At Davos, bosses paint climate change as $7 trillion opportunity

Published by The Sydney Morning Herald and written by Alex Whiting.

Businesses should seize a $US6 trillion ($7.45 trillion) opportunity to invest in tackling climate change over the next two decades, the head of an Indian multinational said at Davos on Thursday.

"Climate change is the next century's biggest financial and business opportunity," Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, a $US19 billion conglomerate, told the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual meeting of global business and political leaders held in the Swiss Alps resort of Davos.

Mahindra likened the transformation to when cars were first introduced and the industry that developed around them. Climate change will also bring new appliances, technologies and retrofitting of old ones, he said.

"Why on earth are we talking about this as a compulsion or a burden?" he asked the audience.

The idea that companies face a trade-off between improving the climate and their growth or profits is a "myth", he added.

"Everything our group of companies has done to try and improve energy (consumption) or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has given us a return," he said.

"We have to dispel the idea that there is a trade-off (for business)," said Mr Mahindra, who is co-chair of a climate action summit taking place in California in September.

On Wednesday, Philipp Hildebrand, vice chairman of BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, told the WEF a new generation is ramping up pressure on asset managers to put money into investments with a strong environmental agenda and to push companies to play a bigger role in addressing climate change.

"People are beginning to realise this problem is too big for governments alone to deal with.... Essentially corporations have to become part of this solution," he said.

"We're about to see the largest wealth transfer in the history of humanity. You have a new generation of clients... who simply care more about these issues," he added.

More research is needed to prove there is no negative trade-off from incorporating environmental, societal or governance issues into investments, said Mr Hildebrand, adding longer-term performance could actually be enhanced.

Insurance companies have a vested interest in switching their money away from fossil fuels, Thomas Buberl, chief executive of insurance company AXA SA, told Thursday's discussion on stepping up climate action.

If global temperatures continue to rise, bringing more hazards like hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, insurance companies may not be able to offer cover, he said.

"In my case it's pretty simple - I have a good return potentially from investing in coal; I have lots of claims (as a result of) all these consequences," Mr Buberl said.

Investing less in coal "pays out significantly" in cutting the number of claims and in being able to continue providing insurance, he added.

The pace at which the world must switch from fossil fuels requires huge investment in new technologies, said Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state.

"We have to decarbonise the world's economy at a pace that cannot wait for the great inventions that might otherwise occur over a century," he said, adding they need to occur "over a decade or so".

Although technology brings great hope and provides vital tools for cutting emissions, it alone cannot save the world, said former US vice-president Al Gore.

"More important than changing the light bulbs is changing the policies, changing the laws," he said.

Fossil fuel subsidies total some $US5.3 trillion a year, and in many jurisdictions lobbyists for the industry have "gotten lawmakers to put up obstacles to the installation of solar and wind", Mr Gore said.

"We need to convince every country in the world" to increase their commitments to cut emissions and "to save humanity's future", he said.

Original publication can be located here.

Winners of $1 million prize to develop plastic alternatives announced

Published by Dezeen and written by Tom Ravenscroft

The winners of a lucrative competition tasking designers to come up with new materials to replace plastic packaging have been revealed.

Announced at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, the Circular Materials Challenge winners aim to develop alternatives for the plastic packaging materials that are currently used for sauces, fresh coffee, and snacks – which are currently too hard or expensive to recycle.

The five winners will each receive a $200,000 share of the $1 million prize and will join a 12-month accelerator programme, run in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, to make the innovations marketable at scale.

The challenge forms part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, which aims to dramatically reduce the number of plastics that enter the ocean each year by encouraging innovation to prevent the materfrom becoming waste in the first place.

Each year more than 8 million tonnes of plastics enter the ocean, yet the three biggest clean-ups deal with just 0.5 per cent of that volume.

"In a new plastics economy, plastics will never become waste or enter the ocean in the first place," said Ellen MacArthur, an ex-sailor who began her eponymous foundation in 2009.

"These winning innovations show what’s possible when the principles of a circular economy are embraced. Clean-ups continue to play an important role in dealing with the consequences of the waste plastic crisis, but we know we must do more. We urgently need solutions that address the root causes of the problem, not just the symptoms.

"To get there will require new levels of commitment and collaboration from industry, governments, designers and startups," she continued. "I hope these innovations will inspire even more progress, helping to build a system in which all plastic materials are reused, recycled or safely composted."

The award follows the $1 million Circular Design Challenge the winners of which were announced in October 2017.

Read on for the five winners.

University of Pittsburgh

One of two winners in the "make unrecyclable packaging recyclable" category, the University of Pittsburgh team has used nano-engineering to create a recyclable material to replace packaging made from layers of different materials.

While current multi-layered packaging materials are difficult to recycle, the University of Pittsburgh's packaging would be made from layers of a single material, polyethylene, making it easier to recycle.

Changing the polyethylene's nano-scale structure would allow each layer of packaging to have different properties, which when combined, create a much better material that can even be coloured without pigments.

Aronax Technologies Spain

Aronax Technologies Spain, the second winner in the "make unrecyclable packaging recyclable" category, proposed a magnetic additive that can be applied to materials to give better air and moisture insulation.

The additive contains small particles of silicates and iron oxide that will give plastics better abilities to block gases such as oxygen – making them suitable for protecting sensitive products such as coffee and medical products, while still being possible to recycle.

