‘Better sign posting needed on the journey to circularity’

Development of a circular economy is being held back a lack of awareness and knowledge, say local government and other industry stakeholder groups.

Deficits in supportive policies, regulations, and standards across all levels of government are also perceived as a barrier to circular economy progress in Australia’s built environment, according to a stakeholder survey conducted by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

The survey results, published in A Circular Economy Discussion Paper found five barriers to progress, including:

  • Incomplete understanding and awareness of circularity;
  • Insufficient collaboration across the sector;
  • Absence of agreed metrics;
  • Absence of financial incentives; and
  • A lack of material processing infrastructure.

But there was agreement among those interviewed that all levels of government have a key role to play in creating an enabling environment for the circular economy.

Key policies that were suggested as enabling development included:

  • Encouraging or mandating reuse through an expansion of extended producer responsibility under the federal government’s remit;
  • new industry-led product stewardship schemes or improvement to existing schemes is being explored through The National Product Stewardship Investment Fund;
  • Reforming waste classification to allow for end-of-use treatment and trade of materials;
  • Regulating waste to landfill, either through increases to waste levies or banning material to landfill under the state government’s remit;
  • Making waste regulations consistent across states and territories;
  • Reducing the conservatism in state regulation bodies around product standards to allow for international evidence on new circular products; and
  • Mandating recycled content, if not in the private sector then at least for the public sector.

In related news, PwC has released a report on circularity which quantifies the potential environmental and economic benefit of adopting a circular economy model.

PwC says its modelling “suggests that Australia could generate $1860 billion in direct economic benefits over 20 years and save 165 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2040”.