Transcript: India and the Circular Economy (Part 2): Examples from the Off-Grid Solar Industry with Lucyl Staub
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: India and the Circular Economy (Part 2): Examples from the Off-Grid Solar Industry with Lucyl Staub
Katie Whalen [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Getting in the Loop podcast. I'm your host, Katie. And today is part two of our two part episode on the state of Circular economy in India.
[00:00:15] Hi, I'm Katie Whalen and join me. Each week I talk with experts around the globe about Circular economy. You'll find out what's being done to make it a reality.
[00:00:24] And if it can really solve the problems it promises, it's time for Getting in the Loop.
[00:00:35] Last week, we were joined by special guest host Lucyl Staub to hear from her experiences on the ground in India. Lucyl shared some interviews that she conducted with experts to learn more about the state of Circular economy currently in India. This week, we're looking ahead and seeing what is the potential for Circular economy in India in the future. And we have a special case from the solar panel industry. Lucyl is a young waste management and circular economy professional. She recently graduated with a master's of science in Environmental Management and policy from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics in Sweden. She also holds a master's of Science in Business Administration from Grenoble Business School. Lucille and I worked in collaboration on this episode and she will take over for me. And then a lot of the episode guiding us through interviews with experts to discover more about how India is moving towards a circular economy.
[00:01:39] As always, links and resources mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes on our website at gettingintheLooppodcast.com. Now on to part two of circular economy in India.
Lucyl Staub [00:01:55] Yes, is not going to share his perspective on the challenges that remain to advance the circular economy in the country.
Ulhas Parlikar [00:02:02] No, let's look at. The different kind, so for possibly this is for stability, economic economics, concern. See, in terms of that's my understanding of the circular economy is how do I really not utilize. The natural resource anymore. So everything that I do, I start managing with what I have. And that still also has to give me a opportunity to grow. You know, in terms of opportunities for employment, opportunities for innovations, et cetera, et cetera. And I strongly believe that, yes, there is anybody capable that even if you don't have to utilize the next level resources, because there's ample problem that we have created today, which can be sort of sort of improved, you know, by my going in all appropriate actions. So the challenges, of course, are about this. As I say that the enlightened levels, you know, educated than the top administrative people, they are all enlightened. But at the implementation level, I think there's very little that is happening. And that is a challenge. And somehow it needs to be addressed even in the government sector. But there it is, let's say one party, whether it is the coalition control board, whether it is the administrative bodies at the local levels, they do not have the proper knowledge or a drive global thing. So therefore, they would beg to remain business as usual scenario. So somebody needs to be. Something needs to be done. In addition, the second, you know, as a as a as a long term and a very powerful tool, of course, is to address the very, very shell of schooling. So these subjects or subjects similar to this or a line to this. Not in the purview of this particular school going children as of now. They still going from. But the capability that slogans have got to understand. Is not a limitation. They can understand it even if you tell them to do. A complex structure of the Circular economy, I'm sure Fassbender second standards humans can give you will be capably understanding. So I think that is so one thing very important, so that at that level they get enlightened and they also educate their parents and their peers. Everybody to do that. The third thing is the infrastructure, which means that. This this, you know, like I was talking to you a while ago, that a fountain pen is much better than a pen and ballpoint pen. In terms of the resource efficiency. So. That has to be some drive. Do or such innovations and there has to be some compulsive forces which also have to start working in that direction. So how do you really implement? So that is something I think that needs to be instituted through a policy approach. You know, I learned does that very recently. In China, for example, I don't relate on what I've just heard about it, is that. In cement manufacture, they're slowly reducing their capacity because they don't have so much equipment, put it. So to reduce their capacity of production, the plants have to stop production for it. It decided a number of base. So what the government is doing, that if someone is utilizing the waste as a resource, they're allowed to function last longer than the ones where you cleansing natural resources. So that's the incentive. Which will drive this thing. So similar. I think incentives need to be put for such a thing.
[00:06:38] Maybe, in fact, fiscal benefits, maybe in fact, structures, maybe in the interest rates which are required to be given for the infrastructure development and things like that. So that is something which is very important.
