BACKGROUND : The circular economy framework for human production and consumption is an alternative to the
traditional, linear concept of ‘take, make, and dispose’. Circular economy (CE) principles comprise of ‘design out
waste and pollution’, ‘retain products and materials in use’, and ‘regenerate natural systems’. This commentary
considers the risks and opportunities of the CE for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the context of the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), acknowledging that LMICs must identify their own opportunities, while
recognising the potential positive and negative environmental health impacts.
MAIN BODY : The implementation of the CE in LMICs is mostly undertaken informally, driven by poverty and unemployment.
Activities being employed towards extracting value from waste in LMICs are imposing environmental health risks including
exposure to hazardous and toxic working environments, emissions and materials, and infectious diseases. The CE has the
potential to aid towards the achievement of the SDGs, in particular SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and
SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). However, since SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) is critical in the pursuit of
all SDGs, the negative implications of the CE should be well understood and addressed. We call on policy makers, industry,
the health sector, and health-determining sectors to address these issues by defining mechanisms to protect vulnerable
populations from the negative health impacts that may arise in LMICs as these countries domesticate the CE.
CONCLUSION : Striving towards a better understanding of risks should not undermine support for the CE, which requires the full
agency of the public and policy communities to realise the potential to accelerate LMICs towards sustainable production and
consumption, with positive synergies for several SDGs.