Match-making marketplace for the circular economy to go national

There’s a new match-making service that started in Victoria that pairs up waste generators with remanufacturers, purchasers or recyclers that can repurpose the waste, and it’s got national ambitions.

Developed by the CSIRO through a pilot program, the ASPIRE (Advisory System for Processing, Innovation & Resource Exchange) online marketplace is now commercially available.

The plan is to now expand nationally and get more councils and businesses on board.

Newly appointed chief executive officer Cameron McKenzie says the project started out in Kingston in Victoria where a woman was informally matching waste generators with waste repurposers. The council teamed up with a few others to engage the CSIRO to build a more formal matchmaking network.

The intelligent online platform has since seen four or five years of business development before McKenzie was appointed CEO seven months ago to take the business to a broader audience.

MacKenzie says that because the cost of sending resources to waste and landfill has tripled in the last two to three years, waste disposal has become a huge burden for SMEs and manufacturing companies in some areas.

He says that in the waste-intensive construction industry, the tier ones and twos are “pretty good with sustainability and waste.” But for smaller businesses, “time is money”, and they struggle to find time to separate waste streams and manage their waste responsibly.

The online platform is a tool to help them improve their bottom line and make them more aware of efficient business practices, MacKenzie says.

Through the pilot program 300 businesses are already using ASPIRE, which has collectively saved $207,000 in waste disposal and material costs.

So far it’s matched up a business that found itself swimming in Styrofoam and cardboard from importing electric equipment with a business that mixes Styrofoam with concrete to make a construction material (both light and thermally efficient, MacKenzie says).

Another match has allowed a social enterprise that employs disadvantaged Australians to save enough to pay for wages for one and half employees.

The tool will also play a role in proving compliance with upcoming circular economy policies, according to MacKenzie, which are expected for release soon in NSW and Victoria. Queensland released a strategy on waste management and the circular economy earlier this month.

Data will be able to be extracted from the platform to show that businesses are active members and working towards closing the circle on resource recovery.

The business model will encourage more councils to get on board

The startup currently relies on council subscriptions. Once a council is subscribed, businesses in that location can use the service for free. Businesses outside participating jurisdictions can also join, but also pay a fee.

This model will help grow the tool as businesses with big waste expenses will hopefully start putting pressure on councils to adopt it so that they can start saving money.

He says there’s been interest already from Sydney councils, which will get the tool up and running in NSW. It’s also had a lot interest from south-east Queensland and Adelaide.

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