Melbourne opens waste and circular economy prize

The theme of this year’s City of Melbourne Open Innovation Competition is waste elimination and the circular economy, with a prize of $30,000 to be divided among the top three submissions.

Launched in February 2018, the Open Innovation Competition is the City of Melbourne’s annual challenge to solve a city issue.

With a different theme each year, the competition calls for innovators, entrepreneurs, students and community members to submit ideas to solve a challenge. Past themes include city accessibility and safe mobility.

From 21 May to 3 July, the city is inviting the community to propose solutions to eliminating excessive waste within the city.

“It is estimated that close to 800,000 tonnes of waste is created within the City of Melbourne boundary every year, some of which is recycled, most of which goes to landfill,” a City of Melbourne statement reads.

“As the city’s population and density increases and as mass consumption is a defining trait of our culture, we must find ways to engage industry and innovate our way towards zero waste along entire supply chains.”

This year’s problem statement is: how might we create a more transparent circular economy by better addressing and influencing the ways in which the whole supply chain can eliminate waste?

The city is looking for solutions that enhance the accessibility of information to producers, industry, logistics, wholesale, traders and consumers.

“The goal is to educate these groups about the current waste supply chain and increase understanding of the role everyone plays in creating and completely eliminating waste,” the statement reads.

“We are also looking for proactive circular economy solutions that ensure the people and places of Melbourne play an active role in eliminating waste going to landfill.”

The city is encouraging participants to incorporate data and emerging technology into addressing one or more opportunity areas: C&D, C&I and household waste and circular economy solutions that address social equity.

In 2019, the City of Melbourne launched its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030, outlining a vision to turn Melbourne into a “zero-waste city”.

“The strategy clearly identifies reducing the production of waste as the most important priority as it reduces the need for recycling and recovering,” the statement reads.

“But it is not only high level changes at a city level, but also individualised behaviour change, that are recognised as key to achieving this. This is where we need your help.”

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NSW Circular appoints first CEO

Lisa McLean has been appointed as the NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network’s first CEO.

NSW Circular works collaboratively with government, industry, research organisations and communities to initiate, create and communicate circular economy opportunities and solutions for the state.

According to a NSW Circular statement, Ms McLean has been successfully advising industry and governments in developing new policy frameworks and regulations that bring about market change to enable the circular economy over the past 14 years.

“Lisa established and leads Open Cities Alliance, a peak industry association with unique membership from government to private sector and research organisations,” the statement reads.

“Open Cities advocates for the circular economy, prosumer rights and new zero-carbon local utility and mobility precinct approaches.”

Ms McClean also initiated and established the Australian Solar Thermal Association, has advised electric mobility providers and worked with sustainable water utility Flow Systems.

NSW Chief Scientist Hugh Durrant-Whyte said Ms McLean’s appointment will build on the strong foundations established in NSW Circular’s first year of operations.

“The network has already engaged with communities across NSW to look at the technological and non-technological challenges involved in identifying and managing diverse material and waste streams, and how we can extract value from them,” he said.

Additionally, NSW Circular Chair Chair Margaret Harding said the network has already undertaken significant work to help identify circular capabilities in NSW, as well as knowledge gaps.

“Having Lisa come on board, with her high-level experience as a senior executive in several organisations engaged in circular economy, renewable and recyclables markets, will enable NSW Circular to begin to extend its operations and develop sustainable business models and processes at scale,” she said.

Of her appointment, Ms McLean said she is passionate about building collaborations between key stakeholders to bring about change and create a sustainable future.

“I’m equally excited at the prospect of working alongside Professor Veena Sahajwalla, one of the true global pioneers in new recycling technologies,” she said.

“Our challenge now is to develop new ideas and work practices, drawing on diverse skill sets and sectors, to create innovative, high impact strategies and solutions for NSW’s pressing waste issue.”

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RMIT professors push for industry input on circular economy

Academics engaged to provide comment on Victoria’s draft Circular Economy Policy have warned that without industry input, the strategy’s success could be limited.