[00:06:51] I think that we need to bring a lot of awareness at the implementation level for for the for the bodies to take up and implement things. So I believe that and there are certain certain certain other challenges which probably, you know, technology, you may not have technology to do something which apparently will be a good thing to do. So government probably also has to encourage new applications, new products, new processes, which will bring efficiency into the system and does that in India in the Indian context. You know, there are some bodies which are working towards it, whether it is meet the I'll go with that I.D. or some CSI laboratories. They are trying to address them. But I think there has to be a very comprehensive approach which needs to be looked at maybe by defining, you know, in the sectors, maybe by defining priorities, maybe by defining some specific objective example, the requirements and encouraging the the research bodies to develop the processes, maybe find them, you know, in a manner that they will be quickly done.
[00:08:17] Maybe there has to be some kind of a review mechanism and sort of a what you call that steering committee, you know, which are very aggressively looking at how well things are moving. So there's a proper review monitoring process in place so that, you know, more and more such research activities will happen. The the the the student body know they need to be excited in terms of far if they develop some kind of the process, you know, encouraging them to get in enterprise more by giving them, you know, maybe interest free loans or maybe grants or maybe anything of that kind. So that's how I think things will start moving. And then I'm sure, you know, there will be a lot of opportunities which will open up in the process. There was that evolution of IP, you know, maybe from 1980s and 1990s. I think there should be a revolution to a circular economy in the same manner from now on by giving that kind of, you know, supportive environment, you know, for it to go.
Lucyl Staub [00:09:28] After this long list of challenges described by Ulhas, Archana is going to describe as one of the industry specific challenges faced by four key members.
Archana Datta [00:09:38] From industry perspective, I think I can talk about two challenges right now. One is, of course, the conducive policy landscape of hospital, where there is this policy to self-sufficiency policy which has already been dropped into the same industry. But then alarmed a lot will depend on how this policy is implemented. And in terms of state specific intervention, it's not just the Ministry of Environment and Forests who's come up with the Nazi policy proposal of the sector specific ministries like Ministry of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. You have to come up with the fiscal incentives and create the whole ecosystem around mainstreaming both those circular economy, which is another challenge which we can challenge and an opportunity which we can.
[00:10:28] Talk about purist.
[00:10:31] That industry has long been demanding for an institution or institutional body, which could be a circular economy promotion book, which really held industry as well as the other players in the ecosystem, long kind of action. Initiated this, which can be scaled up and down Main Street.
Lucyl Staub [00:10:52] Quite interestingly, these points that I just mentioned have been also highlighted by Rajat especially on the need for more cedar and policies to advance the Circular economy transition.
Rajat Batra [00:11:05] So one of the things that we, particularly in our own work, have been trying to promote is the concept of lean manufacturing. And not surprisingly, when we speak to industry bodies and government agencies to promote manufacturing in India, we told please don't be anti national. And the. And I fully understand where they're coming from. It's that moment India opens up the market for the manufacturing that is at risk that we will start becoming a dumping cause for waste.
[00:11:45] So it's a fine balance when it's to frame the image, to promote lean manufacturing, to extend the life of products at the same time, we don't want to be treated as the start ups. The word. So these kind of issues need a policy, it's very sensitive policy and unfortunately.
[00:12:08] Sometimes one just sees one aspect.
[00:12:13] So I think it partly is complicated more than endure because we know that implementation of legislation is weak. So even if rules exist to prevent dumping of materials based automatic use product, it should.
[00:12:35] Just the legislation alone is not enough, so we need something more. I don't know what is to find to find that hard, to ensure that we get the benefit without having to face the negative repercussions. Another big challenge for our country is the fact that. Good thirds of industrial production is done by small and medium enterprises. A holiday, we reach out to them.
[00:13:04] It's one thing to be speaking to the miners and the Tatas of Indian industry who have the knowhow, who had the management strength to have the capital structures in place to investigate, analyze and implement circular business market. Record of autism is. It's then amazing what we're trying to do is to develop circular economy models for assembly, so trying to really simplify things explains. I think.
[00:13:39] At the moment, we are at a stage of even understanding of harness racing. So you're starting with that and going forward to be.
[00:13:51] The focus to get the assembly is to understand and see the business value, not to see this as a. Legislative constraint on their business, but rarely as an opportunity. How do you lead new business opportunities? If you use the circular economy lens looking at the outside.
[00:14:20] Very often we find that when we speak with policy makers or senior people in the industry, we always get this answer that, oh, you know, traditionally Indian society has been very sustainable.
