Last week, the Environment Institute NSW Division (EIANZ) hosted its second innovation series, this time focusing on the circular economy and what it means to us in our work and daily lives.
Facilitated by the dynamic and energetic Nils Vesk, the evening was insightful and informative with some interesting discussion following presentations from panelists.
Candice Quartermain of Circular Economy Australia introduced the concept of the circular economy as a transition from the ‘take, make, dispose’ linear model we are currently entrenched in. Candice described how the realisation of the impact of consumer demands for new products and the supply chains of some of these products led her to quit her job and start working to build the circular economy movement in Australia as a solution.
Candice explained that the circular economy is based on a few simple principles:
- Design out waste
- Build resilience through diversity
- Think in systems
- Reply on energy from renewable sources
Several examples of the market starting to transition to a circular economy includes a compostable nappy business; Sendle – using reverse logistics to transport goods cheaply; using coffee grounds for products; and solar cars.
Damien Giurco, from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, outlined the ‘Wealth from Waste’ initiative that aims to map waste flows in Australia and identify urban metal stocks and opportunities. Damien outlined that we currently generate more than 2 tonnes of waste per person per year and that it is rising faster than GDP and population growth. Wealth from Waste advocates establishing a regional and national system of environment accounts, waste accounts and productivity targets.
Tom Davies, from Edge Environment, outlined some practical examples of businesses already taking advantage of the circular economy model by creating new products from their waste streams. Tom discussed the fact that the NSW Government is getting behind the circular economy programs aimed at reducing waste to landfill and revaluing resources in general. Tom sees the future in reverse logistics, discussion and cooperation and innovation.
Discussion from the audience was focused around bringing people along on the journey and the need to persist, be relentless. Finding unique problems to solve through the circular economy is hard but once found, have a big impact.
Thank you to EIANZ for running the event, Polyglot and Edge Environment for sponsorship.