Full Cycle Bioplastics, Elk Packaging, and Associated Labels and Packaging

A joint proposal by Full Cycle Bioplastics, Elk Packaging, and Associated Labels and Packaging to create a high-performance material from renewable materials, agricultural by-products and food waste was a winner in the "combining materials that nature can handle" category.

This innovation is a fully compostable version of the multi-material films that are currently used for granola bar wrappers, laundry detergent sachets, and crisp bags.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland's proposal to create compostable multi-layer materials from agricultural and forestry by-products was another winner in the "combining materials that nature can handle" category.

The packaging that looks and feels like plastic, but is actually made from wood, could be used for stand-up food pouches for products like muesli, nuts, dried fruit and rice.

Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC

The final winner in the "combining materials that nature can handle" category, the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, has developed an organic coating for plastic that makes fresh food packaging compostable.

These new coatings can improve the capacity of bio-based and biodegradable packaging so that it meets the required performance standards to guarantee the required minimum shelf life of food products.

See original article here. 

China's ban on Australian waste is an opportunity for the Circular Economy

China's ban on foreign waste leaves Australian recycling industry eyeing opportunities

By finance correspondent Phil Lasker, Jenya Goloubeva and China correspondent Bill Birtles

12 December 2018

The world's most populous country has been the largest importer of recyclable materials, taking in more than 30 million metric tonnes of waste from all over the world, including from the US, EU, Japan, and Australia.When you put out the recycling bin, do you stop to think about where your waste ends up? And would you be surprised to learn the answer, in some cases, is China?

But in July, China — also the world's biggest manufacturer — decided it would no longer take what it called foreign garbage.

It is set to ban 24 categories of solid waste to protect the environment and public health.

China's ban on foreign waste is reverberating through Australia's waste industry, but operators are taking a positive approach.

They do not see it as a crisis yet, but a wake-up call which should serve as the trigger to take responsibility for our own waste and transition to a cleaner economy.

"The real opportunity in Australia is to create that circular economy that's happening overseas and that's what China is moving towards, where they're saying we produce that material, we actually want to recycle that material and reuse it back in the economy," said Gayle Sloan, the chief executive of the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA).

But Ms Sloan admitted the process would not be easy.

The Chinese ban, which will be fully implemented early next year, affects an annual average of 619,000 tonnes of materials — worth $523 million — in Australia alone.

"It'll be a real challenge finding homes for these products in the short term," Ms Sloan said.

"It's going to change the nature of the recycling industry in Australia for us."

Recyclers who are unable to ship their waste to China will be forced into more expensive solutions, and may have to renegotiate their contracts with local councils so ratepayers could end up footing the bill.

China decision hits prices

Recyclers said there was no-one in the industry who was not feeling the pain at the moment.

"Whether you're selling your material into the domestic market or export markets, this is a huge impact," said Garth Lamb, business development manager for Sydney-based Re.Group.

PHOTO: Your recycling used to end up in China, with it taking more than 7 million metric tonnes of plastic from the US, EU, Japan and Australia. (ABC News: Matthew Roberts)

The company has recently invested $8 million to open a new recycling operation at Hume in the ACT.

Although they sell most of their recycled products in Australia, the company said China's decision still had a major impact because the market would become flooded with recycling material.

"The price has absolutely collapsed, that's the problem. We don't actually even have a price benchmark in some cases because so little material is now trading with China's recent ban," Mr Lamb said.

He said China's decision to only accept material with a contamination level of no more than 0.5 per cent was a virtual ban, because it was unachievable when processing household waste like plastics.

A plastic bottle with a lid or label would be rejected under the new restrictions.

Re.Group is stepping up its campaign to grow its local customer base.

"At this facility we process all the glass that we receive, which is about a third of everything that comes in. We make that back into sand that we can reuse locally," Mr Lamb said.
"And instead of mining a beach or a river bed and getting new sand, we can use this more sustainable product for building all kinds of infrastructure like roads."

How has China responded to waste ban?

In China, recyclers and environmental groups have generally welcomed the waste import ban, despite predictions of manufacturing material shortfalls.

China's President Xi Jinping made environmental protection a key priority when outlining the Communist Party's future blueprint for the country in October.

He said the Government would promote recycling and "establish linkages between the circular use of resources and materials in industrial production and in everyday life".

China's domestic waste has been increasing in line with growing consumption.

Each year on November 11, the world's biggest online shopping frenzy produces huge amounts of rubbish, with couriers this year reportedly delivering more than 330 million parcels across China.

PHOTO: Cardboard collection workers sort boxes at a recycling facility in Beijing. (ABC News: Cecily Huang)

According to Greenpeace, the nationwide recycling rate for packaging is about 10 per cent.

"If this ban blocks the importation of foreign rubbish, the reality is we still need materials for production, and that may increase domestic factories' demands on original resources, even fossil resources," Liu Hua, a Greenpeace campaigner in Beijing, said.
"This is the very first step to change the global recycling system, to disrupt the trading chain from exporters to importers, so China not only improves its domestic recycling but also raises environmental standards."

For those already in the recycling industry, the ban presents a huge opportunity.

"In the next five years, professional recycling companies with large capacity will emerge, including online start-up companies like ours," said Fang Hao, the manager of a Beijing-based cardboard collection company called Magic Quadrant Technology.
"Our Government, the state-owned entities, public companies will make a big move into the recycling sector because it's such a big market."

As the ban nears, the waste industry in China is bracing for what it hopes will be short-term upheaval, but there is little enthusiasm for delaying the implementation so countries like Australia can cope with the transition.

