple and Microsoft are gearing up to oppose this legislation in at least one State.

But how do we scale up and build capacities? Restart Project – a London-based social enterprise – encourages and empowers people to use their electronics longer in order to save money and reduce waste. Restart helps people learn to repair their own electronics in community events (parties) and in workplaces and speak publicly about repair and product resilience. Today, Restart is working with 54 people in 10 countries who are planning on replicating and adapting the Restart model.

Conceived as a way to help people reduce waste, social entrepreneur Martine Postma organized the first Repair Café in October 2009 in Amsterdam. Its success prompted her to start the Repair Café Foundation in 2011. Since then, this non-profit organization has helped local groups start their own Repair Cafés. Today, there are more than 1,400 such cafés in 33 countries, from the US to Japan. According to the foundation’s 2016 annual report, repairing prevented about 250,000kg of waste from heading to landfills.

Repair Cafe

Antara Mukherji, co-founded Repair Café Bengaluru in November 2015 with Purna Sarkar. Since its inception, Repair Café Bengaluru has organized 19 workshops where adults pay a programme fee and learn how to repair household things ranging from an iron to an induction top. The organization says it has repaired more than 700 products and saved about 1,300kg of waste from ending up in landfills.

But in India, across the country, there are repair shops that can fix anything and everything. In Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti area, Javed Husain Khan repairs and sells old Swiss watches, from Favre-Leuba to Rolex; Nehru Place in Delhi thrives on the economics of repair; brothers Muhammad Moinuddin and Muhammad Mujeebuddin claim their 80-year-old shop in Chatta Bazaar Road in Hyderabad’s Old City is the ultimate repair destination for vintage radios, record players and cassette decks—the list goes on. Chor Bazars or Thieves market are hubs of innovation when it comes to repair, refurbish and remanufacturing.

The skill of repairing, refurbishing and remanufacturing is dying slowly. Repairing is often considered as a vocation for the uneducated/underprivileged or a mere hobby.  In large cities, you would not see repairwalas going from street to street, offering to fix broken items. We now have web-based repair services – but these companies need to quantify, record and communicate the environmental and social benefits, Enterprises in the developed countries know very well how to do so and hence get cited in the international news, conferences and the like! We need a research group in India to take on such a project.

I spoke to my Professor friend about the importance of inner circle approach especially the repair, refurbish and remanufacturing. “There is too much emphasis or hype on recycling alone and most think that circular economy means recycling” I said.

Professor was busy repairing his bicycle. He looked up to me and said “You are right Dr Modak, repair for reuse is the right thing to do. And we need product designs that are repair friendly. We should frame  incentives and disincentives. We also need recycled product standards, smart reverse logistics and schemes on skill building. The inner circle will then operate on a scale it deserves and will resonate well with the outer circle approaches”

I couldn’t disagree.

Professor continued while handling a spanner and fixing a bolt “But to me Dr Modak, our engineering curriculums must include a course on repair, refurbish and remanufacturing with a workshop. It will help the students to look for alternatives, think out of the box and innovate”. We should leverage on India’s Make in India, Zero defect and Skill India programs.

He then smiled and said “Don’t you know that repairing with your own hands reduces the risk of Alzheimer? –I spend half of my Sunday every week repairing something or other. It sharpens my brain and improves my reflexes”

I thought that Professor was absolutely “Right”. That was yet another benefit in the asking for “Right to Repair”!


Cover image sourced from https://www.keeprite.com/en/us/buying-guide/repair-or-replace/


Useful reading

Promoting Remanufacturing, Refurbishment, Repair, and Direct Reuse

Indian examples with text sourced from

Year-End Special: Repair economy 2.0 by Gayatri Jayaraman and Year-End Special: The ministry of broken things

I will highly recommend that you see these references


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Plastic, Pollution and Politics

 

Many of my readers know about my friend who lives on the 104th floor in a Tower in Mumbai. He is the richest person in the world today. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential personalities and yet not known due to his sheer humility and discreteness.


I went to see my friend on 104th floor on this Sunday morning. He was having a breakfast.

“I am just returning from China” he said – while picking an Arabian date from a silver bowl.

“I made a deal to start a plastic manufacturing facility near Aurangabad in Maharashtra with Chi Mei Corporation in Tainan City.  This facility will be the largest in the world and will meet India’s plastic products related demand till 2030. We will produce plastic bags, plastic cutlery and plastic bottles”. He said.

He continued

“Do you know that plastic processing is the pillar of economy in most of the advanced nation? Per capita consumption of the world is 28 kg whereas India’s 11 kg and China 38 kg and Brazil 32 kgs. In USA, Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan it is more than 100 kg.  This means India has big potential to grow, improve quality of life of its citizens and seize many opportunities.

Plastic helps to reduce weight of products (and so the GHG emissions), increases durability of the product and hence results into lower impacts and reduces food loss during distribution. These are only few benefits of plastic to cite. India’s per capita consumption is one of the lowest in Asia so there is so much opportunity to grow.”

I was surprised with his argument. Probably, my friend did not see the “down side” of plastic.

India generates around 5.6 million tons of plastic waste annually, where Delhi alone accounts for 9,600 metric tons per day. The uncollected plastic chokes our drains causing flooding and fills our landfills forever as the plastic does not readily degrade.

We need to reduce consumption of plastic in our daily lives and increase the recycling rate. This will require use of alternatives to plastic, segregation of plastic at source, collection/reverse logistics for used plastic, discovering/using new materials and practicing innovative business models. In India, we haven’t done much on all these fronts.

So, I kept quiet. My friend continued.

“My new facility alone will create 5000 direct jobs and 50000 indirect jobs in its supply and distribution systems” He added

I said “Oh, then the PM must be happy”

“He indeed is”, my friend beamed while taking a gulp of pomegranate juice from an intricately carved Putter mug.