[00:14:42] That is circular. Just true. There is a lot of history of not using reusable containers. I think this is true for all over the world. It's only in some decades that weaves the world shifted with these unsustainable practices on, let's say, charter life of products and planned obsolescence. And, you know, all of those modern analogies.
[00:15:10] So I think I really look forward to finding this nice bridge between a large chunk of the Indian population are finding a lot of bridge for the large Indian population, which is still following very sustainable practices, but has high aspirations.
[00:15:33] So for India to adopt this early, it really makes sense because we don't need to make all the mistakes that the other nations or their economies have done.
[00:15:43] And we could work directly from. Hard core, sustainable, low consumption patterns to high quality of life without unsustainable consumption patterns.
Lucyl Staub [00:15:58] And finally, let's hear Yogesh describing additional challenges linked to awareness, accounting systems, reverse logistics and policies.
Yogesh Bedi [00:16:09] First and foremost is the current awareness levels of this concept. What does a common man off the issues like sustainability, circular economy, etc? How does it concern? What is in it for him? He has to be made aware that the circular economy has implications. For each and every individual on the. For example, this Japanese town of copycats. It uses and recycles it, people sent off its trash and is almost zero based on. The trash is separated in 34 different categories. You talk to any citizen of it and they will probably explain about this initiative, the methodology, its implications, etc.. Linda, most of the cities of the world are in dispute. Then there is the way the costs related to Circular economy are treated, the cost accounting in the current accounting standards aligned to traditional media paradigms. The negative cost of medical waste of an emissions. Other pollutants is not considered. And that is a inhibition. For corporates to embark on this journey as the circular economy path would appear to be more costly as compared to the leap, but which is not the case. Then the Circular economy is largely dependent on reverse logistics and supply chain. The first line often starts with the electrical and goes on through various stages before reaching the mission. The channel and ecosystem is not there to handle such large scale lessons. I mean, good policy framework from the government is required. Which will work as a guide for the industry. It would propagate and promote an eco system for all its members.
Katie Whalen [00:17:59] Katie here. I am back with Lucyl, and we're going to have a bit of a wrap up since we have been discussing about the future state of circular economy and potential opportunities in India. I wanted to have a chat with Lucille about her work because it is closely aligned with that. But first, I want to say thank you to Lucille for doing such an amazing job with interviewing these experts and producing this episode and taking the time to guest host. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with you and I can't thank you enough.
Lucyl Staub [00:18:36] Thanks so much, Katie, for this great opportunity.
Katie Whalen [00:18:39] Well, I hope we'll get to work more in the future together in some capacity. But listening and thinking back to what you've uncovered, when I was listening to these interviews, some of them some of the challenges that you have pointed out and the ways forward that the experts have brought up systems for reverse logistics and different policies to incentivize circular economy. Many of these sound familiar to what we've also been seeing and hearing from companies and individuals in Europe. But one of the things that kind of stood out is this emphasis on how to make it socially inclusive. So this idea of inclusive, inclusive city. And yet for me, I think it was a little bit interesting because I don't necessarily. Well, circular economy at least how I see it doesn't. Emphasized particularly social inclusion and also just social issues in general. It's kind of this aspect of it's a byproduct. We'll have job creations by doing things such as remanufacturing and repair. But it's not so much of the main focus or or core maybe as sustainability is. I'm curious, how do you what are your thoughts on that, Lucyl?
Lucyl Staub [00:19:59] Yeah, that's definitely one of the the bigger aspect, I think, in one of the key learning of this second episode.
[00:20:06] And actually that's that's very interesting because that's one of the main conclusion of my own research, which I would talk about in a couple of minutes. And so there's dead fleeing something specific about India, who still remains a developing country. And if it was a big opportunity for the country to not go for the same mistakes of developing countries in terms of growth and development. But how how do we make this socially inclusive is still a big question mark.
[00:20:38] And I think that's one of the key areas that I would probably look forward to when we talk about the Circular economy transition in the Indian context.
Katie Whalen [00:20:49] OK. So let's continue the discussion in terms of looking ahead. And I'd love to dove into you your research. Actually, I mean, the thing it's perfect. It's looking ahead and it's taking one example of advancing the circular economy in a specific industry in India. So could you tell us a little bit about the research that you did because you've been looking at specifically off the grid solar products or the off the grid solar industry in India? Can you give us a little bit of insight into the background of this project?