"If a country has always relied on exporting rubbish to a developing nation, then yes, it is going to take a long time to adjust," Mr Liu said.
"But demanding that China should delay its foreign waste ban is highly questionable."

Australian Government urged to show leadership

The WMAA wants the Federal Government to assist in establishing a circular economy by helping industry and encouraging consumers.

While the Federal Government was prepared to intervene to address the energy crisis, it is steering clear of this issue.

In a statement, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said, "Waste management and recycling is primarily the responsibility of state, territory and local governments."

"While China's ban is going to put pressure on some industries, it could provide opportunities for others in the recycling industry."

But Ms Sloan believes more can be done to create an incentive for customers.

"We don't have sufficient demand in secondary markets of recyclable product on shore at the moment, so people who want to do it are struggling to find markets to sell the product into," Ms Sloan said.

Recycled products may be more expensive in the short run, but there is plenty of scope to grow the domestic market to reduce the cost of these products.

Ms Sloan said all levels of government could show leadership by mandating the use of recycled product in their purchasing policies.

Industry could also be instructed to use recycled content wherever possible, while consumers could be encouraged to choose recycled packaging through the introduction of clear labelling disclosing the degree of recycled content.

"You can't just keep providing packaging into industry and the market and not use it back," Ms Sloan said.
"It's unfair to create waste in the first instance without thinking where it's going to go and how it's going to be re-used."

South Australian data has shown that an extra 25,000 jobs would be created over five years by recycling and reusing our waste rather than dumping or exporting it.

The chief executive of Green Industries South Australia, Vaughan Levitzke, said it was time the Government stepped in and supported innovation in a move to a circular economy.

"I think that's been lacking, and to ask fledgling start-ups to be able to test their products and then hope to gain market share when they're competing against a whole range of virgin materials that are quite established in the market is quite difficult," he said.

Can we do nothing?

Mr Levitzke said the industry was at a point of no return.

"I don't think we have a choice ... this is us taking responsibility for our own negative impacts and taking care of it locally," he said.
"While Europe and other nations including Japan, and now China, move towards a circular economy, Australia risks being left behind
"Up until now, the negative effects have probably been in China. So this is us taking responsibility for our own negative impacts and taking care of it locally."

If nothing changes it means sending more material to landfill, which will end up being more costly and more damaging to the environment.

"No-one wants to live next to a landfill. No-one wants to have to put up with the issues that are associated with landfills," Mr Levitzke said.

For now Re.Group is staying the course, committed to recycling and keeping its waste from landfill.

"Recycling generally generates about nine times more jobs per tonne of waste than sending it to landfill," Mr Lamb said.
"So not only are we putting material back into the productive economy, we're generating jobs, and they're local jobs."


Do you want experience working for a company of the future, a circular economy company?

Flexible working, global experience, a business driven 100% with a purpose to rethink the way we make things. 

We are currently looking to fill a volunteer role, flexible 20hrs per week as a marketing intern. 

About the Role:

The role is working directly with the Chief Marketing Officer, who is a leading practitioner for the Circular Economy. You’ll be exposed to all many different marketing focused projects and work problem solving a variety of challenges across a range of different marketing activities.

Some of your activities will include supporting marketing campaigns from Facebook through to digital ads. You will attend work in progress meetings. Organise assets as needed for campaigns. Conduct research and analysis on market activity. You will also have access to reporting.

If you have an interest in being creative from a design or copyrighting perspective there is plenty of opportunity to performance these tasks, including strategic involvement on planning and contributions to reviewing opportunities to improve. 

Who we are looking for:

You are curious about how to create better solutions, you take initiative, your organised and your friends admire you for how much of a go getter you are.

You are driven with an intention to create positive change. You are strategically minded, a creative problem solver and you are hungry to learn.

If possible you will have experience with babies. Either you know someone who is a parent, you are a parent or you have helped those who do parent.

What you get:

You will get a seat on the front row of the activity. Things are naturally exciting with us. Our culture is upbeat and inspiring. You will get professional development sessions and a plan, time with the CMO from a mentoring perspective. You will also receive references after your time with us.

If you want to learn some amazing new skills, help make a real difference in the world, do things that will make your CV stand out and get professional career investment to help you on your career journey, then apply today.

About the Company:

gDiapers is changing the world of disposable diapers — top to bottom, inside and out. Our simple system pairs adorable soft cotton gPants diaper covers with Disposable Inserts that are flushable and compostable

(wet ones only). gDiapers Disposable Inserts are Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver — a mark trusted aroud
the world for ecologically intelligent design. Above all, gDiapers is dedicated to keeping babies clean, cute and comfortable — as part of a growing global community of parents who are looking for beautiful products: inside and out.

To apply, complete the form below and provide a link to your CV. Alternately you can email Candice Quartermain at

Name *



Book Launch & Global Tour 2017

Book Launch & Global Tour

To infinity and beyond

Candice Quartermain and Catherine Leach launch their long awaited book on the Circular Economy.

Having spent the last 6 years championing the Circular Economy in Australia, it is time to celebrate stories of those dedicating their journeys to transitioning away from today's take, make and throw away model, towards one that is designed to be regenerative and renewable.

Supporting the launch of the book, Candice will be travelling to America, Europe and South Africa to share the Australian Circular Economy Story with a global audience. 

Disruptive Innovation Festival 2016 is LIVE!

