With the recently published report, Almaty became «the first city in Central Asia which completed a metabolic analysis to identify circular economy opportunities» . According to the material flow analysis results presented there, the city annually produces around 48,000 tonnes of sludge removed from wastewater that ends up being disposed to landfill , while all of the water is discharged back into the Ili river after passing through three consecutive treatment processes . Despite the government’s commitment for transition to a «green economy» and Almaty municipality’s aims to «improve the efficient use of water resources» , the city’s water management practices still very much in-line with «take-make-dispose» model of linear economics. And that is not specific to Almaty or Kazakhstan only. Circular solutions and research are still in their infancy all across Central Asia, even though the concept is viewed as operationalization of the sustainable development paradigm by scholars and practitioners alike , . Circularity of the region's water resources in particular is virtually uncharted territory both in terms of scientific inquiry and practical implications, while Central Asian states continue to account for the highest water withdrawals globally .
On the other hand, more developed parts of the world have made considerable progress applying the concept to their water sector. Within the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, among many other related initiatives, the European Union is implementing projects like Run4Life that is tasked with testing radically new concepts for wastewater treatment, nutrient recovery and subsequent safe reuse . If successful, the project has a potential to transform the industry allowing up to 100 % nutrient recovery and more than 90 % water reuse . But more importantly, by valorizing the waste through the production of organic fertilizer made from kitchen residues and human biological wastes carried by sewage waters, the scheme is designed to sustain itself economically, which is practically unachievable with more traditional water treatment facilities.
At the same time, the research on the Circular Economy is criticized for the lack empirical work (55 % empirical vs. 45 % conceptual), having significant bias towards more developed economies (95 % focus on developed economies vs. only 5 % focusing on developing economies), lack of advice to practitioners (81 % are targeted to scholar, 20 % — businesses and 28 % practitioners) , as well as disregard for the social dimension of circularity , , . Still significant share of conceptual work can be attributed to the infancy of the notion and scholars’ growing attempts to formulate what circularity actually means. Bias towards developed economies could be explained by the fact that even conceptual scientific work relies heavily on the availability of data, cases to study, policies being implemented or other practices that are more often delivered in developed countries. While the lack of advice to practitioner is rather a byproduct of the former two. But the lack of emphasis on social dimension is probably more troubling, as in order to serve as an operationalization of the sustainable development circularity, circularity needs to cover all three of its pillars.
Perhaps, the root cause of the problem is the fact that most researchers approach the concept mostly from economics perspective by looking, for example, into the cost and benefits, or economic valuation of environmental impact of circularity , . But, for the sake much argued holistic approach , , ,  or systems thinking that allows «to understand how individual decisions and activities interact within the wider systems they are part of» , wouldn’t it be more practical to examine the implications of the concept from the perspective of other fields as well, for instance social sciences? Imagine if the nutrient recovery from human biological wastes is introduced in Central Asia, where the population is predominantly Muslim. Apart from potential non-compliance with local sanitation norms and so called yuck factor — «the feeling of dread and disgust that is associated with consuming or buying agricultural products produced with reclaimed wastewater» , how much of a conflict between traditional perception and environmental behavior would there be, considering that using human excreta as a fertilizer can be viewed as haram  according to Islamic interpretation?
And perhaps, exploration of the circularity’s social dimension should employ the approach consistent with social scientific inquiry (e.g. surveys and interviews) in order find the answers, thereby allowing to map and understand potential institutional barriers, instead of trying to measure it with socioeconomic indicators like job creation and job retention . Such an approach would not only allow to take into account the components that are critical to «authentic adoption of evidence-based interventions» consistent with best practices of implementation science  and facilitate more measured enactment, but also to investigate the implications of circularity in a more empirical way, to expand the applicability of research to developing countries like Central Asia, and to work out the specific recommendations for practitioner, particularly policymakers, as a public perception is one of the variables in designing successful policy interventions.
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