Hume City Council

The Victorian council taking a community-driven approach to its circular transition

QUICK FACTS:

  • Hume City Council has 240,000 residents,15,000 businesses and 110,000 jobs.

  • 50% of the jobs in Hume are in the manufacturing, transport and logistics sectors.

  • The circular economy could add $903 million to GRP and create 1,500 jobs per year in Hume by 2040.

Hume is a peri-urban city north of Melbourne that's home to over 240,000 residents, 15,000 businesses and the Tullamarine Airport. The northern part of the city is a designated 'growth corridor' and its expanding population and large industrial hubs have created the perfect testing ground for circular economy opportunities.  

Hume City Council is recognised as a progressive municipality when it comes to implementing circularity, having commenced its journey more than two years ago. The council completed a business case for circularity in mid-2021, the first stage in its roadmap Towards Hume as a Circular City. The city is now embarking on a series of projects to engage with the community to realise its circular economy vision. 

We sat down with two members of Hume's Economic Development team — George Osborne, Manager of Economic Development, and Ian Davies, who heads up the council's Circular Business Network — to learn more about Hume's circular economy efforts.  

WHO   

George Osborne has been the Manager of Economic Development at Hume City Council for over 10 years. As part of his role, he supports the Business Engagement and Development team which houses the Circular Business Network. Led by Ian Davies, the Circular Business Network is harnessing circular economy opportunities for the city. 

"We've got a very large industrial base in Hume. Approximately 50 per cent of the 15,000 businesses and 110,000 jobs in the region are in manufacturing, transport and logistics. Those sectors are absolutely ripe for exploring circularity as a means to improve their business processes in so many ways," George explains.  

The Circular Business Network evolved from the Business Efficiency Network, which was set up in 2008 to engage with business on sustainability. This work has given Hume a head-start when it comes to getting support for circular economy initiatives. 

Ian says the size of Hume's Economic Development team, which is some 20 people strong, also gives the council an advantage when it comes to resourcing new programs for business and gaining broad community outreach.  

"We are in a growth corridor and we're a pretty big council, whether by population or area. We have a relatively high unemployment rate and a lot of challenges. We also have a sizeable community for whom English is not their first language."

"Because of the deemed needs of the area we tend to be reasonably well resourced, through funding from various levels of state and federal government."

VISION  

"With the business industry mix that we have in Hume, our view is that development and adoption of the circular economy as a key tenet will help create new jobs, drive economic growth through attracting new and smart businesses, reduce waste and cut pollution. The whole thing will also be supported by a much stronger recycling system," George says.   

For the City of Hume, transitioning to a circular economy involves the following interrelated and evolving activities: 

  • Preparing a business case which looks at material flows across the city, completed August 2021. 

  • Community engagement and building awareness of the circular economy. 

  • Identifying circular economy training needs, developing short courses to meet these needs and planning various events to showcase the circular innovations that are already happening in the city. 

  • Establishing a Circular Economy Taskforce to provide a whole of community, business, education and government resource, providing strategic guidance to enable delivery of programs. 

  • Building on the success of the Circular Advantage training program for business, launched in 2020 in a collaborative partnership with the City of Kingston in Melbourne’s south-east, by developing other training courses tailored for SMEs.   

  • Creating an environment for, and network of, Circular Champions and Pioneers.  

Hume's circular economy trajectory is detailed in the Towards Hume as a Circular City roadmap (available for viewing below) which was delivered by KPMG in April of this year. The council worked with KPMG to complete the first stage of the roadmap — the business case. The global professional services firm conducted industry mapping, material flow analysis, cost benefit analysis and set economic benchmarks to form the business case for a circular Hume.   

The council is now moving into the next stage of circular economy development — community engagement and awareness building. The council is being assisted in these endeavours by Circular Economy Victoria (CEV) and Victoria University in a program it calls Collaborate to Thrive. This forms preparatory work for development of a Circular Activator Hub planned for Hume. 

Both George and Ian emphasise the importance of taking a top-down and bottom-up approach to the process of transitioning their city.     

"The top-down approach was the business case from KPMG and that's given us the information to understand our city and where the opportunities lie from the circular economy," Ian says.  

"Then, we are working with CEV to deliver the community program, which is about engaging with the community with the concept of circularity from the bottom up," George adds.   