About DIF 2016

What is the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF)?

The Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) is an online, open access event that invites thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses, makers and learners to explore the question “The economy is changing - what do I need to know, experience and do?”.

The DIF is a devolved event which takes place over a three-week period around the world; coordinated and accessible at Over 200 sessions are held across six virtual stages, ranging from the must see thinkers and thought-leading Headliners to the Open Mic stage, composed of self organised contributions from innovative individuals or organisations. In 2016 the DIF takes place from 7-25 November. 

Using a mix of online and face to face events, participants have the opportunity to explore the economy through a different lens. Sessions demonstrate how people worldwide are challenging the current ‘take, make and dispose’ economic model. 

Alongside the 2016 main themes – System ResetRegenerative Cities and The Future of Work – broader themes encompassed are; Design Innovation, Systems Thinking, Sharing Economy, Internet of Things, Regenerative Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, New Business Models, Materials and Energy and 21st Century Science.

DIF 2016 kicks off with a Grand Opening on Monday 7 November 2016 in London – there are only 100 spaces available, register your interest now!

DIF 2016

7-25 November 2016

Online at and multiple regional events – see individual sessions for details.

Organisations, Universities, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and anyone else with an idea to share all have an opportunity to take part on one of our various stages:

Headline Stage - the must-see thinkers and thought leaders streamed live

Big Top Tents - university led online learning programmes

Ellen MacArthur Foundation Stage - Ellen MacArthur Foundation curated content around the latest big picture themes, trends and opportunities

Open Mic - self-organised contributions from innovative individuals and organisations in the form of online and physical events. 

How to participate

The DIF is open and completely free to attend. However, we recommend getting a My DIF account, which will give you access to the full DIF experience, including:

  • The chance to be part of the lineup through the Open Mic stage or Big Top Tents
  • Receive DIF emails with news, tips and session alerts
  • Recommended sessions based on your own interests. Is that design & engineering, business & innovation, education & training, or all of the DIF themes? You tell us.
  • Star sessions you want to attend to create your own schedule
  • Be part of an enriching discussion with the comment feature during live sessions
  • Plus, 30 days of bonus catch up time after the DIF has ended. There’s so much to see at the DIF, you’ll need this - trust us.

Register here to access all the online sessions for free as well as these extra benefits to supercharge your DIF experience.

How to contribute

We’d love to hear from you if you have insights, stories or ideas to share, see the Contributors page for more details on how to apply to host an Open Mic session or Big Top Tent.

Which languages?

The Festival’s working language is English. This year, sessions will also be running in French, Portuguese, Spanish and Hindi. View the Languages page for more details.

You can also watch our new video to get more of a taste for the DIF. 

Circular economy to become $26bn industry in Australia by 2025: World Economic Forum

Throwaways are out: Advocates for the "circular economy" say the future of economic growth is in recycling, re-using and re-purposing goods and resources.

By Mark White

A Danish company rents baby clothes for the first year of their life. Google's Project Ara is a modular smartphone, with features that can be upgraded separately. A trial of 99 per cent recycled asphalt is underway in Boroondara, Victoria.

These are all examples of the circular economy, an approach to business which could be vital for our future prosperity.

The idea of a circular model is once it's out of the ground it keeps circulating. 

James Moody, entrepreneur.

Anyone who lived through the Depression will recognise the ideas behind it: recycling, re-using and re-purposing everything possible. It's being revived in a world that will see an extra three billion middle-class consumers by 2050 while resources diminish and the G7 begins the transition to a no-carbon economy.

The difference from the 1930s is that economic growth can still happen despite fewer resources being consumed, with innovation and technology squaring the circle. The aim is to produce "cradle to cradle" goods designed so they can have a second life – and maybe even a third and fourth. Waste from one manufacturing process could be raw material for another, for example.

"We've always had a very linear model," says entrepreneur James Moody, a panellist on the ABC's The New Inventors show. "We dig it out of the ground, turn it into something, consume it and stick it back in the ground [as landfill]. The idea of a circular model is once it's out of the ground it keeps circulating."

The World Economic Forum estimates the circular economy could be worth $1 trillion worldwide and $26 billion in Australia by 2025. Doing more with less would bring more wealth and jobs, less landfill, resource depletion and environmental damage. Can we afford not to join the virtuous circle?

UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) co-hosted the World Resources Forum Asia-Pacific's recent 'Wealth from Waste' event, and has issued an action agenda. "We're careful not to brand it under a green umbrella," says the ISF's Damien Giurco. "We need to engage business to say this is an economic opportunity … sometimes business thinks environment equals cost and regulation, but a lot of the rest of the world's just getting on with making more money, which is a win win." Consulting firm Accenture has identified five business models driving the circular economy: circular supplies (including renewable energy); resource recovery; extending product life; "sharing" platforms; and offering products as a service.

But what would a circular economy look like? Giurco offers a cafe owner taking empty milk cartons – a resource – over the road to be fed into a 3D printer to produce bespoke tea cups they can sell the next day. Carpet company Desso and electronics giant Philips are releasing a light-emitting carpet, combining signage and furnishings. Aussie firm Interface uses discarded fishing line from the Phillippines for its Net Effect carpet range. H&M, Nike and Puma are using plastics and polyesters for clothing lines.

Candice Quartermain, the founder of business network Circular Economy Australia, sees it enabling access to goods which wouldn't otherwise be possible – such as taking a cheaper Uber instead of a registered taxi. The outcomes will "allow us to be, on average, wealthier or more diverse in what we can earn and how we can work".