I don’t think my friend knew that Government of Maharashtra just banned plastic flags, banners, flex material, disposable containers, non-woven polypropylene bags along with all kinds of plastic bags irrespective of thickness. The ban list included disposable utensils made of plastic and thermocol, plastic plates, bowls, cups, straws, cutlery, glass, bowls, forks, spoons, straw, non-woven polypropylene bags, plastic sheets and plastic pouches — and all kinds of plastic films. Use, sale, production, stock and distribution of these plastic products is now prohibited.

Some say that this plastic ban was a political move as most plastic manufacturers belonged to the opposition party.  Of course, who would believe such a hoax “breaking news”?

I explained this new development to my friend.

He showed some surprise while applying marmite, imported from London, on a well toasted wheat grain bread.

I continued

“The only plastic items exempt from the ban are milk pouches, wrappers for processed food, dustbin liners, packs for medicines, solid waste and agricultural products, and polyethylene terephthalate or PET bottles of certain capacities. Plantation bags made up of compostable plastic are not banned”

I knew that this plastic ban will be affecting financial viability of my Friend’s mega project.

“Well Dr Modak, I will make what Government wants, will allow and support” He said calmly. He did not seem to be perturbed.

Perhaps my friend could sense that decision taken by the Government of Maharashtra on plastic ban was not on rational grounds. There was least preparedness on monitoring and enforcement of the ban and alternatives were not provided or facilitated that were feasible and acceptable.  And the ban was not well orchestrated with regard to economic instruments. There wasn’t any concerted effort on raising public awareness either.

Maharashtra is now the 18th state in India to enforce a complete ban on plastic bags. The experience on the ban in other States has not been satisfactory. “When you cannot ban a corrupt Politician to stand for elections, how can you be successful in banning a plastic bag. Both cause equal menace, don’t they?” I said to myself while sipping a Java coffee.

I thought of giving my friend more information.

“All these details are dynamic and evolving – including list of plastic items banned. There is utter confusion. Plastic manufactures have appealed to the High Court protesting this unilateral decision. Office of the Chief Minister is looking for advisers who can help the Government to wriggle out of the mess”

Just then my Professor Friend walked in. He got on the breakfast table and asked for two egg whites tossed with herbs.

Professor told us that several countries and cities have attempted plastic ban in the past. Ireland was one of the pioneering countries in banning plastic.  In 2002, the country passed a plastic bag tax under which consumers would have to purchase bags. The law was tremendously successful as within weeks of its implementation there was a reduction of 94 percent in plastic bag use. Recently, in Africa, Rwanda and Kenya went ahead and placed plastic bans. France was the first country to pass a law banning all kinds of plastic – plates, cups, and utensils (in addition to the plastic bags). As per the Plastic Ban law passed in 2016, replacements made with the plastic items must be bio-degradable that can be further composted. Figure below gives a global picture on plastic bans.

  

Plastic ban- global highlights 

“So, what’s your view Professor on this Maharashtra Plastic Ban”, my friend asked

Professor said “Well, it is great move. To me the era of circular economy has begun. Banning of various forms of plastic is going to change the material and energy flows, spur innovation for alternatives, attract green investments and create green jobs.”

Professor had this style of speaking as if he is reading a PowerPoint slide –something he was most used to do. And I knew that Professor was both theatrical and theoretical in many occasions.

To me circularity in India was more known in the party politics – where you see politicians changing there stand and keep moving in circles.

But I thought that this time Professor was right. Globally, an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually the ocean. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, five trillion pieces of plastic already exist in the world’s oceans. We don’t realize seriousness of the situation as we live on the land mass.

Recycling alone is not going to be a solution and besides recycling is not cheap. Producers need to invest in new material designs, drastically reduce and substitute use of plastic packaging and take physical and/or financial responsibility for needed infrastructure, collection and recycling of essential materials.

Professor spoke about alternatives such as biodegradable and oxy-degradable plastic, edible cutlery, “leash-the-lid” technology that allows recycling of both bottle and cap and then elaborated on plastic to fuel projects and use of plastic in asphalting of roads. He gave several examples.

Wow, I exclaimed. I wish Niti Ayog in India had thought of launching a Plastic Nirmulan Mission to support these bans. Certainly, you need a mission approach.

My friend was surprised with this information. He however had questions. He asked whether the edible cutlery was gluten free. He also wondered whether the term biodegradability was defined in India.  He further asked whether there were quality, safety and health standards with the BIS for plastic recycled products – be it fuel or a recycled plastic bag.  We did not have answers.

“All this must be looked into” He said in a serious tone.

Just then, he received a call on his phone from TOMRA. TOMRA is the world leader in the field of reverse vending, with over 82,000 installations across more than 60 markets across the world. TOMRA provides best machines for collecting and recycling aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles. Around 35 billion used beverage containers are captured every year by TOMRAs reverse vending machines.

After a brief conversation, my friend put the phone down and said

“Well I have changed my business plan. Instead of working with Chi Mei, I will now invest in making low cost reverse vending machines to gobble up plastic bottles, bags and even cutlery and pay a handsome amount. These machines will be give me cheap source of plastic that I can use to make products what market needs and what Government will allow. I will install these machines in malls, movie theaters, airports, gardens, railway platforms etc.”

Oh, what a shift of business I exclaimed

Professor nodded. He then said in a friendly tone  “One piece of advice. Why don’t you let these Machines play videos to make people understand the menace of plastic and how returning banned or used plastic will make them a responsible citizen and at the same time make money?”

“Good idea Professor” My friend said. “This will certainly enhance my company image and help raise awareness”

He then paused for a while and looked outside the window.

“Maybe I will also put a small clip showing the PM and the CM in between”. He said as if an afterthought.

