The CSIRO has released a National Circular Economy Roadmap calling for a national strategy to address fundamental environmental issues and foster regional development.
The Roadmap is a strong call for collaboration and coordination however it is somewhat limited in its scope and thereby risks compounding the problem of circular economy just being another term for standard practice.
The CSIRO defines circular economy as continually seeking reduction of the environmental impacts of production and consumption and enabling economic growth through more innovative uses of natural resources and efficient recovery of materials.
However, the Roadmap focusses on the end-of-pipe issues. It presents the 2018 recycling report figures for plastic, glass and paper as the indicators of a need for a change in current systems and strategies.
Nonetheless, the central recommendation highlights the critical need for Australia to adopt a unified and innovative circular economy strategy to achieve a national shift in mindset with lasting results and impact.
The report highlights:
> Lack of consistency across Australia particularly in waste governance, consumer education and industry standards along with differing definitions and practises.
>An “end of pipe” focus rather than upgrading product design materials selection and manufacturing.
>That the “take, make and dispose” way of thinking and consumption pattern has barriers including more expensive primary materials and unacceptable ways of dealing with waste.
>Australia’s economy and reliance on imported goods creates the need for a symbiotic strategy that links and aligns with global forces and activities.
All participants in the circular economy have a shared responsibility to make it efficient and effective, it is not just an environmental shift but a whole new way of economic thinking.
Australian Governments are currently promoting circular economy as primarily a waste and recycling policy – which is a limited scope of the concept.
The Australian Council of Recyclers has recently noted that the fervent use of the term circular economy risks just being a rebadging of current activities and programs. Or as the University of Queensland Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste director Johannes Biala put it ”…we are at grave risk of merely exchanging one buzzword for another without conceptualising and defining what we mean and what we want to achieve.”
Government, industry, community and research all play paramount roles within this hypothetical yet achievable system.
The priorities set out in the CSIRO Roadmap highlight some specific moves needed to advance Australia towards a circular economy, and consistency, collaboration and coordination will be a good step.
To read the CSIRO report in full visit this link.