Manufacturing and the circular economy
The below expert is from a comprehensive feature story by Manufacturers’ Monthly about the state of play of the circular economy in Australia and how NSW Circular is playing a key role.
A term that is gaining broader recognition to describe a new production paradigm is the circular economy, whereby products are produced from materials already in the market, rather than extracted from the environment, and when they reach the end of their life they are recycled, re-used, or returned to a productive capacity.
One person who is leading this shift is Veena Sahajwalla. A Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Green Manufacturing, Sahajwalla recently spoke to a collection of industry and community representatives at a forum on the circular economy in Gosford, NSW (hosted by NSW Circular).
“I think the whole point about the circular economy is that we know that if we collaborate and come to together, lots and lots of great ideas will come through. But, also, it is important, for us, to listen – understand what the community sentiments are; what local governments and businesses are struggling with,” said Sahajwalla.
It’s no secret that the amount of waste and the cost of disposing it is a struggle. With Victorian recycler SKM going into administration, and then the appointed receivers, KordaMentha, receiving a $10 million loan from the state government, the scale of the waste crisis is unavoidable. Councils and recycling businesses point the finger at state government inaction, while state governments trumpet their circular economy policies as a way to reduce reliance on landfill.
Amid the blame game, manufacturing businesses are also major producers of waste, which is becoming more expensive to dispose of, and Sahajwalla notes that these businesses need to be heard from, along with those who are managing their waste, as part of the NSW Circular Economy network.
“That is part of the learning experience for us in terms of us being able to listen to stories of local producers, but also councils who have the waste. This is part and parcel of what the Circular Economy Network is all about: for us to be able to listen to all the stakeholders – the local governments, businesses, communities – and I think, then, if we all listen to each other, the synergies are already starting to happen, which I think is just fantastic,” said Sahajwalla.
Another network outside of NSW that has brought together industrial waste users and producers is ASPIRE. Spun out of Data61 – the digital research arm of CSIRO – and supported by Swinburne University of Technology, the app functions as a marketplace for manufacturers to sell their waste products and purchase materials that would otherwise go to landfill and use them to develop new products.
For the full story, visit Manufacturers’ Monthly.