Federal and state circular economy plans a good start
With recent announcements by the Australian and NSW governments, progress is being made towards a shared vision for a circular economy.
Resources are fundamental to our society and well-being. Yet rapid industrialisation and urbanisation have put immense pressure on the world’s natural resources, degrading fragile ecosystems, and now renewable energy and digital technologies are driving new demands.
At the same time, societies are becoming increasingly wasteful – the International Resource Panel estimates annual resource use per capita will grow by over 70 per cent by 2050.
Smarter and more efficient use of resources presents an opportunity to mitigate the threats of resource scarcity and adverse environmental impacts while reaping economic benefits of $US 2 trillion annually by 2050.
This opportunity has not gone unnoticed.
Change is well underway overseas, with Australia beginning to catch up. Countries and businesses alike are developing strategies to decouple resource use from economic growth, while promoting environmental health and social well-being.
The concept of circular economy – where systems of production and consumption are transformed to restore and maximise the value of products and materials through innovative design, durability, sharing, re-use, repair, refurbishing, remanufacturing, recycling and regeneration, while minimising resource use, emissions and waste – is creating a new vision for sustainable economies.
NSW Government circular economy draft policy
This week,. The draft policy outlines the principles and ideas that can help to shape the approach to resource use and waste management in NSW. ISF and international partner Ricardo supported the policy development work by undertaking research on circular economy best practice internationally.
NSW’s draft policy comes amid the growing global movement towards circular societies. The second World Circular Economy Forum is currently underway in Japan, while earlier this year Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates committed to join the major global initiative PACE, Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy. Also this year, the EU’s latest policy evolution, the EU Circular Economy Package, continues to build on work since 2014.
Just this year, circular economy strategies have been adopted in France and Slovenia (joining Scotland, Finland, Netherlands, Italy and Portugal), and cities London, Brussels, Ontario, Auckland, Guiyang (China) – plus regions of Spain and Belgium, along with long-time resource efficient countries Germany and Japan.
Federal Government national waste policy update
Back in Australia, the Federal Government has just closed a consultation on updating the National Waste Policy to include circular economy principles.
While the proposed principles, targets and strategies in the National policy are a good start, in ISF’s view, they represent only a modest evolution, strengthening Australia’s recycling economy, with some acknowledgement of the need to avoid waste through reduction, reuse and repair. Read ISF's full submission to the National Waste Policy.
Crucially, the principles in the draft NSW policy go beyond recycling and the waste hierarchy, to reimagine how we produce, assemble, sell and use products and services, to truly transition to a circular economy.
Circular Economy Lifecycle. Source: NSW Government, Too good to waste: NSW Circular Economy Statement.
Examples of how our economy might be transformed include new business models that provide:
- Products as services, through sharing/collaborative consumption initiatives, pay-for-use, leasing/take backs/upgrades, performance purchasing agreements, etc.
- Transformed products, including modular design of dismantable components, allowing for easier upgrade, repair and refurbishment for extended life, and reassembly and remanufacture for next life, plus designing for recyclability at end-of-life.
- New collection services to consolidate and redistribute products, components and materials, between consumers and between consumers and business to enable reuse, reselling, repair, reassembly, remanufacture, recycling and recovery
- Innovative recycling, leveraging new technologies and capabilities to recover almost any type of resource at a level of value equivalent to, or even above, that of the initial material.
These new ways of doing things provide a range of benefits to society, including:
Collaborating for systemic change
ISF works with organisations to identify and evaluate opportunities to avoid, reuse and recover waste and adopt new circular economy business models. We have designed, piloted and evaluated strategies for technology, policy and behaviour change, from household interventions to precinct level strategies. Our team’s experience and expertise in mapping and modelling the stocks and flows of resources, appraising novel technology and business models, and creative stakeholder engagement also supports strategy and policy development for responsible resource management.
ISF’s research on the circular economy for the NSW Government builds off previous work for the Wealth from Waste research cluster which explored opportunities to ‘mine’ above ground resources, such as the metals contained in discarded manufactured products and consumer goods. From this Wealth from Waste developed a , with recommendations for broadening the focus beyond metals.
ISF also designed and facilitated a workshop on behalf of the Waste Management Association Australia to round out the Enviro’18 conference, bringing cross-industry stakeholders together to discuss Advancing a circular economy in Australia and developing a suite of recommended strategies and policy approaches.