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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