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A Roadmap to a Circular Economy and Economic Growth

Circular economies generate economic and job growth as well as increasing sustainability by eliminating waste and the use of finite resources from industries. It fosters innovation in technologies, products and processes that transform supply chains and business models, in turn creating new domestic and export markets. Effectively, today’s goods become tomorrow’s resources.

Implementation of a circular economy system is becoming ever-more critical as primary materials become increasingly more expensive and ways of dealing with waste become ever-more unacceptable. In 2019, the Australian Government’s National Waste Action Plan set a target of a 80% recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030 and ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres in late 2020.

The National Circular Economy Roadmap for Plastics, Glass, Paper and Tyres, produced by the CSIRO for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, has found that this innovation is crucial to realising significant economic gains for Australia, address environmental issues and foster regional employment. The development of a circular economy could increase the number of jobs per 10,000 tonnes of waste from 2.8 to 9.2. If Australia’s recovery rate is increased by only 5%, around $1 Billion would be added to Australia’s GDP.

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said science and technology can drive Australia's next wave of economic opportunities. "Australia is among the world's best in advanced manufacturing and environmental research, and that unique science can turn industry and environment into partners by making sustainability profitable. Science can transform our economy into a circular one that renews and reuses what we previously discarded, and indeed a virtuous circle that creates higher paid jobs, advances new Australian technology, and protects our environment.”
The report identifies that implementing a circular economy currently faces a range of challenges that will need to be overcome, including:

  • Loss of source material through sub-optimal product design, consumption, and collection
  • Lack of reprocessing capacity
  • Lack of end markets for secondary materials
  • Lack of consistency across jurisdictions
  • Lack of system-wide capability to support a circular economy

To overcome these challenges, the report proposes these challenges can be overcome by increasing the importance of reusing secondary materials in Australian culture and provides a series of strategies to address each of these challenges.

The report also identifies six elements for moving towards a circular economy for plastics, glass, paper and tyres:

  1. Retain material through use and collection
  2. Upscale and innovate recycling technologies
  3. Innovate and collaborate in design and manufacture
  4. Develop markets for secondary materials and the products that use them
  5. Streamline nationally consistent governance
  6. Secure a national zero waste culture

Further information can be found in the full copy of the National Circular Economy Roadmap for Plastics, Glass, Paper and Tyres on the CSIRO website.

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