I saw that was a smart move given the election times connecting plastic, pollution and politics. These vending machines will surely enjoy substantial subsidies with clips of PM and CM shown.

No wonder my friend was the richest man in the world living on the 104th floor.

 


Cover image sourced from

https://egyptinnovate.com/en/%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%81%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%B1/recycling-vending-machine


You may like to read my post in 2014 on Plastic, Paper or Reusable Shopping Bag.

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Up in the Air

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airline passengers generated 5.2 million tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration. This figure is expected to double over the next 15 years.

Once a plane has landed, huge volumes of disposable items are thrown away. Apart from plastic waste (including cutlery), toilet waste is included in the waste stream –  so are the miniature wine bottles, half-eaten lunch trays, unused toothbrushes, empty plastic water bottles, napkins, discarded packaging. Airline waste management is now an area of great concern.

Iberia Airlines in partnership with Ferrovial Services prepared a scheme that could recover 80% of cabin waste coming into Madrid’s Barajas airport by mid-2020. The scheme will explore low-packaging meals and reusable cutlery. Designing cabin products with waste minimization will be another strategy. Qantas, for example, is combining its charity donation envelope with its headset package, cutting one polythene bag per passenger per flight. America’s United Airlines has switched to compostable paper cups and last year began donating unused amenity kits to homeless and women’s shelters. Virgin Airlines has set up a system for recycling all parts of its headsets, including ear sponges, that are now used as flooring for equestrian centers.

IATA’s head of environment feels that unrealistic and unreasonable waste related regulation is a major challenge. The EU animal health legislation, drawn up as a reaction to diseases like foot and mouth, dictates that all catering waste arriving from outside EU borders be treated as high-risk and incinerated or buried in deep landfill. A coffee cup from the US, for example, will be treated as hazardous waste because it might have had milk in it. Donating uneaten food to charity is impossible. A more rational approach is needed, one which identifies elements of cabin waste that pose a risk to health and considers the stringent hygiene standards airlines are already subject to.

Another challenge is getting cabin crew’s buy-in for waste segregation right in the aircraft. Iberia Airlines has introduced recycling bins attached to service trolleys — so that in-flight waste can be easily sorted. About 2,500 cabin crew members will be trained in the basics of waste separation as part of the push. Emirates has also introduced segregation facilities on board, for easy sorting of glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper products.

But environment is not the only concern. According to IATA, cabin waste costs the airline industry $500 million plus each and the costs will rise steeply thanks to growing fees to be paid to landfills for disposal. The airlines are therefore focusing on a product’s full life cost, rather than unit price, and invest in more durable headsets or blankets and ditching disposable products. This can be a game changer.

Flexible catering is one-way airlines could curb waste.  Airlines are now “predicting” likely meal preference of the passenger based on the frequent flyer and other behavioral data such as spending habits and consumption. This is the future where big data analytics and artificial intelligence will be used.

Another solution is the pay-as-you-go approach, where travelers order meals before a flight as followed in most low-cost carriers (LCCs) around the world. By providing this system — where passengers buy meals using an app or website — airlines can simultaneously meet demand and minimize waste. This approach is now followed by full-service international airlines as well, with the likes of SAS, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Qantas.

Reliance on plastic and paper also contribute to the issue, but some airlines are experimenting with recycling solutions and packaging alternatives to minimize waste. Qantas has begun to use recycled materials for its packaging as well as plastic-free headsets. Emirates has introduced eco-friendly blankets, made from recycled plastic bottles. The airline expects this amenity to rescue more than 12,000 tons of bottles from landfills by 2019. There is a huge benefit of such upcycling.

Back on the ground, several airports have installed waste management systems that are innovative and effective.  Waste Management Best Practice in the Global Aviation Sector Leading international airports are now targeting and achieving diversion rates as high as 80%. This is achieved through on-Site Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) and Waste to Energy Plants.  Uptake of MRFs is high where the prohibitive cost of landfill supports commercial viability. To reduce transportation and landfill space and harness energy, Gatwick airport in London opened an on-site waste-to-energy plant.  Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) is in the process of installing an in-house integrated solid waste management facility based on biomethanation to deal with the 20 tonnes of organic and inorganic waste generated every day. KIA also plans to reach out to stakeholders such as concessionaries, F&B and retail outlets and persuade them to use recycled products made out of the inorganic waste. The airport will sell the recyclable material such as glass and plates to other manufacturers as raw material. This will make KIA the first airport in Asia to initiate in-house integrated solid waste management.


I took a flight to New Delhi today on economy class. When food was served, there was no option – Veg or Non-Veg. “All food is Veg Sir”, said the air-hostess – We want to minimize the waste generation sir”. I was anyway going to opt for a veg meal.

My co-passengers tray had a Gulab jamun, but my tray didn’t. When asked, she smiled and said, “Sir, we use big data analytics and expertise of companies like Cambridge with backing (or hacking?) of databases like Facebook. This helps us to diagnose passenger food preference before boarding the flight”. I was surprised to learn that these sophisticated techniques were not anymore limited to politics and elections. The air hostess continued.

“We found out that you are diabetic type II person with H1bAC of 7.5 around, so there is no point to serve you the Gulab jamun”. She gave a sweet smile that did not raise my blood sugar but only the heart beats raced!

I thought she was right. If served, I wouldn’t have had the Gulab jamun and hence it could have been a waste. The airline was clearly waste-wise.

