ACE Awards winners announced at the Circularity 2022 Conference

By Tamanna Wadhwani  December 2nd, 2022

From upcycled underwear to coffee cups made from coffee waste to circular economy solutions providers, the inaugural ACE Awards last week recognised Australia’s top circular economy innovators.

Brought to you by the Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub), the ACE Awards recently recognised and celebrated those that are driving Australia’s circular economy progress through innovation, awareness raising and circular implementation.  

The awards consisted of five categories and were presented to the winners at the Circularity 2022 Conference held earlier in November. To top it off, all trophies presented to the winners were made by Defy Design using recycled plastic and reclaimed timber.

1. 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. Around 80 per cent of environmental impacts are determined at the design and manufacturing stage, meaning transitioning this area towards greater circularity can have amplified positive impacts throughout the material cycles. 

The Design for Circularity award category celebrates new and innovative ways to design out negative impacts through intentional design and smart manufacturing processes. 

Underwear for Humanity

Underwear for Humanity have coupled an innovative product with a conscious recycling scheme for underwear from any brand to be recycled, sorted and turned into insulation, with a strong social impact. The judges noted the company takes a unique approach to reuse, recycle and upcycle underwear - ticking a number of boxes across the R-strategies. Further to this, Underwear for Humanity's social impact highlighted a truly circular approach - providing meaningful and ethical work opportunities and more for people from diverse backgrounds. 

2. Retaining Value Award

Keeping products and materials in use and at their highest value is a core principle of the transition to a circular economy. The Retaining Value award recognises those who are successfully achieving this.


HuskeeCups are in themselves a circular product as they are made from waste coffee husks. These cups live a long and rich life, however, it is inevitable that good things must end. To combat this, Huskee have developed HuskeeLoop - an end-of-life program. The goal is to ensure over 90% of everything made is collected and re-purposed into amazing new Huskee products. 

The judges highlighted that HuskeeLoop demonstrates a level of sophistication and maturity, through product stewardship, innovation and a holistic approach to impact measurement: "A successful representation of identifying and addressing the breakpoints in the supply chain and closing these loops. This is the circular economy and keeping the product at its highest value."

3. 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 over the last 12 years. 

Sam Oakden (Stop Food Waste Australia)

Sam leads the design and delivery of the Australian Food Pact - a collaboration between organisations to make Australia’s food system more sustainable, resilient and circular. It is a multi-year commitment by the businesses that grow, make and sell their food to develop solutions and implement change at scale. He is passionate about maximising the value of the 7.6 million tonnes of food wasted in Australia each year, using collaboration to drive a more sustainable and profitable food system.  

According to the judges, "the systemic nature of Sam's work was highly impressive - through working across sectors, organisations, stakeholders and bringing these groups together. A compelling candidate demonstrating tremendous impact aligned with the criteria, and a great understanding of the circular economy." 

4. Circular Leader Award

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

Close The Loop

With locations in Australia, Europe, South Africa and the United States, Close the Loop Group create innovative products and packaging that include recyclable materials and are manufactured using recycled content, as well as operating programs that collect, sort, reclaim and reuse products and commodities that would otherwise go to landfill. 

From recovering print and toner cartridges, eyewear, cosmetics, phone cases, e-waste and batteries, to the reusing of toner and post-consumer soft plastics, they are focused on driving the transition towards a circular economy." Close the Loop demonstrates a solid body of work over 20 years which should be recognised and celebrated for creating a successful system and environment ensuring there is an end market for products and services (toner cartridges, plastics) creating the entire value chain," said the award judges.

5. Full Circle Award

Bringing it all together, the Full Circle Award is a recognition and celebration of 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. 


The goal of Huskee is not just to endlessly sell beautifully designed cups but rather to build the behaviour change and systems necessary to eliminate our dependence on single-use products. With an ambitious global goal of drastically shifting the way we use, consume and discard waste, and through strong teamwork and sustainable design of the HuskeeCups, The Huskee Swap program, and Huskee Loop stewardship program - the aim is to deliver impact quickly through cost-effective and appealing solutions. 

In the judges’ words: "A well-considered circular system approach and design. From manufacturing to use, it is an adaptable and innovative system service design. The link with the return and remanufacturing closes the loop and shows they take full ownership. This represents a circular business product and service model - with a tremendous opportunity to open doors and transform the entire system and environment." 

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.

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