Event report: Site visits, workshop and community presentation (Armidale)

NSW Circular, in partnership with the University of New England, conducted industry site visits, an innovation workshop and the ‘Waste as a Resource – Entrepreneurs Hour’ (for local businesses and the community) in Armidale on 1 August.

With the theme ‘treating waste as a resource in a circular economy’, the events brought together stakeholders from across industry, business and government in the North West region. NSW Circular events introduce and promote the benefits of a circular economy – locally, across NSW and the rest of Australia – as society aims to be more sustainable.

Event 1: Site visits

Venues: Phoenix Foundry and Aspen Commercial Interiors Armidale

Description

NSW Circular Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, and Michael Sharpe (National Director – Industry, AMGC) joined Professor Derek Baker (UNE) to meet the managers of two leading Armidale businesses, inspect their operations and discuss their waste issues and opportunities. Pictured above is Professor Sahajwalla interviewing the Manager of Aspen Commercial Interiors, Stephen Heaney, for a NSW Circular video.

Attendees

  • Professor Derek Baker, Director, UNE Centre for Agribusiness
  • Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director NSW Circular
  • Michael Sharpe, Federal Director – Industry, AMGC
  • Ian Mitchell, CEO Phoenix Foundry
  • Stephen Heaney, Manager, Aspen Commercial Interiors
  • Jan McClelland AM, Board member, NSW Circular
  • Anders Hallgren, COO, NSW Circular
  • Tony Wragg, Events Coordinator, NSW Circular
  • Uttra Benton, Projects Manager, NSW Circular 

Outcome and next steps

NSW Circular recommended some immediate solutions to waste issues at both facilities. These are currently being tested to determine their viability.

Event 2: Circular Economy Project Development Workshop

Venue: UNE SMART Region Incubator, University of New England, Armidale

Description

An on-campus workshop at UNE facilitated by Professor Derek Baker. Its goal was to identify next steps in implementing the circular economy in regional areas of NSW. The workshop was a non-linear set of discussions – progressing from problem to project identification.

Key messaging

Focusing on agribusiness, the primary message at this event was how the circular economy creates new opportunities for designing high value products, start-ups, new technologies and ideas in a regional environment.

Presenters

  • Professor Derek Baker, Director, UNE Centre for Agribusiness
  • Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director NSW Circular
  • Michael Sharpe, Federal Director – Industry, AMGC

Invitations and attendance

  • 25 attendees (approx.) representing local food businesses, waste experts, local government and plastics manufacturers promoted through UNE and the NSW Circular websites.

Outcome and next steps

Project ideas emerging from the workshop included:

1. Establishment and operation of a data platform for listing of materials and products available for exchange/reuse to reduce search costs. This to act as:

  • a clearing house for materials
  • an interaction point for business
  • a database of materials use and transfer
  • a conduit for service industries (e.g. transport, processing) which would link to commercial websites
  • a template for an inventory of waste streams in NENW
  • an entry point for and source of expert opinion, evidence base for policy advocacy, and demonstration point for technologies, ownership models, etc
  1. A pilot for developing and testing specific technologies which operate at small scale, or at least do not require large scale. This might extend to, or example, periodic processing of accumulated small waste volumes into re-usable raw material which is in intermittent demand (e.g. road base). A pilot might also establish and demonstrate mobile plant.

3. The development of metrics for performance of the Circular Economy, with emphasis on:

  • Harmonising business, environmental and social performance measures
  • Relating whole-of-system performance to performance of parts
  • Tracking value
  • Incorporating time and cyclic measures such as longevity and reuse frequency
  • Particular requirements of NSW’s regions
  • Incorporating existing data from a range of sources
  • Linkages to professional certification and accreditation bodies.

4. Feasibility study of employing Circular Economy mechanisms in the establishment of a Carbon-Neutral precinct in a NENW (New England North West) municipality.

Event 3: Entrepreneurs Hour – Waste as a Resource

Venue: Armidale Bowling Club

Description

Professor Veena Sahajwalla spoke on ‘waste as a resource’ as the special guest for this regular event – attended by local businesses, government, industry and entrepreneurs. As part of the online registration process, attendees were asked to provide a question for Veena. These were answered during the evening, along with other questions from the floor.

Presenters

  • Dr Lou Conway, Director, UNE SMART Region Incubator (introductions)
  • Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director NSW Circular
  • Michael Sharpe, Federal Director – Industry, AMGC (facilitator)

Invitations and attendance

  • The event was promoted by UNE, through local and regional media and through the NSW Circular platforms
  • More than 90 people attended, representing local businesses, start-ups, the food industry, councils, students and local community members

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