Research Report

Measuring the Circular Economy: An Australian Perspective

February 14th, 2022


PDF (5.16 MB)

Data is the driving force of a circular economy — it allows us to both identify problems and advance solutions. What are the impacts of our current linear system? What needs to change? What benefits could a circular economy bring? These are all questions that can only be answered by gathering and analysing the data relevant to a specific region.

Australia's governments currently lack a comprehensive framework for measuring the circular economy. This research examines this data gap and outlines strategies for improving circular economy data sets across all levels of government. The report establishes a baseline understanding of circular economy measurement in government by identifying:

  • Existing circular economy metrics

  • The potential benefits of a circular economy measurement framework

  • And strategies to progress circular economy measurement in Australia.

The research was conducted by sustainability and circular economy consultancy Edge Environment in collaboration with the ACE Hub. It is the first in a series of projects the ACE Hub is undertaking with its Technical Supporters — a selection of organisations partnering with the ACE Hub to fast-track Australia's circular transition.

The findings were generated through interviews with technical experts in the fields of circularity and metrics and an online survey of government representatives from the local, state and federal level.

Watch the report launch session

This event brought together the report's authors, an expert contributor to the report and a representative from government to present findings from the research. Planet Ark's Dr Nicole Garofano was joined by the following speakers for the discussion session:   

  • Jess Braun, report author and researcher and Senior Circular Economy Consultant at Edge Environment.

  • Dana King, report author and researcher and Sustainability Consultant at Edge Environment.

  • Dr Heinz Schandl, an expert contributor to the report, Senior Science Leader at CSIRO and Chair of the ACE Hub's Metrics Working Group.

  • Kate Dundas, Director of Strategic Foresight and Research at Sustainability Victoria.

Key findings and recommendations:

Emerging measurement of the circular economy in Australia:

  • Circular economy and its measurement are currently centred within the waste management narrative.

  • Australia has sufficient data to start measuring circularity more comprehensively.

  • Some stakeholders are making progress on circular economy measurement, but are disconnected from one another, stifling progress.

Potential for accelerated change in circular economy measurement:

  • A national circular economy measurement framework tailored to our context and objectives.

  • A sophisticated data collection, integration and management system underpinned by strong governance.

  • Effective measurement to create shared value and accelerate Australia's transition to a circular economy.

Establishing an effective circular economy measurement framework:

  • Plan — agree on the objectives and particulars of an Australian circular economy measurement framework.

  • Do — calculate the circular economy baseline for Australia.

  • Evolve — evaluate, iterate, set a long-term vision and targets and drive long-term improvement in how the circular economy is measured.

Dana King

Edge Environment - Sustainability Consultant

Jenni Philippe

Edge Environment - Head of Circular Economy and Life Cycle Thinking, Principal Consultant

Jess Braun

Edge Environment - Senior Circular Economy Consultant

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