Moody, whose company Sendle uses spare courier capacity to deliver parcels door-to-door across Australia as if they were catching buses across a network, says, "We'll have a lot better services, things will get cheaper… even better, more affordable. You'll have access to a car when you need it because you're sharing it with neighbours." One idea is to turn goods into services. "I don't need to own an air-conditioner, I just want hot or cold air," he says. Instead of buying a washing machine, you could lease it – meaning the company would have an incentive to build something which lasted more than a few years before breaking down.

Moody even thinks there doesn't need a big cultural shift for people to hire instead of buy cars. But new research from the UK's Nottingham Trent University suggests people are culturally programmed to own goods. "The problem at the moment is that the whole renting market is about appealing to a very narrow segment – people who can't afford to buy, who aren't credit worthy, paying ridiculous prices," co-researcher Professor Tim Cooper told The Independent. "No one in their right mind will rent unless they have to. So the market's got to be transformed [from businesses relying on selling replacements to make money]".

Rob Pascoe is MD of Closed Loop Australia, which advises companies like Qantas and KFC on reducing waste. "To be sustainable you must make money," he says. "The reason we can do it … is that waste is a resource. Waste going to landfill is a failure of a system." He says a circular approach is a "fundamentally different way of thinking" — designing what the waste will consist of and then taking it back, rather than just accepting it will happen. Pascoe likens it to his gran washing out the milk bottles – now they cut the cartons into little bits, wash them and remould them, but the concept's the same.

There is machinery in five of the world's top 20 restaurants, including the best, Noma, in Copenhagen, which turn organic waste into fertiliser. "You can improve revenue streams just as you can improve the cost base by not wasting resources." An EU report estimates every 1 per cent increase in resource efficiency in the continent is worth up to $33bn and can create 200,000 jobs. Dismantling rubbish is already bringing dividends for social enterprises such as Mission Australia's (MA) Soft Landing NSW mattress recycling program.

It began in 2009, when people started dumping unwanted mattresses in the MA clothing bins following the introduction of a dump gate fee. They saw a business opportunity in the steel, and set up a recycling plant the year after with a grant.

Since then 300 people have found full-time work extracting the steel (which is pressed and sold on), timber (helps build toys), foam (carpet underlay) and textile (used for their punching bags business). They returned $19 for each initial seed funding dollar, and report a $3 social return on each dollar invested – measured in terms of creating jobs for their workers, many of whom face barriers to getting work such as criminal records or mental health issues.

"The greatest thing about the program is you can't pull a mattress apart the wrong way," says MA's Bill Dibley. "You can do it the fast way or the hard way but you'll pull it apart. Most of the people we deal with have had negative reinforcement most of their life, this straightaway gave positive reinforcement because they achieved their goal."

John Weate, founder of Tuncurry's Resource Recycling, turned one job on a $50,000 contract into 30 jobs for Aboriginal men and $2m turnover per year. "Our focus is helping them out of prison so they don't return but get jobs and skills," he says. Workers sort and recover materials from waste streams in the shire, and the model has been replicated in Gladstone, Queensland, with 22 jobs.

On the NSW south coast their partners Green Connect have given 112 refugees their first chance in the Australian labour market in less than a year. They pick up bulk waste from the shire twice a year: 250 tonnes of metal, worth $26,000, plus repurposing and reselling goods, worth $120,000 a year, and another $60,000 on discarded building materials. Imagine scaling that up across the country.

Monash University's Dr Ruth Lane is studying the logistics of collecting e-waste. Processing is only profitable for big business, but not for households. There's more gold in a kilogram of mobile phones than gold-containing ore, but the issue is how to get those phones to processing efficiently – as well as extracting the value here, and not sending them overseas.

She says, "There may be some new technologies on the horizon that will allow us to a certain level of reprocessing at a smaller scale and take a plant to where the source is … there's a lot of possibilities on the horizon."

The CSIRO's Dr Heinz Schandl says his data shows that Australia has been focused on short-term gains from the "extractive economy" instead of planning for the opportunities offered by the circular economy. Manufacturing would need to be "rebuilt in the domains of renewable energy, green products and eco-efficient production", with a "large-scale reskilling" of many workers resulting in many new jobs opening up. "To achieve a circular economy will require leadership that is focused on the long-term which often missing," he says.

There are other bumps in the road. Uber uses cars more efficiently and is cheaper than registered taxis, but pushes the cost of business on to the drivers. ISF's action agenda calls for renewable energy to help with the circular economy's energy inputs, but it seems an uphill battle given Prime Minister Tony Abbott's notorious disdain for the sector and love of coal.

"This is a $26bn opportunity by 2025," adds Quartermain. "If you're not getting your ducks in a row right now to maximise on that opportunity, you're going to miss out."


US$1 trillion – WEF estimate of global material cost savings of a circular economy by 2025

$26 billon – local cost savings of the same by 2025 $70bn – material value of global e-waste in 2014

$9.3 billion – additional value to Australian business of using a collaborative economy

$6 billion – metal contained in waste streams in Australia per year, equivalent to half of all metal consumed


Action agenda for a circular economy released at World Resources Forum

A World Resources Forum keynote panel (L-R): (l to r): Dr Alex Wonhas (CSIRO), Prof Masamichi Yoshimura (Toyota Technological Institute), Janet Salem (UNEP), Prof Stuart White (ISF).

