Circular economy shift for Australia to be lead by waste experts

A new expert group will help advise the government to move the country to a circular economy by 2030. It will consider products in all sectors that are designed and manufactured.

Professor John Thwaites will chair the expert panel, which includes chief scientist Dr Kathy Foley and CSIRO boss Dr Larry Marshall.

Environment and water minister Tanya Plibersek used a speech at the Circularity Conference in Sydney on Friday to name the group.

“A circular economy will create jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the amount of waste we put in the landfill,” the minister said in a statement.

“This transition is very exciting for the environment and the economy.”

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The decision to stand by the expert group followed a meeting of All Australian environment ministers in October.

At the meeting, the ministers agreed to work with the private sector to develop markets and achieve a circular economy within the next eight years. This can be done by designing waste and pollution and sustainable use of materials.

Plibersek said that although Australians wanted to use fewer disposable items, the right settings were not in place to help them reduce waste.

With as little as 70% of a product’s environmental impact “locked in” at the design stage, he argues, it is clear that a more concerted effort must be made at the start of a product’s life cycle to reduce its waste.

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“Better waste management and more effective recycling are important — but they are not enough on their own. As a country, we need to do more than design waste in advance, and make better use of recovered resources,” Plibersek said.

For Australia to meet its net-zero goals a “system-wide” change is needed, science and industry minister Ed Husic added.

He focused on a $15 billion national reconstruction fund to revitalize the local industrial base and ensure that the net zero economy also creates opportunities.

“A circular economy will ensure that we are on track to make these changes and support the energy transition,” Husic said.

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“This is a great opportunity to create manufacturing systems that are optimized to be less resource intensive, produce less waste, and have less impact on the environment.”

The environment minister said he looked forward to working with his state and territory peers, and the expert group, to encourage design efforts to limit waste products.

“A circular economy creates jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the amount of waste we put in landfills,” said Plibersek.

“This transition is very exciting for the environment and the economy.”

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