Lucyl Staub [00:21:24] Sure. So in April 2019, I had the chance to go to Delhi with the institute.
[00:21:31] I was doing my masters in eventual management and policy, and this work was to do some consultancy consultancy work for the practice based module of our program. So along with three of my classmates, I had the opportunity to go to work for an Indian Airways producer responsibility organisation called Carousel Sinbad, and they're based in Delhi. At the end of our consulting mission, I was so eager to learn more about E waste in the Indian context because it's a fascinating topic that I went to ask the CEO and the founder of the organisation called Prince You single. If we could collaborate more for my thesis and I asked him if I could work on the topic of solar waves, because for our consultancy project we've seen that solar waste was becoming more and more of a topic in the Indian context. So based on that, he then put me in contact with the consulting group Sophie's, which is currently performing a blueprint for recycling of operate solar products in India. And if you're eager to learn more about what Sophie's is doing in that space, the name of the project is called A Swap. It's a solar waste action plan. And so thanks to the support both in particularly but also financially of the team of the Sophie's team, which more specifically I refer to. For the record, Melanie DeFelice could snack well and keep capacity. I really had the unique opportunity to go back to Delhi to spend two months for my thesis work and to look specifically on the topic of so-called business strategies in the solar industry.
Katie Whalen [00:23:07] Wow. So I think it's so great. And that's also one of the I think the emphasis of the master's program at the institute where, you know, you're an alumni. I'm currently working on the fact that you have these practical experiences to actually get out of the building and do aspects related to environmental management and policy. But in practice. So this is great. How you took something that was a module and then did extra initiative to make it and turn it into something that you continued as your thesis. Why focus on off grid solar products in India?
Lucyl Staub [00:23:43] Well, to they ingest all accounts about twelve percent of its population without access to electricity, even though that number is highly and varies highly depending on the sources you're looking at. But let's say there's about eight to 12 percent of that population which still acts without access to electricity, and more than 90 percent of that population lives in rural areas, which are often dies by being remote. And those can repopulated and therefore to achieve universal electrification, the country, the central was of energy such as upward. So solutions become necessary because of the rig extensions is pretty tricky, both technically but also financially. More specifically, I've read solar products are seen as a crucial tool. So ensure real energy access. Also reduce poverty and mitigate climate change. So both contributors stimulus, a sustainable deal among goals. These products for those for the listeners of their podcast are not really familiar. What is it? Afraid free a product really is? Well, it's composed usually if it's a little bit of photovoltaic panel, sometimes a torch controller and inverter and also a battery, either lead acid battery or lithium based battery. And some luminaries usually compose of leading lights. Generally, they can power one to several lights and some of them can also charge mobile phones, and in the case of larger appliances, they can also power TV's and fans. And so these products have been gaining a lot of ground in a country, and India is actually today the largest single market in the world for updates of products and is also expected to grow in the coming year. So that makes sense to both an appraisal of products and in this context.
Katie Whalen [00:25:34] OK. So an off the grid solar product would be something that's. Helping to bring electricity into a rural area.
Lucyl Staub [00:25:44] Yeah, sure. But then you might ask yourself. But why, looking at circular economy and circular business strategies and that's for that topic.
[00:25:54] Well, these products have shown a lot of mental, economic and social benefits and have a strong market success. In India, there's a growing concern about the end of life or slow persistence in general. And this is because these product contains both valuable materials such as metals and rare earth materials, but also hazardous ones, which can lead to negative and regional impacts if they're dumped or if they're informally recycled, which happens a lot in countries with poor management systems such as India.
[00:26:25] And so in an inexpensive case of operating a product, the volumes of end of life, lithium batteries and solar panels are expected to rise soon. For lithium ion lithium based batteries, it's in 2019. And for solar panels, it's about adding 20 24. So these are very strange. That should be watch pretty pretty fast and from a research perspective. There's been a lot of growing publications on the scale of the solar waste issue. The technologies for recycling, things that we can use and also the appropriate policies to manage solar panels at the end of life. But actually very little research has been done on what the elephant macro information calls the inner loop strategies, which means the Chinese that can enable to preserve the product and its materials are the ICE utility. And so in this context, I was specifically interesting. I'm looking at repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing because Sophie's was already doing some work on the recycling part.