I noticed that the cutlery provided was not of plastic but looked very different. Just then the flight supervisor made an announcement

Edible Cutlery from Bakeys 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, you may be aware that the Government of Maharashtra has banned plastic disposable utensils made of plastic and thermocol, plastic plates, bowls, cups, straws etc. with effect from March 18, 2018. In order to be compliant, our Airline has introduced edible cutlery that is sorghum based. Once you finish your meal, we encourage you to eat the cutlery as it is nutritionally good as well as delicious.  And if you don’t eat, please don’t worry. This cutlery easily biodegrades in any outside environment within 10 days. In any case, we use this cutlery as animal feed”

I thought that this was impressive.

I took a good bite of the edible spoon after relishing the idli Sambhar.

What a transformation! I said to myself. “I must tell my wife about this edible substitute. This will eliminate the work of cleaning plates, spoons and forks.”

We had another hour to go to reach Delhi.

“Will this transformation sustain?” I wondered.

But I decided not to think about the ground realities while 30000 ft up in the air.


Cover image and statistics sourced from Watch your waste: The problem with airline food and packaging

Read The ridiculous story of airline food and why so much ends up in landfill

 


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Sustainability and the Goods & Services Tax

In India, the newly introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) has led to quite some stress to the manufacturers and service providers and more importantly to the consumers belonging to middle income and poor class of the society. Most are not happy with GST today.

The basic idea to introduce GST was to remove the multiple tax system that was a part of Central and State government and to provide uniform tax system throughout the country. The GST tax model is divided into different tax slabs ranging from 0% to 28%. There are four slabs (5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%) and an additional ‘sin tax’ of 40% that is to be implemented on rare occasions.

When GST was implemented it was claimed that it would bring great changes in the Indian economy in the market and increase country’s GDP to 7%. The reality over a short span was however not to this expectation as the economy was already in shambles due to the demonetization. Despite all the shortcomings, the GST model was hoped to be a grand success over long run if it was planned considering the welfare of poor people and of course to protect the environment and our natural resources.

My Professor friend therefore felt that the GST should have been structured based on sustainability considerations. In his logic, goods and services that have negative environmental and social impact should be slapped with higher tax slab and those goods and services that help in improving the sustainability should be promoted with lower slab rate.

Professor told the PMO that Government needs to completely restructure the tax slabs based on sustainability considerations. So, he was called to Delhi for a discussion.

Professor was preparing his note and a speech in his study when I went to see him. He looked at me and said “Dr Modak, I was about to call you. I wanted someone to peer my note and give comments before I fly out to New Delhi. What I am proposing in the new GST regime is something simply revolutionary”. With this remark, he passed me his note and lighted a cigar.

I browsed the note and looked at the whiteboard in his room. It had several keywords and diagrams – all written in a haphazard manner – and in some places almost illegible. However, the scribbling on the whiteboard and a choked ashtray on the desk did show that Professor was brainstorming.

The word MIPS had taken a central position on the white board and was written in red.

What’s MIPs Professor? I asked. “Hope it is not Million Instructions Per Second?” I remembered conversations with my friends from computer science and engineering regarding MIPS.

“Oh, come on, I thought you knew this term Dr Modak.” Professor looked disappointed. He then explained

“The abbreviation MIPS stands for Material Input Per Service unit. MIPS is an elementary measure to estimate the resources demanded by a product or service. In the computation of MIPS, the whole life-cycle from cradle to cradle (extraction, production, use, waste/recycling) is considered like a rucksack. Recycling reflects the extent of the use of secondary materials. MIPS can be applied in all cases where the environmental implications of products, processes and services need to be assessed and compared”.

I remembered then the MIPS. Of course, I knew about this term.

MIPS as a concept is so much talked about in Europe over last two decades. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy introduced Material Intensity Analysis (MAIA), based on the MIPS concept, way back in in 1998.

MIPS considers abiotic and biotic materials, water, air, and earth movement in agriculture and silviculture. See http://wupperinst.org/uploads/tx_wupperinst/MIT_2013.pdf for more explanation. Of course, MIPS has its limitations (as it captures Inputs and not impacts and risks fully) but researchers over the last two decades have worked hard and improved the scope and computational methodology of MIPS.

Visit https://wupperinst.org/uploads/tx_wupperinst/MIT_2014.pdf to view the latest list of materials where MIPS is computed and applicable regions. MIPs is expressed in kg/kg.

If you follow this table, then you would see that aluminium will attract much more GST (say 4th slab) as compared to Steel (that could be placed in the 2nd slab). Electricity produced by a wind farm will be in the lowest tax slab of GST and all forms of plastic will be placed in the 3rd tax slab. So were the propositions from the Professor to the FM.

I thought of using MIPS to fix tax slabs under GST was a novel idea to drive consumption towards sustainability, but I had several questions to ask.

“But Professor, this would mean that we will need to first develop MIPS database for India. We cannot use Wuppertal database or for that matter the publicly available Eco Invent or databases provided by commercial software such a Gabbi.

Developing MIPS for India (even for select materials/products/services) could well be a national project involving IITs, Schools of Economics, Institutions researching on Natural Resources Management etc. This work will take at least 3 years to conclude to arrive at numbers that are reasonable and acceptable”

I had my doubts whether the India such a MIPS project was going to be feasible.

Professor nodded.

“I agree with you Dr Modak, but we don’t have that much time. Unsustainability is ticking. Remember that the tax slabs that we will use will follow a band or a range so even 100% error around MIPS computation will not cause any major concern. So, I don’t mind a quick (and dirty) first cut. We must begin somewhere.

By linking GST with MIPS we will raise awareness of Indian citizens about choosing materials and products on the ground of sustainability. The citizens will be more responsible. To save the GST, people will prefer materials and products with low MIPS. India’s Gross Ecological Product (GEP) will thus increase;  and so the GDP and importantly sustainably”

I thought the Professor was right. He really was a visionary.

I realized that if implemented, India would be the first country in the world that will show a “sustainability basis” in its taxation.