HOW   

Hume's circular economy journey began with an inter-departmental working group, convened by George in 2020. The Hume Circular Economy Sector (HCES) Working Group was made up of members from key council teams: Assets, Economic Development, Procurement, Strategic Planning, Sustainable Environment and Waste and Resource Recovery. The findings of the HCES working group were presented to Council in April 2021 when the proposition of Towards Hume as a Circular City was received positively and fully supported by Council.  

George and Ian both say that getting this 'buy in' from all levels of council has allowed the project to progress quickly. Now that council is on board, they can shift their focus to the community.   

"George and I have really determined that we want this transition to be community driven, and Council supported," Ian says.  

Instead of focusing their efforts on internal council education and policy development, they are looking outward to form external partnerships and collaborations.  

"Getting engaged meaningfully in the circular economy for a municipality is not something that you're equipped to do on your own," George says.   

"We've had great support from KPMG, we're now getting great engagement and support with Circular Economy Victoria, and with Victoria University. The formation of the Hume Circular Economy Task Force will reinforce this approach."

Ian worked with KPMG to develop its Circular Advantage course. The program is now in its second year with participants from industry, government, industry associations, social enterprises and non-profits across Australia. Getting local businesses involved in the program has been crucial to providing both education and a forum for collaboration.   

"Businesses often don't have the opportunity to engage with their peers, even in their own sector, and seldom with companies that are outside of their sector. But they face a lot of common issues. A course such as Circular Advantage offers a place to connect and explore those issues," Ian says.  

The City of Hume is also working with several schools at various tertiary institutions, including Victoria University and its School of Planetary Health.  

"That research connection is absolutely critical and then you bring it back on the ground for local delivery through collaboration with and between local companies," George says.    

He gives the example of Close the Loop and Downer EDI who partnered with tertiary institutions to create Reconophalt — a recycled asphalt product including plastics and waste toner and now used for all Council roads in Hume. A great example of the impact councils can have through Circular Procurement. 

"We've also got another company — Innovative Plastic Solutions (IPS) making shopping trolleys that are now in wide use at Woolworths, Coles and IGA. The basket of every shopping trolley consists of 200 recycled milk bottles," he says of another local business adopting circular economy principles.  

There's a real synergy that you've got to find, and you've got to partner do it," George explains.  

Local government is in a good position to do that. It can partner with industry because it's close to industry, but it can also comfortably partner with the other two levels of government because it's used to dealing with them and it can partner with the community as well. It's in a unique position as a trusted neutral broker where it can work with everybody quite evenly and comfortably. So local government has got an incredibly important role to play in driving circularity across Australia.

RESULTS + BENEFITS  

While the work at Hume is still in its early stages, the business case has already identified the projected benefits of circularity for the region.  

"The business case developed three different future scenarios. The first is 'business as usual' with a 'little bit of tweaking' scenario; the second takes a middle road with iterative improvements to current practices; and the third is a Circular City scenario which emphasises optimisation of existing resources, has strong innovation and really drives utilisation of circular principles that design out waste," George says. 

In the Circular City scenario, the circular economy was estimated to increase real gross regional product (GRP) by 2.82 per cent, deliver an additional $903 million, and create 1,500 jobs per year by 2040. It would also decrease waste to landfill by 4,500 tonnes and reduce council landfill disposal costs by $12 million per year. On top of these economic and waste-reduction benefits, a Circular Hume would also result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating around 151 million tonnes of carbon per year.  

"Everything we are doing is replicable elsewhere and scalable, depending on the size of the industry in the municipality," George says. 

"So we're very keen to share. It's not something that we want to keep to ourselves — knowledge is power and that's how a circular economy works, it's about sharing knowledge for the benefit of the economy and the planet."

Call To Action

"Look for collaborators in local government. Across Australia there'll be somebody who's doing [circular economy work]. Seek out advice, look for companies that are working in the circular economy space — Coreo in Queensland comes to mind and our experience with KPMG and CEV — and collaborate and partner up with them. In the local government context, you must get support internally as well, so you've got to build a case to get support across council, from executive leadership, and the councillors themselves." — George  

"The reason we've been able to get to this point effectively is due to buy in from the top. That's absolutely the key. But having got to that point, we're no longer pushing hard to create a new policy for this and a new policy for that, we're allowing that interest and advocacy to happen organically. Our focus now is on the community and to turn it into a community-driven accelerated program for delivery." — Ian 

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