[00:27:30] And in addition, there's a block of research in that sector on how to operationalize this signal assizes into viable business models.
[00:27:41] But we know from a research perspective, that's one of the key lever of the transition, is to design viable separately business models and therefore it makes sense to look at.
[00:27:51] All right.
Katie Whalen [00:27:52] Let's say to take a circle of business, more approach on this topic, especially since what you are saying in terms of this, the issues and the environmental impacts. If there if these off the grid solar products are dumped or informally recycled, then it would maybe make sense to look from a business perspective, because depending on this business model that you have, then you maybe you will be able to take back these off grid solar products and be able to reuse them or extend their lives, or at least they wouldn't be dumped informally. And they would be they would be collected. Exactly. OK. So what did you then do? What were you doing on the ground in India and trying to uncover these viable circular business models?
Lucyl Staub [00:28:42] So while I've been conducting a case study trying to explore the potential for repair with fresh mint and manufacturing strategies and business models for the upgrades our industry needs, and to do this, I only looked at two products, which are the two main product categories on the upgrade silver market, which our sole internal sense alarm systems and so will interns. Our small appliances, portable appliances with solar panel usually integrated in the product while so systems a larger appliances which are not portable and which I hope was a fool. Will big large solar panel that you would put on on the roof, for example. So these ones are very larger appliances and they can also power larger appliances shows as TV and fan. So we talking about very two distinct products.
[00:29:37] And so I spent a month in the country to perform interviews.
[00:29:41] I had the chance to talk to about 18 people from several stakeholder groups and mostly what we call original equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Also, some foundations and incubators in the energy space, social enterprises, research institutes and NGOs. So a big point here is that I didn't get the chance to talk to policy makers, which doesn't give a full picture of the topic. And my research was driven by framing questions.
[00:30:12] The first one, too, was to understand which circle of business models can emerge in India to extend public life of solar home systems and solar winters. Then to understand which business models can be design in such contexts, and finally to look at what are the drivers and barriers that still remain to engage with such public life extension strategies and business model. So yeah, that's what I did. What I've done for four months in total. For two months in India.
Katie Whalen [00:30:43] Yeah. And you were doing this on side while you're working on this this August episode as well. So that's impressive. Rafael Okay. Well, I'm assuming that your thesis is probably available to the general public so we can link the full report in the notes of this episode, but just give us a little taster of what you uncovered.
Lucyl Staub [00:31:04] Sure. Well, among the free product life extension cited that I was looking at. So we paired with abridgement and remanufacturing. The biggest finding is that we pair would definitely be the strategy that could more easily emerge on the Indian markets in combination with refurbishment and remanufacturing. For this, I've identified three strategies that could catalyze repayment and services. So the first one was to integrate what we call the remote monitoring system into a solar home system. So a remote monitoring system is an Internet of Things technology that can be easily added to the products to monitor the performance of the system from a distance.
[00:31:50] So that's actually very convenient because we're talking about rural areas in India, which are very spread out in the country and difficult and difficult to be to have access to. So being able to identify how the systems performs from a distance and being able to then give a quick call to consumers and say, you know, you probably could do this, this and that to increase the performance of the system is already a very good steps when we're talking about repair and managed services.
[00:32:20] The second one was to provide annual amendments contract to what we also call extending warranty. So currently in India, sole interns only have in the base case scenario, one year warranty. And so the home systems are too Randi. How? That's pretty pretty fast. The the battery will die. And so once the battery dies, it becomes almost impossible for the consumer to do anything with the product. And so the whole the whole system will die.
[00:32:51] So if we're able to extend the warranty of these products, then consumers will be more inclined to to call their services, the consumer services, and to get their products backed or replaced. The third strategy was to enable lithium ion battery replacement. So as I just mentioned today, most products, the battery is the weakest links of the product.
[00:33:21] And when the battery dies, there's almost no way for a consumer to be able to append the product itself, himself or herself, and to be able to change the battery. And this is also because there's no almost no spare parts available to replace that battery. So if we could design products to integrate those challenges, then we could significantly extend the life of solar systems and solar lanterns.