I wasn’t sure however the FM and the PM will agree with the Professor as perhaps a sustainability led GST may plough a lower tax collection. Wont it then conflict with the very objective of GST and that of the FM!

I wished all the best to the Professor as he extinguished his cigar and called taxi to the airport. I erased the white board that featured MIPS and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to discourage him.


Suggested reading on MIPS Concept, Methodology and Applications

Calculating MIPS 2.0 Mathieu Saurat  and Michael Ritthoff

The MIPS Concept (Material Input Per Unit of Service): A Measure for an Ecological Economy Martha Fani Cahyandito

Calculating MIPS – Resource Productivity of Products and Services Michael Ritthoff Holger Rohn Christa Liedtke Wuppertel Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

 


Cover image sourced from http://www.sdgdatalabs.org/2017/06/14/gst-boon-or-bane-to-sustainable-development-goals/


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Resources, Residues and Circular Economy

Sustainability of this planet depends heavily on the availability of resources.

Resources are under threat today due to severe depletion and degradation.

Depletion has been on a steep rise due to increasing population, urbanization and consumption. Degradation has been a result of reckless disposal of residues.

Strangely and oddly enough, the national governments, particularly the Ministries of Environment, have focused more on the management of residues rather than management of the resources. Legislation was evolved to set limits on the residues that will have to be met prior to disposal but not much attention was given on the limits of extraction of resources and resource pricing. The latter was more of a political issue.

Limits on residues became stricter over the years as our understanding of the adverse impacts and risks to the environment improved. We realized that residues when not properly disposed could lead to considerable damage to the humans and the ecosystems. There were severe economic implications both on damage and restoration. Many of the impacts were found to be long term and irreversible and further compounded with risks that were not easy to anticipate.

Most national governments followed a precautionary approach following “do no harm principle” in setting the limits. Over the years, advances were made in the monitoring of pollutants in the residues and the technologies were developed that could be economically used for treatment. These advances made tightening of the limits on residues possible.

Having framed the legislation and limits or standards on the residues, the national governments established institutions for monitoring and enforcement. Procedures and practices of documentation were laid down. Most legislations began with addressing wastewater but soon air emissions, solid and hazardous wastes were included. In the last two decades, specific residues such as municipal solid wastes, construction and demolition wastes, plastic waste, electronic (e) waste were also addressed by setting limits and requirements for safe disposal. Consequently, the investments on the end of pipe management of residues increased.

Unfortunately, since the institutions made responsible for monitoring and enforcement were weak, compliance to the standards or limits was not satisfactorily achieved. The resources continued to be degraded.

The polluters realized that to reduce cost of the end of pipe treatment and remain competitive, efforts were required to reduce generation of residues at the source. Concepts such as waste minimization and pollution prevention therefore emerged and the polluters did every effort to reduce residue generation by deploying better housekeeping and practicing reuse, recycling, recovery to the extent possible. This required a behavioral change, application of management systems, use of productivity improvement tools and adoption to modern technologies. The investments for management of residues essentially moved upstream leading to “ecological modernization”.  Unlike end of pipe investments, the “upstream” investments had a payback or economic returns.Strategies such as Cleaner Production, Green Productivity and Eco-efficiency emerged. These strategies showed a link between resources (in specific the resource use efficiency) and the residues that could be converted as a resource.

Gradually, importance of product design was understood that connected resources and residues.  Our understanding of Life Cycle impacts of the products made us realize that we must think of both resources and residues at every stage of life cycle i.e. extraction, transportation, processing, packaging, distribution, use, disposal.   The two R’s (viz. Resources and Residues) were thus integrated with the opportunities of 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)

Over a period of time, the legislation on residues expanded and became more comprehensive. Figure below shows an illustration of evolution of limits, expectations and requirements for the pulp and paper sector.

Clearly, enforcement of such limits could not be done solely by the Government. It required a partnership approach where the markets (consumers, retailers) and investors were also involved. An enunciation of an umbrella policy and coordination between ministries was also necessary. The new paradigm of governance addressed both resources and residues, across the life cycle and in partnership with G-B-FI-C (Government, Business, Financing Institutions and Communities)

In India, importance of green products is not understood even today.  We are still far lagging on the strategy of eco or sustainable product design and green public procurement. Our eco-labelling program “Eco-mark” failed long ago, with no efforts made for revival. There are only handful schools in India who teach sustainable product design today. There isn’t much “market demand” either.

You can assess the “maturity of the environmental governance” of a country based on how the limits are set and are operated considering both resources and residues and how key stakeholders are involved. I would rate India at level of 4 if there was a maturity scale between 0 to 10.

As earlier said, the Indian environmental governance is still biased to the management of residues. But remember that even on the residues we have not looked into risks on disposal from ecological perspective. Although the name of Ministry is now Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change, we have not paid attention to the  risks posed on our resource security due to climate change. Our approach is still conventional and dated.

Resource management in India is in the purview of line ministries e.g. water, energy, agriculture. There is a poor coordination between the Ministries in visualizing a “systems” perspective where resources and residues are integrated. Years ago, New Zeeland enacted Resource Management Act (RMA). The RMA has not been a smooth ride but there are interesting lessons that could be learnt.

The recently promulgated concept of Circular Economy added additional 3Rs namely- Repair, Refurbish and Remanufacture.   These 3Rs introduced three significant components viz. social (employment), investment and innovation. Once material flows become circular, compliance becomes of interest to every stakeholder. 

China legislated Circular Economy Law as early as in 2007 focusing on industrial estates.  Japan promoted this concept at Eco-Towns. European Union came up with country specific targets, indicators and reporting requirements on Circular Economy.