The Victorian Circular Economy Policy draft was opened to public comment earlier this year.

According to the official document, the policy aims to re-define growth by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and design waste out of the system.

According to RMIT professors Usha Iyer-Raniga and Scott Valentine, the strategy needs to involve a rethinking of resource efficiency across the economy, and extend its focus beyond Victoria’s waste and recycling crisis.

Ms Iyer-Raniga said while environmental ministries have an important role in circular economy strategic development, business model innovation and corporate buy-ins are needed to foster results.

“As the Danish and Dutch experiences in circular economy planning show us, it is not only about diverting tins of soda away from landfills, it is about new innovations and new strategies for producing and consuming goods and services,” Ms Iyer-Raniga said.

Both Ms Iyer-Raniga and Mr Valentine are members of RMIT’s CE Hub, which helps businesses find profitable resource efficiency strategies.

“If implemented correctly, a circular economy strategy will enhance corporate profitability, reduce resource costs, make Australian industry more competitive and create new business and jobs,” Mr Valentine said.

“In short, the circular economy needs to be approached as an economic development strategy, and connections need to be made with research and development hubs like we have at RMIT. Failure to do so will discourage corporate buy-in and the initiative will underperform.”

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NSW Circular to host stakeholder event

NSW Circular has partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to help Central Coast businesses map and identify opportunities to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and boost industry.

The event, held 7 August, will bring stakeholders together from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups to discuss transitioning to a circular economy.

University of New South Wales Professor and NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network Director Veena Sahajwalla will present the keynote address.

“We are aiming to facilitate market-based solutions to the opportunities and challenges faced in efficiently managing our materials, supplies and waste, and will be looking for pilot projects to create new pathways and outcomes,” Ms Sahajwalla said.

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre National Director of Industry Michael Sharpe will facilitate a discussion to identify new local circular economy solutions.

“Hunter and Central Coast businesses are already some of the most innovative in Australia, and with this event we hope to share some of those examples to develop more circular economy solutions,” Mr Sharpe said.

“The manufacturing sector plays a critical role in this area, which is resulting in more efficient business operations and economic growth.”

Mr Sharpe said attendees will learn how a circular approach can be incorporated into local supply chains and deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits.

Panellists include:

Professor Veena Sahajwalla – NSW Circular Director

Ashley Brinson – NSW Circular Co-director

Debbie Hambly – Milk Bottle Collective Project Manager

Ian Hudson – Industry Capability Network Deputy Director

Tim Askew – Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils Regional Project Manager

Marta Fernandes – Nespresso Technical and Quality Manager

Brooke Donnelly – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO

Paul Klymenko – Planet Ark CEO

Nishi Vissamraju – Downer Group National Environmental Sustainability Advisor Transport and Infrastructure

Jodi Boylan – The War of Waste Executive Producer

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Victoria to develop 10-year action plan

The Victorian Circular Economy Policy, which will establish goals for the Victorian waste and resource recovery system to transition to a circular economy, has opened for public comment.

A 10-year action plan outlining how the Victorian Government will work with businesses and community to deliver the policy’s goals will also be established.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Circular Economy Policy would deliver new opportunities for industry and more jobs for Victorians.

“We’re transforming the way we think about waste and resource recovery – developing a circular economy will deliver better environmental, social and economic results for Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Through the policy, Victoria will transition from the traditional linear model of consumption to a circular model that continually seeks to minimise the use of natural resources.”

The public now have an opportunity to comment on the policy issues paper, with a draft policy set to be released in September.

“The draft policy will outline a suite of specific proposals for how we can improve material use throughout the economy,” the paper reads.

“This could include regulations, incentive programs, innovation support and/or education. The final circular economy policy will draw together this consultation and research and analysis.”

The circular economy policy will establish goals and targets, in addition to a strong performance framework to measure, monitor and publicly report on progress.

“While these goals are still to be set, there will be many factors that will need to be measured and tracked, such as materials used for each unit of economic output, waste generation per person, energy generated from waste and reduction in stockpiles of recyclable material,” the paper reads.

