The introduction of a circular economy policy in Victoria will open new business opportunities for Ballarat and change the way consumers purchase goods, according to one of the region's waste management leaders.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group chief executive La Vergne Lehmann said the policy would 'profoundly' change aspects of the economy, including business decisions and consumer choices.
"If we impact the way business operates we will impact the way people operate within that economy as well and that is the consumer," she said.
Creating more value and less waste.Circular Economy Policy
The Victorian Government is currently developing a draft of the policy to be released later this year that will guide the way Victoria thinks about waste and resource recovery.
A workshop will be held at the Lucas Community Hub on Monday from 1pm to 5pm for members of the Ballarat community to have their say on actions to deliver the policy in the next five years.
What is a circular economy?
The term 'circular economy' refers to a closed loop system where products do not go to landfill. Instead products are used, repaired, reused, re-manufactured or recycled.
In a circular economy people minimise waste and make the most of resources, hence reducing impacts on the environment and increasing the value people obtain from goods and services.
Products are designed so they are durable and can be readily repaired, reused and recycled at the end of their lives.
Business models will encourage efficient product use, like sharing products between multiple users, or supplying services that include maintenance, repair and disposal.
There will be opportunities for businesses to develop new business streams within their current business or completely new businesses will emerge.La Vergne Lehmann
It will find new ways to use materials more efficiently and avoid waste in all stages of making.
Ms Lehmann said small scale circular economies were already running in Ballarat through community initiatives like Boomerang Bags and Repair Cafe.
"The Boomerang Bags is a great example of a small scale circular economy where essentially you are using a waste product to be a more permanent solution to a plastic bag that would ordinarily have been thrown out," she said.
"Repair Cafes are a great example of a circular economy as well because they work to keep things in the system for a lot longer. The idea of more repair and mending are all significant aspects of a good circular economy model."
The tag line for the circular economy policy is 'creating more value and less waste'.
Why is it being created?
With rapid population growth, the amount of materials used and thrown away is growing.
Victoria will generate almost 60 per cent more waste by 2046 than it did in 2015, according to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
This will increase pressure on waste and resource recovery systems and, without further action, may require the establishment of new or expanded landfills.
The circular economy policy is being created as Victoria's recycling challenges have worsened with China's decision to restrict the import of low quality mixed recyclables last year and the shut down of SKM Recycling.
Local governments across the state, including in Ballarat are looking to the state government for guidance on their next waste management decisions.
City of Ballarat has said it would wait for the release of the circular economy policy before making further decisions on the establishment of a waste to energy plant in Ballarat.
READ MORE: Hiatus for Ballarat's waste-to-energy plans
The state government says shifting to a more circular economy will also grow the economy and increase jobs while avoiding waste.
Why should we care?
While Victoria has substantially improved its recycling system over time, much end-of-life material-over four million tonnes-is still sent to landfill each year. This effectively removes the potential value of those materials from the economy.
Currently, 95 per cent of plastic packaging material value is lost after just one use.
According to the state government, moving towards a more circular economy and improving how we use materials could:
- reduce environmental harm - by reducing waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions
- improve materials productivity - by increasing demand for recovered materials and getting more value from them and as well as improving the performance of the recycling system
- drive jobs and economic growth - by promoting new kinds of economic activity, generate savings for households and create new business opportunities and jobs for Victoria.
How will the policy affect me?
The circular economy policy will impact businesses and organisations, communities, local governments and households by encouraging improved material use.
Ms Lehmann said the flow on effects of the policy would impact everyone.
"There will be opportunities for businesses to develop new business streams within their current business or completely new businesses will emerge," she said.
"There will be opportunities to create packaging with more recycled product in it and for businesses to create refillable and reusable products for example. So that means the way you purchase will be different as well."
The circular economy issues paper says jobs will increase with materials efficiency improvements.
Australian Government analysis suggests 9.2 full time jobs are created for every 10,000 tonnes of material recycled compared to 2.8 jobs per 10,000 tonnes sent to landfill.
For businesses, there will be new opportunities to create new products and offer services such as repair, refurbishment, or product leasing.
When will the plan be released?
The draft circular economy policy and action plan is expected to be released in September. Actions will be implemented from 2020 to 2030.
Businesses, communities, councils and households have been asked to provide information on any barriers that are stopping improved material use, how these barriers could be overcome and what opportunities could be realised if they were removed as part of consultation.