India is estimated to become the fourth largest economy in the world in about two decades. This economic growth is however going to come with challenges such as urbanization with increased vulnerability (especially due to climate change), poor resource quality and scarcity and high level of unevenness in the socio-economic matrix due to acute poverty. India, if it makes the right and systemic choices, has a potential to move towards positive, regenerative, and value-creating development. Its young population, growing use of IT, increasing emphasis on social and financial inclusion as well as the emerging manufacturing sector can make this happen. For this, the conventional linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model of growth must change and an enabling policy framework at the national and sectoral level needs to be evolved. Developing a national policy framework on Circular Economy therefore makes sense.

The recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on India shows that a circular economy path to development could bring India annual benefits of ₹40 lakh crores (US$ 624 billion) in 2050 compared with the current development path – a benefit equivalent to 30% of India’s current GDP. Following a circular economy path would also reduce negative externalities. For example, Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs) would be 44% lower in 2050 compared to the current development path, and other externalities like congestion and pollution would fall significantly, providing health and economic benefits to Indian citizens. This conclusion was drawn based on high-level economic analysis of three focus areas viz. cities and construction, food and agriculture, and mobility and vehicle manufacturing.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of Government of India set up the India Resource Panel (InRP) in 2016 to examine the material and energy flows across key sectors following a life cycle approach and to assess resource efficiency. I am a member of InRP. Sectors such as Construction, Automobiles, Iron & Steel and Metals were considered and key cross-cutting areas were examined. Recommendations of InRP are now taken up by India’s Niti Ayog (Planning Commission chaired by the Prime Minister) and is expected to develop a national framework to foster and support India’s Circular Economy.

The Government of India has embarked on several iconic projects to improve and expand its infrastructure (transport, cities and energy) and undertake ecological modernization of important sectors such as water, agriculture and food. In these Mega projects, Foreign Direct Investment is encouraged and these investors are asking for good practices on Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) apart from conventional compliance. The 100 Smart Cities program, Make in India initiative, Swatch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India), Namami Gange (Ganga River Action Plan), Interlinking of Rivers, Climate Resilient Agriculture etc. are a few examples. In all these projects, an application of the principles of the Circular Economy is extremely relevant and, more critically, leadership on the circular economy will need to be built in Cities, Industries, Investors, Project Developers and with Policy makers and Regulators.

Circular Economy is thus a concept that brings management and resources and residues together in the interest of economy, livelihoods and the environment. If implemented well then it will spur innovation and stimulate investments. The question is which institution in India will champion and how will we mainstream Circular Economy at national, state, city and industrial estate levels. Leadership in Circular Economy is going to be the key to bring in the necessary change.

We need to start walking the talk. But who will bell the cat?


Cover image sourced from http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/a-true-circular-economy-must-be-anchored-in-the-grassroots


My company Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation is developing an international leadership program on Circular Economy in partnership with Green Industries  South Australia. This program will have E-learning and Face to face components. The program will be  launched in mid of 2018. Do write to me if you are interested to learn more or get involved 


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Green Public Procurement – A Potential Game Changer for India?

 

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Green Public Procurement (GPP) may be simply defined as “Public procurement for a better environment“. Those not accustomed to simplicity, define GPP as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.” (Phew!)

GPP is fundamentally a voluntary instrument, but it can be legislated.

Japan already has a law on GPP. In 2000, in South Africa, Department of Environment Affairs adopted a Preferential Procurement Policy under the ‘Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, 2000’. In China, from January 2007, provincial and central governments have made a list of environment friendly products certified by China Certification Committee for Environmental Labelling and these products have to mandatorily meet environmental protection and energy saving standards. In Mexico, the 2007–2012 National Development Plan brought in sustainability criteria in the procurement policy followed by a procurement law. The law recognized that all wood and furniture procurement by public agencies requires a certificate highlighting its legal origin and paper procured by public agencies will need to have 50 % recycled content

Public authorities are major consumers in Europe. They spend approximately 1.8 trillion euro annually (2015 statistics), representing around 14 % of the EU’s gross domestic product. By using their purchasing power to choose goods and services with lower impacts on the environment, consumers in Europe can make an important contribution to Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

European Union (EU) adopted two directives on 26 February 2014. Today many of the EU countries have transposed these directives or rules into national laws. The new rules are driven by goals that include environmental protection, social responsibility, innovation, combating climate change, employment, public health and other social and environmental considerations.

Importantly, these directives support Innovation partnerships where a contracting authority wishes to purchase goods or services, which are not currently available on the market. The authority may establish an innovation partnership with one or more partners allowing research and development (R&D), piloting and subsequent purchase of a new product, service or work. The procedure for establishing an innovation partnership is set out in Article 31 of Directive 2014/24/EU. Further, these procurement directives allow for preliminary market consultation with suppliers in order to get advice, which may be used in the preparation of the procedure.

Green purchasing is thus about influencing the market. By promoting and using GPP, public authorities can provide industry with real incentives for developing green materials, technologies and products. GPP is therefore a strong stimulus for eco-innovation. To me this is a very important game changing feature – something India badly needs while pushing the agenda of “make in India”.

GPP has  great environmental benefits too. In Brazil for instance, procurement of recycled paper notebooks in middle and higher schools has helped in saving 8 million liters of water, 1,766 tons of waste, 241 kg of organo halogen compounds from procurement of 17,97,866 high school and 19,94,149 middle school “green” kits.

To be effective, GPP requires the inclusion of clear and verifiable environmental criteria for products and services in the public procurement process. Several countries in the world have developed guidance in this area, in the form of national GPP criteria. In India, the Eco-mark label miserably failed. Recently, CII has launched a certification scheme called Green Products or GreenPro to promote products that are green. So far, more than 100 products (mainly related to construction) have been certified. The green criteria used however is not well defined, not easily verifiable and many times ambiguous. I won’t attribute much credence to GreenPro certification. It’s more of a PR initiative to me.

