2023 ACE Awards winners announced at the Circularity Conference

By Tamanna Wadhwani  November 27th, 2023

From olive waste transformed into health and nutrition products, to repurposing empty retail spaces, the ACE Awards, in its second year, recognised Australia’s top circular economy innovators and change-makers.

Brought to you by the Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub), the second iteration of the ACE Awards celebrated the visionaries, innovators, and change-makers of 2023 who are steering us toward a more sustainable and circular future.

The awards consisted of five categories and were presented to the winners at the Circularity 2023 Conference. All trophies presented to the winners were made by Defy Design using recycled plastic and reclaimed timber.

1. Emerging Circular Leader Award

The Emerging Circular Leader Award recognises leaders that are 35 and under who, through their impact, have demonstrated the potential of a future circular economy in Australia and sparked forward-thinking ideas within their industry.

Sarah D'Sylva, Circular Design Strategist, Hyloh

Sarah’s business, Hyloh, embraces the principles of circularity by challenging the idea of sustainable materials, advocating instead for a systematic approach to materiality within the circular economy. Hyloh operates transparently, fostering global collaboration, and is 100% minority-owned, addressing the unique needs of women. As a design educator at Monash University, Sarah imparts her insights to nurture circular design thinking among future designers. She spreads awareness about circularity and social enterprise through presentations and panel discussions, public webinars and other educational materials for kindergartens and elderly communities.  

2. Circular Leader Award

This award recognises an individual, company or organisation that demonstrates inspirational leadership and experience in progressing circular economy practices. The award aims to shine a light on those who have not only championed circular economy practices but also achieved significant advancement in their field and continue to actively strive for a more circular future.

Belinda Chellingworth, Director, BC Consulting

From early in her career during the 1990s, Belinda championed circularity by actively doing, not just talking. This included reusing Horse Race Times TAB paper from her pub job to write university notes, and ensuring the BBQ chickens at her deli job were sold and not binned. From teenagehood, she chose to value materials.

Belinda has led the circularity portfolios for large and influential organisations, including the London School of Economics, the GPT Group, Australia Post and ALDI AU. Now as Director of BC Consulting - a trusted circularity advisor to the property, retail and logistics sectors - she makes circularity broadly accessible, and never boring. 

3. Retaining Value Award

This awards recognises those who are successfully keeping products and materials in use and at their highest value – a core principle of the transition to a circular economy. 

Cobram Estate Olives Limited, Reimagining farm waste to create value adding products

Cobram Estate Olives Limited shifted from producing only extra virgin olive oil to converting their olive by-products (leaves, pomace, pits) into new value-add products (renewable biofuel, olive leaf teas, health extracts, compost). By maximising the value-add of by-products, they now use olive leaves and extracts to create health and nutrition products under their Wellgrove, and Stone & Grove brands. They also use olive pits as renewable energy for their boilers, and the surplus is sold to other companies. 

4. Design for Circularity Award

The first principle of the circular economy is “Design out waste and pollution” in recognition of the fact that waste and pollution are largely a result of the way we design and manufacture products. The Design for Circularity award category celebrates new and innovative ways to design out negative impacts through intentional design and smart manufacturing processes.

ModiBodi, Biodegradable period pant

Modibodi started the period underwear movement in Australia ten years ago. It took the whole of 2021 and an enormous amount of blood, sweat and science to design the world's first biodegradable leak-proof underwear. Designed by their Product and Sustainability teams in our HQ in Sydney and tested at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) using the ISO 11721-1:2001, Biodegradable Test, the biodegradable period pants were launched in January 2022. The underwear is 97 per cent biodegradable and aims to tackle the problem of single-use period products, which generate high amounts of waste.

5. Full Circle Award

This award recognises and celebrates a systems approach and consideration of all three principles of the circular economy. Projects demonstrate incorporation of all three principles using one or more circular business models and are proven solutions in their sector/industry/supply chain.

Circonomy and Mirvac, Circularity transforming business

Featuring original artwork of Indigenous artist Nanii Davies.

Featuring original artwork of Indigenous artist Nanii Davies.

Mirvac and Circonomy collaborated on a joint mission to transform office spaces, unlock new social procurement opportunities, and make a positive social and environmental impact. As a certified social enterprise, Circonomy works to repair, refurbish and rehome products, instead of sending them to landfill which has financial and environmental benefits. 

An estimated 145,000 tonnes of strip-out waste is generated annually in Australia, with up to 80 per cent ending up in landfill. Mirvac's vision was to repurpose vacated retail space within one of their 46-storey A-Grade commercial office towers, avoiding landfill and reusing materials as much as possible. 

The ACE Hub extends its congratulations to all finalists and winners for their valiant achievements in creating a more circular Australia.

'Caring for Country' artwork story

Caring for Country was commissioned by BINGO Industries who sponsored the ACE Awards 2023 prize for Circularity, and the original artwork was awarded to the Full Circle Award winner Circonomy (as pictured above). The artwork has been created by Indigenous artist Nanii Davies.

Caring for Country is the visual storytelling of the circular practices model and how our innovators collaborate and align with traditional Aboriginal culture when creating solutions and adaptations to present-day caring for Country.

Many Aboriginal paintings depict the landscape from a birds-eye view. In Caring for Country, the edges of the artwork depict the earth's landscape from a birds-eye view, but we also see a visual representation of The Dreaming, which is the blue sky in the centre of this artwork. The viewer is placed to be looking up into the sky, and down onto the Earth, depicting constantly thinking and looking outside the box.

In the depiction of the Earth's landscape, we see a thriving ecosystem; including symbolism for flora, fauna and billions of healthy micro-organisms. In the sky element, we have the black and white rainbow shaped figures who represent our Elders, Ancestors and Spirit Guides in the Dreaming. They protect and help us with inspiration and creativity.

Tamanna Wadhwani

Tamanna moved from India to Australia to pursue a degree in environmental science and conservation biology. After learning about the concept of a circular economy in 2020, she worked with various organisations in this sector and is interested in solving complex climate change and waste management problems. She loves to communicate with people about all things sustainability or animals. Outside of work, Tamanna is a budding hip hop dancer who also loves travelling, cat cuddles and reading.

Related Stories

Founding Partner

Official Sponsor