Katie Whalen [00:33:51] OK. So repair then and be able to have more maintenance. Seems like a kind of a good solution, but I imagine that's quite challenging to implement in practice if it's not already being done. Did you touch on that a little bit?
[00:34:06] So, yes, there's definitely a lot of challenges that remain. And it's it's hard to implement in practice. And the most important ones highlighted by injuries towards repair include the non adaptability of the product designed to repair activities and also the non ET ability f. standardize spare parts. An additional point is that it's difficult to provide the repair services at the last mile because of how far away rural households are located. But if you look at systems such as the remote monitoring system, that already would help significantly to reduce the need to travel to the rural households themselves. And then another point that I highlighted as a force potential strategy is to create a coalition between engine manufacturers and suppliers for repair and services, because today all of the brands that I've been pushing for repair and many services are on the individual grants and they don't join forces at all. However, there is a huge country and it's already hard for them to have access to consumers commercial from rural areas. So therefore, there's a higher need to join forces. When we're talking about taking back products or ensuring services on the ground. And so them this coalition could maybe enable economies of scales and this could increase the customer's trust in the repairs and also and consequently they really makes to pay for such services, which today is perceived as still being low. And maybe some specific points that. That really show hot in jail is unique. There's one thing that could really shift the situation that manufacturers and suppliers are currently in. It's to increase or to make more stringent the tendering requirements for repayments. So only to specify a little bit, a little bit. What happens on the Indian market. The Indian government has played a huge role in the operate solar industry. I mean, the solar market by procuring numerous electrons and to loan assistance. And this is still the case, even though there's a shift or a shift which is likely to happen towards solar pumps in the future. But if these if the government was to increase the tendering requirements to include repair and then services or to make it more stringent and not only on paper, but also to be able to monitor it on the ground, then that could significantly create a shift in the industry and push manufacturers and suppliers to integrate, to be trained in the services in their business model.
Katie Whalen [00:36:58] Do you see any movement in this area from different geos or other organizations?
[00:37:06] I know you didn't get the chance to talk to some policy makers, but I know I wish I could say I wish I could give a different answer.
Lucyl Staub [00:37:16] But that's not what I've been hearing on the ground. However, in India, things can happen really fast. So I hope that there's going to be some change in the future. Yes.
Katie Whalen [00:37:28] Yeah. Well, maybe someone will listen to this episode and want to work on on it as well. Right? So who knows.
Lucyl Staub [00:37:36] Yeah. Let's let's hope for it. Yeah. And if I can touch base on the two of his five days which are refurbishment and remanufacturing probably for those of you. Lord similar risk the strategies, they remain more difficult to implement than than repair services in India. That's the same thing. In the case of refurbishment, enduring challenges remain and these include the difficulty to be able to supply use products at the right quality price and volumes. And also, they're still unproven technical feasibility of refurbishing Swanson solar lanterns. Most of the interviewees raised the question. Does I mean to be able to refurbish a solar panel? What does it mean to be able to refurbish lithium ion battery? But there's new actors in that space that shows that there's pockets going on, but it's not yet there on the market. And one of the biggest barriers that they face is the policy areas that remain in refurbishment. So today, refurbishment is considered almost as an illegal activity and design is part of the gray economy or the informal sector. So this truly stops numerous actors that will want to get in that space of looking at refurbishing solar panels, refurbishing my best batteries because that are almost considered as as illegal. So the next things that could happen or could push similar business models in the country would be to either. Conducted a true palette and what to get the answers to these questions and also to probably. Do it on the need basis and refurbish second hand. So the home systems for communities that don't have access to this apartment in the first place. As the nation's two disadvantaged communities. But there's a lot that needs to happen that needs to be done. From a business model experimentation perspective before with sufficient can really be considered as a as a true opportunity by the industry.
Katie Whalen [00:39:51] Wow. OK. I had never really even thought to consider that it would be seen as some sort of illegal activity. So, yeah. That's fascinating to think about as well. And it's not just like a policy issue potentially as well, but maybe also a mental shift for some. For some consumers, if you've been associating it for so long, it's something that's that shouldn't be done and you have to have new products, then it's not just this change in the policy that would maybe even make it happen, but just also then creating awareness about it from a customer perspective as well.
