Our waste is destroying the planet, causing landfills to overflow, choking the oceans, and threatening ecosystems. To avoid the worst-case scenario, we must embrace the circular economy to achieve net-zero emissions – innovation, structural changes, and financing are of the essence. As a sustainable model of production and consumption, the circular economy focuses on reusing and recycling materials to conserve natural resources and, above all, avoiding waste creation. Countries worldwide are struggling to implement a circular economy, with countries in the EU leading and moving in the spirit. Over the past decades, the overall material use in Europe has decreased by 9.4%, and the share of resources derived from recycled waste has increased by roughly 50%.
And so, the question now is: Is Australia ready for circular evolution? Lately, Australia has intensified its circular economy efforts, designing out waste while creating wealth. Businesses and governments alike acknowledge the potential of waste management on human health and the environment, struggling to ensure that materials are used efficiently at all stages of their lifecycle, namely extraction, transport, manufacturing, consumption, recovery, and disposal. In other words, the prospect of a circular economy keeps gaining traction in Australia. Entrepreneurship and design-led innovations are relevant to deal with structural tensions, which are influenced by spatial, temporal, and contextual factors.
The National Waste Policy Action Plan Sets a New Direction for Waste and Recycling in Australia
The Australian National Waste Policy Action Plan sets out the main principles of waste management, which include sustainability, the protection of human life and the environment, and the conservation of natural resources. The targets and actions guide investments and national efforts to 2030 and beyond. These are the key areas that will drive change:
Banning The Export of Waste Plastic, Paper, Glass, And Tyres
This is good news for communities worldwide affected by massive waste exports. Australia is committed to reducing by-products while generating and using high-value recycled commodities. Waste balers and compactors are paramount for achieving higher recovery rates from recyclable materials. Rebates covering up to 50% of the cost of the recycling equipment purchased from Miltek in Australia are offered under the Bin Trim program. Applicants are eligible for one rebate per site. The program is available to small and medium-sized businesses to improve source separation of recyclables, reduce waste, and increase recycling in the workplace.
Phasing Out Problematic & Unnecessary Plastics
Single-use plastic, including plates, straws, cutlery, and microbeads, will be banned in most states in an effort to reduce waste. Last year, New South Wales banned lightweight plastic bags, which break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and the waterways. The Australian government will work with the industry to phase out non-compostable plastic packaging products, EPS in loose-fill and moulded consumer packaging, and PVC packaging labels. It’ll be complemented by community campaigns to clean up plastic waste on beaches and rivers, where residents have the opportunity to demonstrate they’re good citizens. The community is a successful tool for achieving sustainability.
Governments Leveraging Their Purchasing Power to Enhance Recycling
Public authorities should seek to procure goods, services, and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their lifecycle. They play a crucial role in promoting sustainable procurement. Governments should act urgently to encourage demand for recycled materials, stimulate innovation and investment in recycling, support domestic jobs and industries, and promote economic-wide behavioural change. Commitment to integrating CSR principles into an organisation’s procurement process and decisions while guaranteeing they still meet stakeholders’ requirements is hard, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Businesses of all sizes in all sectors must rethink how they work with partners towards environmental protection.
Improving Waste Data Collection & Information Sharing
Data collection covers the inputs or outputs of preparation processes that divert non-recyclable and non-compostable residues from the mainstream to be recycled. It goes without saying that better data improves decision-making and eliminates the risk of illegal dumping and stockpiling of waste. Waste managers can plan bin distribution and trash collection based on actual needs. Recently, the reverse logistics supply chain has gained momentum – products flow from the point of use or sale back to the supply chain for reuse, recycling, or disposal. The lack of information sharing is a serious issue that hasn’t been reviewed extensively.
Across Australia, The Foundation of The Circular Economy Can Be Observed in Many Forms
Australia has done a lot in terms of observing the circular economy across major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. The focus is on opportunities to reduce waste, change the direction of its businesses, and make adjustments that align with the circular economy. Australia’s move towards the circular economy is more conservative, indeed, on account of its small yet dispersed population, not to mention its reliance on resource extraction via mining processes. Energy efficiency in buildings and food waste reduction has the greatest impact in dollar terms, as they’re important sectors of the economy.
Some states are more advanced from a strategic standpoint, meaning they’re at different stages of development and implementation of the circular economy. One such example is New South Wales, which we’ve already discussed in this article. Based on its share of Australia’s GDP, adopting the circular economy initiatives could add up to $7.6 billion by 2025. Many states have waste strategies and are planning to implement operational schemes, such as South Australia, whose recovery rate is somewhere at 65%. The research commissioned by Green Industries SA reveals that the adoption of the circular economy in South Australia could create nearly 25,700 jobs by 2030.
Incorporating circular opportunities throughout Australia creates value for the economy, enables the industry to create new revenue streams, and, most importantly, helps protect the environment. It’s never been more important to move away from the take-make-waste economy to a take-make-recreate economy, where growth is based on circular systems. In spite of the benefits, some enterprises are hesitant to make a move because profitability is difficult to foresee. It’s hoped that, with time, players in the private sector will overcome its reservations and create a loop system of reuse (nevertheless, this requires extra effort).