Circular economy needs industry input: experts

Experts engaged to give advice on Victoria’s circular economy (CE) plan warn that without industry input, the strategy’s success could be jeopardised.

RMIT professors Scott Valentine and Usha Iyer-Raniga, who have given input to the government in feedback workshops, highlighted that the strategy should not just go towards grappling with Victoria’s waste and recycling crisis, but should rather involve a rethinking of resource efficiency across the economy.

“If implemented correctly, a circular economy strategy will enhance corporate profitability, reduce resource costs, make Australian industry more competitive and create new business and new jobs,” said Valentine.

Valentine and Iyer-Raniga are part of RMIT’s CE Hub, which helps businesses find profitable resource efficiency strategies. Drawing on their experience of working with businesses in the hub, many of whom come away “shocked at the savings and revenue side opportunities”, Valentine noted that a more comprehensive approach to resources needs to be taken.

“In short, the circular economy needs to be approached as an economic development strategy and connections need to be made with R&D hubs like we have at RMIT. Failure to do so will discourage corporate buy-in and the initiative will underperform,” he said.

Thinking about the circular economy as a way to produce new goods and products, as is done in Denmark and the Netherlands, rather than simply turning waste away from disposal, will create more opportunities for businesses and thus investment.

“As the Danish and Dutch experiences in circular economy planning show us, it is not only about diverting tins of soda away from landfills, it is about new innovations and new strategies for producing and consuming goods and services,” said Iyer-Raniga

“It requires both innovations to alter business models and corporate buy-in to foster results.”

Valentine chided the Victorian government for limiting its stakeholder engagement to those already in waste management.

“What the Victorian government needs to achieve is industry buy-in. This means that Victoria’s industry associations, leading firms, entrepreneurial innovators and members of the financial community need to be front and centre in policy discussions,” he said.