Lucyl Staub [00:40:32] And because most of these products are seen sometimes as emergency lights, as a backup system, in any case, they access the great goes down. Then there's some of them, or at least there there's the risk or the perception that these products would not be best fitted in, that they're not new. Because there are emergency products, you need them to work when you are in that situation. So that's definitely something that needs to change from a consumer perspective as well.
Katie Whalen [00:41:06] Yes. That's a very good point. And in terms of so we talked about a repair and refurbishment. So then kind of thinking the sort of the last the last strategy before you get to recycling is more of remanufacturing. My guess is that that wouldn't be also really much the case considering these issues that you have just with potential to refurbish. But what did you uncover, Lucille, in terms of remanufacturing and opportunities there?
Lucyl Staub [00:41:36] Well, I guess that one of the first point is that it felt like some time, it's not really clear how refurbishment and manufacturing differs from one another. So there's a lack of awareness on what truly every manufacturing means. But for the interviews, I really had that expertise.
[00:41:55] Let's say they tell me one key, key point, which is India is not a manufacturer of fruits or components or it's not a big manufacturer. It's only an assembler. Therefore, that means that if you want to manufacture, you need to use components back to the manufacturing, which usually happens today in China. And that makes the whole logistic extremely complex and probably from a financial perspective, not worth it.
[00:42:27] So as long as India is not a true manufacturer in that space, manufacturing is definitely not seen as an opportunity.
[00:42:36] However, I think here is a big opportunity for the government to create incentives to push Indian manufacturers entering that space to think in advance and integrate design strategies for trainable repair, but also trainable remanufacturing at the end of life. There are such components and products. So there's there's a big opportunity. And that's one of the. Strong recommendation of them are the pieces, and I hope that new industries and new actors.
[00:43:13] In the manufacturing space in India, I would take this into account.
Katie Whalen [00:43:18] When hearing you talk about this, it is shocking to me in terms of that this these types of products are off grid. Solar products are so great because they allow so many people to have access to electricity that haven't had this beforehand. And we are sort of in this unique stage where we can now change how those products will be distributed and then also afterwards, like how they're going to be collected and. Dealt with that end of life. But no one it seems like no one's really thinking about it so much or it is a little bit happening here and there, but there's no unified approach. And it would be a great opportunity now to have sort of this unified approach, considering these products are going to be coming off the off the market, not off the market, but they're gonna be coming back and being disposed of and sort of reaching their end of life, at least of the ones that have been put on the market a couple of years back. They're now starting to come off the market. So, yeah, it seems like it's something should be done about this is prime time for something to be done about this.
Lucyl Staub [00:44:32] Yeah, and you highlight a very good point here is that. And I think it's one of the main takeaways of my research is that integrating repair strategies essentially in several companies business model really can promote social sustainability and it failed here that- There's a big ethical debate on these products because they are so crucial because they being able to have access to electricity and they are supposed to unlock so many, so many economic and social benefits.
[00:45:09] So if you're not ensuring that these product can unlock these benefits for more than a year or more than two years. Then what's the point then? Then is this a big ethical debate? And even more importantly.
[00:45:22] Because we're talking about rural households with very limited buying power. Some of these households and many of them go to microfinance institutions to be able to buy these products.
[00:45:33] So people get in in depth to be able to get these products and then they're not working properly. And they don't have the support that is supposed to have. So that's one of the key.
[00:45:46] The key points here is there's a huge opportunity to make this this change. And that has tremendous impact also on how people perceive solar technology as a whole. And that has really intervening repair services and many services and business models. Couldn't really repair or been rebuild customer trust, and so technologies, I've heard so many interviewing interviewees saying to me people don't believe in solar anymore because.
[00:46:17] They have tried it and it doesn't work. After six months or maybe there's simple things to be fixed that they don't get the support they're supposed to have. So that really is a big opportunity for the industry to keep on building that trust and to make their technology grow. Because. We need it. And it's supposed to unlock so many individual social and economic benefits.
Katie Whalen [00:46:45] Yeah. Yeah. Wow. I was shaking my head when you were saying about the going in debt because of the different financing things. And I think this highlights such an important issue of consumer trust and the the ethical sort of issues. And I can see now why a lot of the interviewees that you discussed circular economy with, why maybe some of them were stressing this inclusive city and the social aspect of if you're going to change something and you're going to talk about circular economy, then we better talk about inclusive city as part of it because of the way that it's currently being done is a little bit questionable.
