Why does Australia need to go circular? We ask the experts

By Lucy Jones  November 10th, 2020

We asked the people working at the forefront of the circular economy movement why we need to transition our economic model.

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For experts working in the circular economy, Australia’s transition to a circular model isn’t a question of if, but when. With the launch of the Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub) just around the corner, we asked pioneers of the circular economy to explain why our system must change. Working across the fields of academia, recycling, clean energy, city planning and reuse, just to name a few, these individuals are actively reshaping our economy and our society.  

We have been collaborating closely with each of these experts to bring the ACE Hub to life, a program that would not have been possible without their openness, wisdom and insight. Here, these knowledgeable folks share their thoughts on why we need to transition to a circular economy and how the ACE Hub will help accelerate this change.

Jenni Philippe, Circular Economy Principal, Edge Environment

"Australia is facing a range of challenges whether in the economy space — post covid-19 recovery — or the environment — climate change, waste crisis — that require transformative change. Circular economy is a great approach to turn these challenges into opportunities, offering innovative solutions to design out waste and pollution, create jobs and economic value locally through new business models — repair, product as a service, sharing platforms, etc. — while regenerating natural systems.  

Through the ACE Hub, people will be able to find inspiring stories, build a common language and connect with each other to identify synergies and new partnerships, which is really exciting." 

Lisa McLean, CEO, NSW Circular

"The circular economy is the only economic framework we have to grow our economy sustainably in a resource constrained future. Keeping resources in the market longer through sharing and reuse will help reduce carbon and regenerate natural systems. The ACE Hub will bring together businesses, governments and researchers across Australia to build investment and job creation opportunities." 

Abigail Forsyth, Co-Founder and Managing Director, KeepCup

"The Circular Economy Hub is about vision-setting: this is the way we want the world to be, this is how it works, these are the opportunities. And then businesses fall in around that ... The role of the hub is to present opportunities for businesses to grab onto."

Freek van Eijk, CEO, Holland Circular Hotspot 

"Circular hubs around the world act as true catalysts for the local economy and boost sustainable development. By sharing what is already being done and what soon will become possible, ACE Hub and Holland Circular Hotspot inspire and create space for new partnerships and cross-sectoral strategies to happen. 

The Dutch have developed circular economy in a pragmatic 'learn fast, fail fast' way and are now considered a global leader in circular economy thinking. HCH will provide their experience, knowledge and expertise to the ACE Hub with the aim to leapfrog development and accelerate bilateral cooperation in the circular economy space."

Andrew Thomson, Founder and Systemic Designer + Dylan Lamb, CE Ecosystem Lead and Systemic Designer, Holonic/Circular Economy Perth

"The current global economic system, which shapes most of how we live, think and behave is becoming increasingly more unsustainable, degenerative and divisive! The future prosperity and wellbeing of Australia, and beyond, depends on the quality of our natural environment and fairer, more just circulation of wealth and value. The circular economy has evolved as a fundamental, accessible and inspiring narrative and gateway to this 'new economy' and what it means for humanity to really thrive."

Richard Romanowski, Executive Director, Planet Ark Power 

"We all know our planet is a closed ecosystem with finite natural resources. Just as we need to transition away from using fossil fuels to generate our energy, we also need to transition to a circular economy to ensure efficient use and maximum value is extracted from those resources we exploit to provide us with the goods and service we demand in the 21st century. 

Planet Ark Power is a proud partner of Planet Ark. We share the same strong values and commitment about the need to provide the resources, knowledge and technologies to create a more sustainable future. We are two sides of the same coin. On the one side is the drive to transition to a clean energy future. On the other is the commitment to use our finite natural resources as sustainably as possible."

Brooke Donnelly, CEO, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation  

"If we focus in on the packaging supply chain, at the moment only 16 per cent of all plastic packaging used in Australia is recovered for future use. These low recovery rates mean that significant volumes of plastic waste end up in landfill and enter our natural environments. This take, make and dispose approach to packaging is an unsustainable model that is having devastating consequences for our natural environments, our communities and the economy.  

A circular economic model is an exciting and viable alternative that is designed to keep materials in use for as long as possible. The benefits of this approach are numerous. We keep more material out of landfill and out of the environment as pollution. By manufacturing fewer packaging products, we can reduce our reliance on finite natural resources and reduce our energy usage and carbon emissions. A thriving circular economy also means more jobs for our communities."

Catherine McMahon, Manager, Major Projects, Institute for Frontier Materials, Deakin University 

"To accelerate the transition to a circular economy it is imperative that industry, government and R&D work together to develop policy, business models, new circular innovations, technologies, infrastructure and systems to support and drive a new circular ecosystem. Deakin University will provide [the ACE Hub with] an offering of leading research and translation expertise in circular economy for industry stakeholders together with case studies of how research can drive innovation in circular materials and technologies. We will also provide thought leadership in the application of circular economy principles to support economic growth and advance the frontiers of material science to solve key industry challenges and leverage opportunities to support the transition from a linear to a circular economy."

Sean Trewick, Director, Circular Economy Victoria 

"It is important to realise that the transition to a circular economy has been underway for years and even decades. The reason has been largely associated with basic economics. As resources become more scarce, systems like the market respond and increase efficiency. Now with the mounting social, environmental and economic landscape changes, all of which are putting ever more pressure on natural resources, Australia and the world have no other alternative but to close resource and energy loops further in order to sustain human progress through maximising value and regenerating enabling systems. 

ACE Hub is vitally important as it plays an unbiased role in convening diverse stakeholders to use diversity as a strength to build a prosperous future for all. As Planet Ark and the ACE Hub sit in the commons, it is able to remain politically neutral where the state can’t be, and reflect stakeholder value over shareholder value as the market can’t do. 

The key therefore is that the Hub provides a safe space for open dialogue and collaboration to compound impact in an organised yet emergent manner."

Daniel Tartak, Managing Director and CEO, BINGO Industries 

"The circular model provides opportunities for economic growth, jobs and enhanced environmental outcomes while still preserving our finite resources, protecting the natural world and reducing carbon emissions. Unfortunately, our landfills are filling up at the fastest rate in our history, we need to start addressing this issue and circular strategies like designing out waste, recycling and reuse provide cheap and efficient solutions. 

At BINGO we are excited about the ACE Hub. It will connect players from across the waste and resources supply chain, from waste generators, waste service providers like BINGO, to research and development groups, governments, community projects and end market users such as product manufactures and construction companies" 

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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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