A World Resources Forum keynote panel (L-R): (l to r): Dr Alex Wonhas (CSIRO), Prof Masamichi Yoshimura (Toyota Technological Institute), Janet Salem (UNEP), Prof Stuart White (ISF).

The value of a circular economy to Australia could be $26 billion a year by 2025, according to an action agenda released at the World Resources Forum Asia Pacific being held this week in Sydney.

The agenda, released by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, has been designed to bring focus to the significance of resource productivity and innovation for Australia’s future.

“At the core of this alternative economic model is re-thinking design to maintain the value (economic and functional) of resources (energy, water, materials, knowledge) in the economy. This is achieved by re-energising and re-imagining traditional practices of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling,” the authors state.

Rather than simply focusing on cycling materials, the paper refers to a circular economy as “a broad suite of strategies that includes technology innovation as well as business model innovation, new design thinking and novel modes of consumption”.

“Our ambition with this call to action is to seed new conversations and collaborations – between business, academia, government and the community – needed to drive a new wave of responsible prosperity for Australia in the Asian Century,” the action agenda states.

“By bringing together business, research, technology and policy, we can deliver the skills, products and services to sustain prosperity at home and in our region.”

Four “opportunities for Australia’s future” were presented:

Replenish stocks and rethink value

Australia needs to build a productive economy that preserves and replenishes stocks of natural capital rather than degrading them, and should establish a national system of environmental and waste accounts, recognising both are valuable resources. By adopting the “take-make-recreate” approach of the circular economy Australia can go from being a global leader in primary resource production to being a leader in generating value through resource productivity.

Design for renewable energy and resource cycles

Australia has an opportunity to couple renewable energy to value-add in other sectors, including advanced manufacturing, mining and minerals processing and future transport – boosting resource productivity.

Harness disruptive innovation for production and consumption 2.0

New materials and digital technologies, advanced and additive manufacturing, and open innovation are transforming conventional business practices. Australian firms can influence the design of products for easy remanufacturing and recycling, whether made locally and overseas.

Leverage know-how into new networks and markets

Australia starts from a vast base of knowledge, skills, and technological and technical know-how, that can be aligned to provide a competitive advantage for capturing new markets and growing strategic networks. Australia is a leading provider of advanced services to mining, with more than half of the software used globally for operating mines developed in Australia. This know-how can be applied to access new markets in waste and unconventional resources.

Recommendations for federal, state and local government include:

  • Embed resource productivity in a coordinated policy agenda – targeted, coordinated and consistent policies across federal, state and local governments on resources and energy productivity integrated with national waste management policy is needed, including levies on resource extraction and waste disposal, appropriate targets for recycling and resource productivity, and ambitious targets for renewable energy
  • Promote a market for secondary resources and products – public procurement policies such as the NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy have significant potential to promote the purchase of goods made with secondary inputs and to de-risk investment in new resource management infrastructure. Expanding the significant steps towards supporting the return phase of products at end-of-life should be a priority, such as via product stewardship regulations and container deposit legislation.
  • Create an enabling environment for technology and business – governments can play an important role in creating the optimal conditions for innovation in technology and business by de-risking investment in R&D and new infrastructure. Key to this is encouraging industry-university collaboration for innovation through tax incentives that foster private investment in R&D. In addition to support for R&D, governments can enable deployment towards commercialisation, such as demonstrated by international policy measures such as UK’s Catapult Initiative.

Opportunities for business include:

  • Design-led system innovation – significant opportunities for energy and resource efficiency are being seized through design-led innovation from IT- enabled demand management systems to “virtualisation”.
  • New business models – New business models for the circular world allow businesses to diversify their revenue streams, engage with new markets, and de-risk in light of resource constraints. New value is being created through five archetypal new business models:
  • Substitute with renewable inputs:
    • Maximise material and energy efficiency
    • Create wealth from wastes
    • Adopt a stewardship model
    • Promote access over ownership
  • Encourage sufficiency and new modes of consumption – incentivising responsible use of products and services, designing for long-life, providing warranties for secondary products and offering virtual over physical upgrades
  • Collaboration for commercialisation – new strategic sector-wide partnerships can promote circular outcomes, as can industry-university partnerships

By Cameron Jewell

Circular Economy gets industry spotlight in latest publication

Circular Economy is under the spotlight this month in the latest Industry Intelligence publication created by Rodin Genoff and Associates

The publication looks at what it means to be circular, who is making it happen, and how it's relevant to our cities. 

Contributors include:

Download the publication here. 

Australia takes the stage for world’s first Global Disruptive Innovation Festival

On Friday, November 14th 2014, Australia will play host to the first ever Global Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF).

Australia’s part in the DIF marks the last leg of a month long online festival launched in October by the UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Offering a mix of online and global real world events, the DIF explores ideas such as business innovation, remaking the city, sharing economy, systems thinking and 21st century enlightenment. Thought leaders including Sir Ken Robinson, William Mc Donough, Ellen McArthur and Janne Benyus will join the morning via satellite.

With an expected 150 individuals in attendance at Sydney’s event, and many more watching from their screens, Australia’s DIF will challenge the current take-make-throwaway model of modern consumerism in favour of a circular economy business model. Discussions will therefore focus on how innovation can support that transition.

