There are environmental and economic benefits up for grabs, if big business can adopt circular principles across their supply chain, according to Great Plastic Rescue Founder and Chair of Circular Australia’s Industry Taskforce, Bronwyn Voyce.
A leading circular economy entrepreneur, Voyce co-founded the world first Great Plastic Rescue when successive state governments made the supply of single-use plastics illegal, leaving businesses with warehouses and stockrooms full of excess stock.
By collaborating with industry partners and the NSW Environment Protection Authority, the Great Plastic Rescue helped hundreds of organisations recycle more than 17 million single-use plastics, otherwise destined for the dump. But, Voyce said recycling is only a part of the solution.
“To manage Australia’s resources and waste volumes, a substantial increase in onshore recycling and remanufacturing capacity is crucial. However, the strength of our recycling industry hinges on the robustness of its off-take market. A viable supply requires an equally viable demand,” Voyce said.
“Our observations indicate an increasing awareness among businesses regarding their environmental footprint. The inevitability of mandatory non-financial disclosures and the growing emphasis on climate risk underscore this shift. However, to effectively address these challenges, it’s imperative for businesses to integrate circular economy principles throughout their supply chains.
“Recycling is not the sole solution, to address climate and systemic challenges, businesses must implement substantial changes that embrace and enable material circulation.”
In early 2023, when Adairs decided to proactively remove all plastic bags from its stores, Voyce partnered with them to activate an Australian-wide “amnesty” removing hundreds of thousands of plastic carry bags across 172 retail and outlet stores and redirecting them to a recycling hub. This resulted in about one million bags (about 15 tonnes) being rescued.
Ashley Gardner, Chief Financial Officer of Adairs said: “While not all of our bags were technically banned in every state, we felt removing them for all of our stores was the right thing to do for our environment in the longer term.”
“By stopping the supply of plastic bags in-store, we estimate we’ll remove 25 million bags over the next 10 years. Adairs customers are encouraged to purchase our bespoke Orange Sky reusable bags to support our charity partner Orange Sky who provide amazing support to those living homeless,” Gardner said.
Great Plastic Rescue has already recycled more than 45,000 kilograms of plastics, and is working with Australian designers, recyclers and manufacturers to turn 15 tonnes of retired Adairs bags into a new fully circular product that will be revealed in early 2024.
“Our collaboration with Great Plastic Rescue means that these plastics won’t go to waste, and we’re really excited for the upcoming reveal of the limited-edition fully circular product they’ve been working on behind the scenes,” Gardner said.