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We have expertise in designing and implementing systems to source, process, use and reuse resources, materials and waste in a sustainable way.

Our work supports the mainstream adoption of sustainability concepts and the integration of sustainability principles into standard practices. Both the technical and human dimensions of resource usage in production and consumption cycles are considered. Doing so requires an understanding of the complex, multiple aspects of the resource lifecycle including:

- extraction, production and manufacture,
- packaging and waste creation,
- community behaviours and attitudes towards recycling,
- barriers and limitations to improved resource management and
- best practice options for local governments, producers and consumers.

We assist organisations to assess their needs and prioritise options on the basis of relative cost, effectiveness and broader sustainability dimensions. This enables them to translate innovative strategies into tangible projects to deliver real change.

Our work in this field includes different facets of resource futures, including:

Cover of packaging sustainability reportPackaging Sustainability: an assessment of global consumer goods companies. This research project was commissioned by Stewart Investors to investigate and evaluate progress being made towards packaging sustainability in emerging market consumer companies. The focus is on actions being taken to address environmental issues such as materials efficiency, the source of raw materials, and reuse or recycling of packaging at end of life.

Mineral Futures Collaboration ClusterThe Institute led the Commodity Futures part of this three year collaboration between CSIRO's Minerals Down Under flagship and five university research teams.

The GeRS-DeMo - or Geologic Resource Supply-Demand Model estimates the demand, production (from mines or fields) and recycling of any geologic resource. Specifically, it can be used to predict the historic and future production, amount of recycling and demand of a metal, fossil fuel, or mineral. Dr Steve Mohr, currently an Associate of the Institute, developed this model during his PhD research. He has used it successfully to model coal (black and brown), oil (conventional, shale, natural bitumen/tar sand and extra heavy oil), gas (conventional, tight, coalbed methane, shale) phosphorus, lithium, gold, nickel, copper resources. The model has been successfully used on world, country and regional levels.

The Institute for Sustainable Futures funded the development of the model into a format that could be used by all people and organisations.

The model currently only works on Windows 32 bit, and Excel 2007/2010. It does not work on Excel 2003 or other operating systems. If there is sufficient demand for the model to work in different platforms or older versions of excel, then resources will be spent fixing the macro accordingly. There is a illustrative step by step guide on how to install GeRS-DeMo, and Input.xlsm contains information on the model, and the inputs required as well as a blank input file ready for your use. Also included are five examples of input files that are ready to run at the click of a button.

Sustainable Food Futures: Sustainable food can be defined as food that is produced, processed and traded in ways that: (1) contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods; (2) protect the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species without damaging natural resources or contributing to climate change; and (3) provide social benefits to the community such as good quality food, safe and healthy food products and educational and learning opportunities. The environmental impact of our food choices is addressed in ISF's submission to the Environmental appendix of the NHMRC’s Australian Dietary Guidelines. View/download

The Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (opens an external link) was formed by the Institute and the Department of Water and Environmental Studies at Linkoping University, Sweden, to facilitate quality interdisciplinary research on global phosphorus security for future food security.

Container Deposit Legislation and Extended Producer Responsibility. We have conducted several projects in this area including an extensive independent review of container deposit legislation in New South Wales.

Download/view our Resource Futures capability statement.

Postgraduate topics

Big picture questions

The use of minerals and energy resources underpins the delivery of essential and non-essential services to our society. Our patterns of use give rise to impacts which are unsustainable. Additionally we discard enormous volumes of consumer waste to landfill - when is this a waste or an untapped resource?

- How would we cycle resources to provide services required in a sustainable economy?

- What new business models are required?
- What can be achieved at different intervention points?
- How is responsibility shared: government, producer, consumer?

- What role could industrial ecology play in providing a metaphor for the functioning of a sustainable economy?

For more information about this area contact Dr Damien Giurco.

Possible PhD topics

- Peak minerals and metals in Australia: strategies for maximising future value
- Minerals. metals and sustainability: perceptions and practices

Contact us

Damien Giurco