“Our philosophy is to connect the world’s resources through the application of a regenerative model.” Candice Quartermain, Founder and CEO Circular Economy Australia

The world economic forum earlier this year estimated the opportunity of a Circular Economy to be worth 1 trillion dollars with the creation prospect of 100,000 new jobs.

This opportunity could change the way we think about the Australian economy. Away from our reliance on mining, our financial landscape could shift to one of groundbreaking innovation.

Considering Australia can already lay claim to game-changing inventions like Wi-fi technology, ultrasound and of late, the current world record for the fastest electric car on a single charge - it’s not difficult to see the benefit of investing in further Aussie grown innovation. Now it’s just up to us to make it happen.  


Jamming to redesign the circular economy

On the weekend of the 22nd-24th November, a collection of designers, makers, developers, sustainability experts gathered in London, mentored by some of the leading experts in the field as part of the bigger world wide event the Global Sustainability Jam.

At the Circular Jam, we focused on how systems can be improved or re-made to reduce waste. It was fast-paced, prototype focussed and gave people the chance to connect with some brilliant and creative people, in London and across the world. It was a fantastic and fun weekend, full of ideas, testing, discovery, conversations and connections.

Circular Economy, designing for abundance

Going beyond sustainability, designing with an intention that has a vision for abundance and the principles to get there.


Candice Quartermain, Circular Economy Australia - 4th July, 2014


Circular Economy Article



This week we returned to the inspiring and visionary work of William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Their books, Cradle to Cradle and The Upcycle demonstrate the need to go beyond sustainability and aspire for a world which is designed for abundance.

A big idea, yes and naturally your first instinct is to jump to the challenges and issues, sure. What if we focused on the possibility and instead asked how?


You want an abundant lifestyle

Today life is abundant with love, sharing, knowledge and access. In today’s world, many are living longer and healthier lifestyles than ever before.

However instinctively when discussing the future, the conversation quickly turns negative. Challenges, risks and issues become the focus.

Often design is reactive to problems requiring immediate solutions, resulting in creation which is constrained by the present.

What if we were to design with an intention that had a vision for the future. What if that intention was as William McDonough and Michael Braungart identified:

“To design for all the children of all the species for all the time”

What could our future be like then, what would we design today and how could our intention benefit the health of ourselves, those we love and the environment we call home?



Let fear become your courage

Fear is something that we as a species have to accept is part of our DNA. It is what allows us to instinctively know what feels right and wrong.

Nelson Mandela describes fear as something that is not overcome but instead accepted, using it to build courage which can bring triumph.

Our world today is full of challenges and things are continually changing, sometimes very quickly. Moore's law sees our technical capabilities doubling every 2 years.

Everyone of us feels fear daily, many using it to create excuses to hold us back and keep us in our comfort zones.


Get passionate

Your career is something you should be passionate about. It should provide you with a purpose and creative expression which facilities your ability to contribute positively. It should be something you deeply value and care a lot about.

What if you were to stand up today and express a need to change something you cared about in your job? What if someone agreed with you or even suggested a way to achieve it? What if someone else offered to help make it happen?


Embrace the good

Today the world is full of initiatives where real change is being created from the ground up. Good, Pozible and even the Awesome foundation are great references for good ideas being backed and supported by others. 

Pymble Ladies College worked with Circular Economy Australia to find ways of reducing waste at school. Together they designed a water bottle program where new students received refillable stainless steel water bottles which they could design themselves.

Derek Sivers said that if you care, start something or get the courage to follow something you believe in. Maybe that first step is a TED talk?


Have a vision, design with an intention and deliver to principles

Rodin Genoff and associates believe that having a vision is the key to creating a future that works. Once you have a vision, a big idea or a dream, then you can begin the journey of identifying the activities to get there.

The key to these activities is maintaining an intention which provides the core benefits we as humans need. Clean air, soil and water.

As Dr Guy McPherson say’s “try holding your breathe while you count your money”.

The principles then become the key indicators from which you can assess the relevance of your strategy and identify if they are meeting your vision and intention.

These principles remind you of your objectives and keep you focused when you dive into the detail and metrics of any project.

This is where the circular economy becomes the leading guide to achieving goals.

What if our vision for the future was a world where our products, organisations, cities and governments provided 100% safe and healthy products and services with systems that offered added benefits just cause they could? What if our intention was to design for all the children of all the species for all the time?

Could we create a circular economy future where nothing is wasted, resources only regenerate into systems for continual reuse, where our products and services go beyond function or purpose, adding benefits like clean air, water or food? Where everything is powered using renewable energy?

Companies like Desso, Herman miller, NASA and Method are all adopting this approach and are seeing great successes as they transition gradually towards this great vision. 

Our future can be abundant, just like nature is. We have the knowledge, resources and capability to transform our world into this vision and now the exciting journey of a circular economy is quickly gaining momentum.

Join us in our pursuit for a future where our world is designed for abundance, where we go beyond sustainability, beyond zero emissions and instead aspire for brilliance that benefits us all. 

All you have to do is ask how, turn the fear into courage, get passionate and find some good. Let your vision lead your intention and your intention drive your circular economy transition. One step at a time and progress will continue to be made. 

Join the network of pioneers coming together on the circular economy. Learn, share and contribute in the conversation.

Join us and get more stories like this direct to your inbox


10 things you need to know about the circular economy

Written by:

Maxine PerellaGuardian Professional, Thursday 26 June 2014 18.59 AEST


A working circular economy could be a practical solution to the planet's emerging resource problems. Here's 10 facts you should know.