Lucyl Staub [00:47:29] But I got to say that maybe we don't see so much happening right now in the Indian space. Well, that's actually not true. I had the chance to interview some. Very unique organization on a very small scale that do great work. And they're really showing that, yes, beginning to great to be permanent services. Yes, we can push this further.
[00:47:54] While the larger organizations start releasing that opportunity. But I feel that is a big gap between the innovating small organization on the ground and the larger manufacturers. At least that's what I've seen on the Indian space, and then I had the opportunity to talk to two organizations are doing amazing work in the field, which is the Solar Watch project from the University of Endeavor and so works. And these organizations have really integrated several of business energies in their business model or leasing their project, because some of them are not truly on the market, but they've really shown to the industry this is possible. We can make it OpenTable. We can make partner easily dismantled. We can provide standardize spare parts. We can teach people how to repair these products themselves. So they really going to the industry that we can do things differently. I think we we can expect some changes happening in the next couple of years. I'm on that field.
Katie Whalen [00:48:57] Great. Wow. We've covered so many topics today, Lucyl, and your thesis sounds like such a great piece of work. You've uncovered so many different issues related to off grid solar panels and also what is happening just in India. Regarding the state of circular economy now, I'm excited to start wrapping up this interview, this two part episode with the question that I ask all of the interview guests that come on the In the Loop podcast, which is about the event that you would create for the In the Loop game. So I think you've played a different game of mine. I don't think you had the chance to play in the loop. Actually, we we played a different one during your your Masters program, but you've heard the premise a little bit of in the loop. But I'll just repeat it for those of the listeners who haven't had the chance to play it. So in the game, you're a product producing company and you have to travel around the board to collect the materials that are in your product. And one of the products actually is a solar panel. So I think this fits quite well with the topic of today. And then there's different events that happen in the game that changed the market conditions. So it really gets participants thinking about should they go for a more linear strategy or should they go for more circular strategy? And nine times out of 10, the more circular strategy is the way to go. My question for you, Lucille, is what event would you create given the opportunity to create an event for the in the loop game?
Lucyl Staub [00:50:39] Great question. I think I'll go for creating the government, creating new incentives for manufacturing companies. And this incentive will be to better integrate design strategies into product manufacturing.
[00:50:57] So, yeah, I think that would be my my whole life is my dream to see this actually becoming real. So let's let's put in the game.
Katie Whalen [00:51:05] Yeah. Excellent. So we'll have some sort of incentive or policy decision and that incentivizes repair of solar panels or take back or things like that. Yeah, I like it.
Lucyl Staub [00:51:17] Yeah. Always. Yeah. Incentivize design for disassembly like. Yeah.
[00:51:24] Excellent. So we can get all those valuable materials back and maybe even re manufacture these solar panels at the end of their lives. Yeah. I'll be the best. Well I can't thank you enough for this special episode that you have put together. And again, it's just amazing work and I'm so excited for this to air. Before we go, I just like to have a moment to ask you, like what's next? Because you now graduated from your master's program. So what's next, Lucyl?
Lucyl Staub [00:51:56] Well, I'm hoping to get into the circular economy fields as a young professional. I just recently moved to Amsterdam and I'm pretty excited to work in the Netherlands because nothing has been deeply at the forefront of the Circular economy transition and discussion work. So I hope I can be part of that exciting journey. So if you want to connect with me, just reach out to me either on LinkedIn, so with my name being Lucyl Staub, L-U-C-Y-L space S-T-A-U-B a newbie and you can probably find a link to my email address. So just feel free to email me.
Katie Whalen [00:52:38] Yes. And we'll have the links to Lucyl's linked in and of course, the resources that we've talked about and her thesis on the Website GettingintheLoopPodcast.com. Lucyl, I wish you the best of luck. And the Netherlands is the perfect place to be doing circular economy. So I know you're going to find something great in that field there because. Yeah, you're now an expert in off the grid solar panels and circular economy in India.
[00:53:10] Thanks so much, Katie was really, really, really excited to to share their results of this work and to be part of that. Guys, thanks so much.
[00:53:25] Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode or show notes and links. Go to our Web site at getting in the loop podcast dot com. And while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week.
About the Show
Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.