The paper references multiple case studies including the use of recycled materials in public infrastructure and food waste reduction.

“Victoria can leverage additional benefits from the pipeline of public infrastructure projects. Approximately 3.9 million tonnes of recovered material are already used in road and other construction in Victoria, and there is scope to use more recycled materials in the construction of our public infrastructure,” the paper reads.

“There is significant scope to reduce food waste and ensure more is recovered in Australia’s leading food and agriculture state. Only 10 per cent of food waste generated by households and businesses is currently recovered. That means over 887,000 tonnes of food waste ends up in Victorian landfills each year and the water and energy required to produce and transport it is wasted.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the policy responds to global recycling challenges, and will build on the government’s continued investment in waste and resource recovery initiatives.

“This latest package builds on the $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan – bringing the state government’s investment in the waste and resource recovery industry to more than $135 million,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“I encourage Victorians to have their say on this important issue, as we work towards a final policy in 2020.”

The Circular Economy Policy issues paper is open for consultation until 2 August.

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NWRIC presents at ALGA general assembly

At the Australian Local Government Association’s (ALGA) Your Community, Your Environment presentation, National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read highlighted the need to promote a shared approach to resource recovery and circular economies.

The presentation was held as part of ALGA’s National General Assembly in Canberra. Other speakers included APCO Government Partnership Manager Peter Brisbane, Planet Ark Head of Sustainable Resource Programs Ryan Collins, Lake Macquarie Council Deputy CEO Tony Farrell and Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan.

“Industry and local councils can work together to put recycling back on a sustainable pathway,” Ms Read said.

“Central to this shared approach are activities that will reduce contamination, such as consistent statewide community education programs, smarter ways to separate materials at source, removing toxic and dangerous items from bins and upgrading re-processing capacity at material recovery facilities.”

In addressing plastics, Ms Read identified a number of steps to help material recycling facilities remain viable.

“We need to upgrade our recycling facilities and sorting and reprocessing capacity, so they can produce higher quality outputs that meet producer specifications,” Ms Read said.

“It is vital that local, state and federal governments procure recovered mixed plastics for civil construction, and that packaging companies are required to meet minimum recycled content.”

Ms Read said there is also opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and improve soil quality if local councils work with industry, to set up food and organic collection services and composting facilities.

“Key to the success of increased organics recovery will be preventing contamination, establishing local markets for the compost produced and planning for recycling precincts in local council areas,” Ms Read said.

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$3 million in federal funding for education and resource recovery

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation (PAEF) have received $3 million in federal funding to support new recycling education and resource recovery projects.

The funding forms part of the Federal Government’s $100 million Environmental Restoration Fund, and will provide resources and support to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The National Consumer Education Program (NCEP) has been allocated $1.1 million to create a consistent national approach to consumer education on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging over the next four years.

NCEP will extend the reach of the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) Program, an evidence-based labelling scheme delivered by APCO and launched by Environment Minister Melissa Price in September 2018.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said she is pleased the government have recognised the value of ARL, and other connected projects delivered by the organisation.

“This funding will enable us to continue our collaborative work with industry and our partners to ensure we meet the 2025 targets and continue to work toward achieving a circular economy in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said.

A further $1.6 million will support the development of a Circular Economy Hub, a new online platform and marketplace developed by PAEF and designed to help drive innovation in the transition to a circular economy in Australia.

PAEF CEO Paul Klymenko said the website will match buyers and sellers in waste resources, helping them identify products with sustainable materials, including recycled content.

“An important element will be the Circular Economy Marketplace, which will act as the B2B ‘eBay’ for the circular economy,” Mr Klymenko said.

“Planet Ark is thrilled to have been entrusted with the development of these vital tools.”

The Regional Model for Soft Plastics Recycling project, a partnership between APCO and the Plastic Police based in NSW’s Hunter Valley, will receive $150,000 to explore opportunities for expansion – including extending deployment to other regions.

A further $150,000 will also be provided to the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership, a project aiming to support governments and communities address the challenges of waste and resource recovery in remote and regional areas.

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