My company Environmental Management Centre LLP (EMC) was chosen by the Ministry of Finance in Mauritius to pilot GPP. The main objective was to develop a Framework for Sustainable or Green Public Procurement that will ensure that procurement decisions take the following key factors into account when evaluating goods and services:

  • Economic: The need to achieve better value for money with the financial resources available
  • Environmental: The product, service or work requirements should include environmental performances following environmentally friendly production methods, higher energy efficiency as well as maximum use of renewable energy, lower generation of waste and emissions and avoiding use of non-biodegradable and toxic substances.
  • Social: reduction of poverty and inequality: promoting security and social inclusion; improving working conditions and employee welfare; promoting gender balance.

We developed a SPP Action Plan for Government of Mauritius on this basis. This Action Plan was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in December 2011. A Workshop was organized with a view to develop sustainability criteria for 5 products as an initial phase. These products included paper, ICT equipment, office furniture, passenger cars, detergents and cleaning materials. A second workshop was held to train procurement officers and hence facilitate implementation of SPP – the participants included both procurement officers and suppliers. Model bid documents were then prepared after training and consultation.

I was personally involved in this project that was supported by UNEP’s SPP. And it was a satisfaction to see that we could implement GPP at policy as well as operational levels – even if I couldn’t do so for my own country!

Today, thirty per cent of the GDP of India is spent on public procurement. Given the massive size of public spending, public sector in India can be a prime driver towards sustainable production and consumption and can create environmental and economic benefits. Unfortunately, In India, GPP is still in infancy.

Some public sector entities and government departments have started internalizing environmental and energy efficiency criteria in their procurement decisions. For instance, Indian Railways, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), and Indian Oil Corporation are promoting sustainable public procurement in a decentralized way in project specific sites with a major focus on procurement of energy conserving equipment in the procurement process of small items. However, such efforts have been undertaken in isolation and have not been replicated or scaled up across organizations, sectors, and levels of governments. Green Procurement related policies may be now seen at Tata Consulting Services (TCS)  and Mahindra .  These examples are like “islands” in “isolation”

The challenge of making GPP as a common practice still remains. See TERI’s Policy Brief that provides a good analyses of the situation.

In 2012, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) carried out a study and came up with GPP Guidelines. The Thirteenth Finance Commission of India emphasized the need for incentivizing growth of India with lower environmental and resource footprint. In April 2012, the Union Cabinet approved the Public Procurement Bill, which is currently pending in the Lok Sabha. The Bill aims at ensuring ‘transparency, accountability and probity in the procurement process, promoting competition, enhancing efficiency and economy, maintaining integrity and public confidence in the public procurement process.’  There is hardly any green in this bill, except in Clause 21 where one of the criteria mentioned is “environmental characteristics” of the product.

I think we need a better bill from the green perspective and perhaps at the same time a good pilot. GPP at Indian Railways (IR) could be the pilot given that we have visionary Railway Ministers like Suresh Prabhu.

IR has introduced several green measures and preferences already. IR now produces modern green three-phase drive locomotives with regenerative capability of producing electric power during breaking of trains along with conventional locomotives. This has been done by forming collaboration with General Electric (GE) and BHEL.

Mineral insulating oil is another case for greening of transformers. The latest green intervention is to use organic ester-based insulating fluid in transformers. These fluids are biodegradable. The BIS Draft standard was under discussion on operation of such transformers – DOC ETD 3 (6354) 2012 – and was finalized in April, 2016

Key goods of focus for greening could include ceiling fans, refrigerators, Air conditioners, motors where emphasis could be on energy efficiency and hence reduction in GHG emissions and life cycle costs. IR has already taken steps in this direction by specifying minimum 3 star energy rating during procurement. These requirements could be heightened gradually as market matures.

Although the volume of procurement is negligible as compared to total procurement of IR, the human resources engaged for employment are large. IR could consider supplies of all uniforms for instance made out of Khadi that meet the green requirements and in the process generate revenues and employment for KVIC with reduced environmental footprint.

Introduction of biodegradable bottles for RailNeer, biodegradable paper cups, use of leaf plates etc. could be examples of greening. IR has already installed Bio-toilets for efficient waste disposal and resource recovery. Paperless e-ticketing has been successfully introduced leading to significant reduction in the environmental footprints. Water is now recycled after washing the wagons and solar energy producing plants & self-sustaining hydro-electric and bio-diesel plants at vacant railway lands are getting commissioned.

IR has already started using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in its fleet of multiple diesel units and introduced bio diesel in the sector. Trials have also been completed and one power car of DMU has been converted to run on dual fuel mode using CNG and further proliferation is in progress. Laboratory tests have been carried out by using 10% blend of bio-diesel on Trains that have shown successful results.

The only problem is that all these interventions have not been well documented, or third party assessed with metrics to make a strong case for GPP that makes an economic, environmental and social case. We need the numbers to communicate the entire story. Imagine the massive impact of GPP as a pilot at the Indian Railways! There will simply be a surge of green product makers and service providers (e.g. on reverse logistics) and India will move a few inches at least towards Green Manufacturing & Green Market. And more importantly, ride on the innovation and become even globally competitive

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has been a good friend of mine. I have decided to see him in his office to address my above concerns. Or may be I should ask him to travel with me between Mumbai to Delhi on Rajdhani Express – we could then spend the 17 hours of the Journey together to come up with a pilot and plan to change the game by the time the locomotive of the Rajdhani Express whistles into the New Delhi Railway Station!


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The Intersections


gde-color-intersections

1990s was an era where many leading institutions across the world were interested to launch programs where interests of business/profitability could be integrated with the protection of the environment/sustainability. These institutions perhaps realized that unless such an integration was pitched, there was not going to be much interest or “buy in” by the business.

