Internationally, many countries are adopting circular economy principles to guide economic and environmental policies and practices - the conversation is rapidly shifting.
Excitingly, a circular economy aims to ‘design out’ waste altogether. Products are designed and optimised for a cycle of disassembly and reuse. This is different to disposal and even recycling where large amounts of embedded energy and labour are lost.
According to the World Economic Forum, this calls for a new contract between businesses and their customers based on product performance. Durable products are leased, rented, or shared wherever possible.
In most cases, it is the outcome the world needs – not the product. If durable products are sold, there are incentives or agreements in place to ensure their return, ultimately enabling the reuse of the product or its components at the end of its period of primary use.
Economies win because it creates a new sector dedicated to reverse cycle activities for reuse, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling. Companies win because the circular economy could reduce material bills (via reselling and component recovery) and warranty risks by building to last and more manageable life cycles.
Consumers and users win because of increased product longevity and resilience - and of course the community and environment are better off.
At Sustainability Victoria, we have been thinking about our work in the context of a circular economy for some years.
Victoria has a 30-year Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan - the first of its kind in Australia. It is supported by strategies like the Market Development Strategy which aims to develop local markets for recovered resources and Waste Education Strategy both of which are also built on circular economy principles. We are aiming to find new markets for plastics, crushed brick and glass fines in our roads and pavements.
You too can take the pledge an individual or for your business. The best thing about acting to protect the world we live in is that many of these actions will benefit your back pocket or bottom line.
It’s up to all of use to help shape a better state of the future; a circular future.
Stan Krpan is Chief Executive Officer at Sustainability Victoria