The celebrity factor helps the cause. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a vocal supporter of cradle-to-cradle principles. Photograph: Allstar/WARNER BROS/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

1. Why do we need one?

The circular economy is touted as a practical solution to the planet's emerging resource crunch. Reserves of key resources such as rare earth metals and minerals are diminishing, while exploration and material extraction costs are rising. The current 'take-make-dispose' linear economy approach results in massive waste – according to Richard Girling's book Rubbish! published in 2005, 90% of the raw materials used in manufacturing become waste before the product leaves the factory while 80% of products made get thrown away within the first six months of their life. This, coupled with growing tensions around geopolitics and supply risk, are contributing to volatile commodity prices. A circular economy could help stabilise some of these issues by decoupling economic growth from resource consumption.

2. It is more than just recycling

While substituting secondary materials for primary materials can offer a part solution, recycling offers limited appeal as its processes are energy-intensive and generally downgrade materials, leading to continuing high demand for virgin materials. The circular economy goes beyond recycling as it is based around a restorative industrial system geared towards designing out waste. This graphic from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows how recycling is an 'outer circle' of the circular economy, requiring more energy input than the 'inner circles' of repair, reuse and remanufacture. The goal is not just to design for better end-of-life recovery, but to minimise energy use.

3. Celebrities are shouting about it

The notion of a circular economy was first touted in the 1970s by environmental academics John T Lyle and Walter Stahel, but only really caught on when former sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur set up the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010 to champion the concept. Since then, the foundation has been hugely influential in making it resonate among world leaders, global corporations and academic institutions. Several celebrities have since lent their endorsement to the circular economy and its related cradle-to-cradle principles. Brad Pitt is a member of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation's founding circle while fellow actorsArnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and are all vocal supporters.

4. The economics stack up

The business case for a circular economy is compelling. Analysis by McKinsey estimates shifting towards circularity could add $1 trillion to the global economy by 2025 and create 100,000 new jobs within the next five years. Under the Waste & Resources Action Programme's Circular Economy 2020 Vision, the European Union (EU) could benefit from an improved trade balance of £90 billion and the creation of 160,000 jobs. Manufacturers are most likely to reap the benefits quickest given their reliance on raw materials – McKinsey argues that a subset of the EU manufacturing sector could realise net materials cost savings worth up to $630 billion per annum by 2025.

5. Business leadership

Ground-level innovation in this field is being driven by large corporations who are piloting business models based on leasing, product performance, remanufacture, and extended lifecycle thinking. These companies have the power to effect change quickest, given their geographical reach through global supply chains, and their efforts are likely to accelerate with the emergence of a business-led platform for collaboration, the Circular Economy 100. While the circular economy also relies on the involvement of SMEs, take-up in this sector remains limited. A recent survey of nearly 300 small businesses across England, France and Belgium found almost 50% had not heard of the concept.

6. Government intervention

Scaling up a circular economy on an international level will likely require government support. A co-ordinated approach by world leaders to introduce positive legislative drivers such as waste prevention targets and incentives around eco-design to promote products that are easier to reuse, remanufacture and disassemble would be welcomed by many. Some countries are already starting to act – China has set up CACE, a government-backed association to encourage circular growth while Scotland has issued its own circular economy blueprint. In a highly significant move the European Commission's circular economy framework, released next month, is expected to introduce higher recycling targets and a landfill ban on recyclable materials across all 28 EU member states.

7. It will change how we consume

Our relationship with the products and services we purchase could be radicalised under a circular economy. What if we didn't buy the goods we use, but instead favoured access and performance over ownership? The 'pay per use' contractual agreements associated with smartphones for example could be extended to standard goods such as washing machines, clothes and DIY equipment. PhilipsKingfisher Group andMud Jeans are already piloting product-as-service models, which would see us become users rather than consumers. Such a shift would not only allow companies to retain product ownership for easier repair, reuse and remanufacture, but might result in producer responsibilityobligations being extended to users as part of the purchase agreement.

8. New skills, please

Making the transition to a circular economy will be complex as it requires systems-level redesign and a pressing need for new skills, not just within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects, but across the creative disciplines of design, advertising and digital. At a higher level, systems thinking and modelling is likely to come to the fore to help build the right frameworks and guide behaviour change. On a more practical level, educational outreach work with universities and secondary schools is being undertaken by various organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Circular Economy Australia.

9. Expect disruption

One of the prime enablers will be disruptive innovation – where breakthrough technology and design will spark new circular models of commerce, displacing existing markets and creating new ones. Businesses leading on this agenda are realising that they will either have to disrupt their own models from within, or risk being disrupted. Questions are also being raised over intellectual property, disclosure agreements and competition laws as companies collaborate to brainstorm and co-create. First mover advantage can be costly, and the level of perceived risk may prove a stumbling block.

10. The UK is 19% circular

Weight-based material flow analysis conducted in 2010 by Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimated that one-fifth of the UK economy is already operating in a circular fashion. The 19% relates to weight of domestic material input (600 million tonnes) entering the economy compared with the amount of material (115 million tonnes) recycled. Future projections by WRAP predict this figure could rise to nearly 27% by 2020, if 137 million tonnes of material were recycled from a lesser direct material input of 510 million tonnes.

Maxine Perella is an environmental journalist specialising in the zero waste and circular economy agenda. She tweets @greendipped.

Content on this page is produced and controlled by Philips, supporter of the circular economy hub