UNEP’s Cleaner Production was one such “smart” Program. The concept of Cleaner Production was established by the UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in Paris.

I feel excited even today that I was part of that small team of “experts” who worked together in one of the late evenings at the office of DTIE and coined the term Cleaner Production. Jaqueline Alosi Larderel was the director then and Donald (Don) Huisingh (who was a Professor at the Lund University) was the Facilitator. We were struggling and attempted several options of shall I say the “word play” and the “terms and definitions” to arrive finally at “What is Cleaner Production?”

We defined Cleaner Production as: “The continuous application of an integrated environmental strategy to processes, products and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment”. This definition was pretty deep yet expansive.

I recall that after the term and definition was sorted out, we walked near Rue Saint-James to a small Lebanese restaurant (Fleur de cèdrerun? I don’t exactly recollect the name now) that was run by two brothers (one used to cook and other used to play keyboard) and had a three hour long dinner and wonderful conversations. Cleaner Production was born.

I spent nearly 15 years later in the area of Cleaner Production. In 2002 I prepared the Global Status Report on Cleaner Production for UNEP DTIE , later a multimedia CDROM “Cleaner Production Companion” and Training & Guidance Manuals how to set up and operate National Cleaner Production Centers, amongst other publications.

In 1992, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) came with the concept of Eco-Efficiency. The concept was based on creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution. Eco-efficiency was measured as the ratio between the (added) values of what has been produced (e.g. GDP) and the (added) environment impacts of the product or service (e.g. SO2 emissions).  WBSCD in its 1992 publication “Changing Course,” introduced this term and at the 1992 Earth Summit, eco-efficiency was endorsed as a new business concept and means for companies to implement Agenda 21 in the private sector. The term has become synonymous today with a management philosophy geared towards sustainability and combining ecological and economic efficiency.

I was one of the contributors to the book Changing Course  courtesy my good friend Nick Robbins and was involved in the discussions on Eco-efficiency. I could therefore see the “intersections”. Both Cleaner Production and Eco-Efficiency had origins primarily from the experience of countries in the European Union. In the United States, the term Pollution Prevention prevailed.

In 1994, Yuji Yamada of Asian Productivity Organization (APO) approached me. “Dr Modak, APO has been in the productivity business for long and we recognize the importance of integrating productivity and environment as “Green Productivity” but we don’t have a definition. Can you help? Please come as a resource person to a workshop of experts I am organizing in Taipei”

I asked Yamada-san, why do you want a yet another term? Go ahead use terms like Cleaner Production or Eco-efficiency. Yamada-san said “This won’t work. We need our own definition”

So I joined Yamada-san in Taipei. Over a two days of deliberation we came up with a definition of Green Productivity. Green Productivity was defined as a strategy for enhancing productivity and environmental performance for overall socio-economic development. Green Productivity was considered as the application of appropriate productivity and environmental management policies, tools, techniques, and technologies in order to reduce the environmental impact of an organization’s activities.

In 2006, I wrote for the APO the Green Productivity Training Manual. My association with APO continues even today. I attempted to bring UNEP DTIE and APO together and we did few common meetings/conferences but the real harmonization was impossible to achieve in the Program operations. The industry used to be confused “Are you referring to CP (Cleaner Production) or GP (Green Productivity). A pity isn’t it? And as if this confusion was not enough we now have another term – Resource Efficient Cleaner Production (RECP). UNEP along with UNIDO defined RECP as continuous application of preventive environmental strategies to processes, products, and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment. RECP works specifically to advance production efficiency, management of environment and human development. So RECP was a “concoction” of CP and GP! Indeed, it’s a maze of terms and intersections today on the canvas of Productivity, Environment and Interest of Communities.

Each of the above programs made dent in their own way. Some led to more outreach, acceptance and impact. The early definitions of these terms were tweaked during the course and re-interpreted especially to reflect on the Millennium Development Goals (and now the Sustainability Development Goals).

In the early phase of these programs, the business was asking for the “evidence” that would prove that it was profitable to integrate business with environmental and social considerations. I remember I created for the UNEP DTIE International Cleaner Production Information Clearinghouse (ICPIC)  and came up with an edited version of 400+ international case studies across more than 20 industrial sectors covering medium and large scale industries. These case studies did the job of convincing and were used in the outreach and  the training programs. Today, we don’t  need any more convincing. We want to know more about “how to”.

Unfortunately, the concepts of CP, Eco-Efficiency, GP and RECP have not yet penetrated in the graduate level education programs, especially in the developing world. The ocean of resources created and the practice experience documented have not yet reached the student and community of young professionals.  We need to run continuing education programs on these topics especially for the mid-level industry professionals. Those on the top layer are generally aware of the benefits of integration. But sure, we have a long way to go for mainstreaming sustainability in the business.

Few years ago, three bright and smart looking specialists from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) came to see me in my office. They were quite snappy and a bit arrogant (perhaps because they were working for IFC) and looked at me as an “environmental consultant”. One of them said “Mr. Modak, you folks (he meant consultants) should read up and practice some of the paradigm shifts in environmental management – such as Cleaner Production. Most of you think only of “end of the pipe” solutions and that’s the problem”. The other two also chipped in.

I was simply amused and I said “How exciting? Never heard of this term Cleaner Production. Could you elaborate?” And they obliged me and expanded CP to introduce terms like Eco-efficiency and Green Productivity as well. And I heard my own words!

Later, my friend from IFC called me – who was their boss and said “Dr Modak, when will you give up this habit of telling that you know nothing and have a good laugh later – I apologize on behalf of my staff for getting you through Course-101 on Cleaner Production”.

I told her – it’s not their fault – but indeed discussions with them made me re-think about the intersections. Intersections are alright if they help in better integration.

 

Integration

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