Image via Twitter @gareth_blythin

A citizen’s taskforce circular economy campaign and an “Australian Circular Business Register” will make it easier for people and businesses to take part in the coming transition to a circular economy.

The NSW government no longer wants to see the gold in used electronics and other valuable materials ending up in landfill.

Its new strategy to focus on the “economy” in circular economy will unleash “army of experts” and collaboration between businesses, researchers, governments and peak associations to make that happen.

The new plan is for NSW to seize its share of the circular economy transition, which could add $210 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2050.

The state’s new strategic plan has been developed by NSW Circular, the new government-funded body designed to build a job-generative, zero carbon, resilient NSW circular economy.

Created by the Office of NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, the body is headed up by the former chief executive officer of the Open Cities Alliance, Lisa McLean, in a part time CEO position.

Ms Mclean, who will stay on as non-executive director with the industry association that advocates for the circular economy and decentralised, precinct scale zero-carbon local mobility and utilities, says NSW has “a real opportunity to become the powerhouse of circular economy innovation in Australia.”

“We know just five per cent improvement in materials efficiency – keeping materials out of landfill and recycled back into the market – would add $10 billion to our state’s bottom line, while the size of the prize by 2050 is $210 billion to Australia’s GDP,” she said.

What’s in the plan?

The circular economy is typically characterised by three principles outlined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems.

Central to NSW Circular’s plan is assembling an “army of experts” and bringing together a network of businesses, research organisations, governments and peak associations to build knowledge and expertise in the circular economy.

Recognising that better data is crucial to the transition, NSW Circular plans to release regular data and market insights on the potential of untapped resources, such as the value of gold in laptops or the silver in obsolete solar panels.

Every month, state-wide market insights on circular economy materials, jobs, innovations and investment will be published.

Coming in for special attention will be particularly problematic waste materials that need a circular supply chain, along with transition plans for targeted markets.

Other priority targets will include breaking down barriers to success such as through better harmonised policies  across federal, state and local governments.

Citizens will be empowered through a “Citizens Taskforce” circular economy campaign and an “Australian Circular Business Register” that will “make circular behaviours available to and an option for people.”

NSW’s linear, resource intensive economy

According to the strategy, NSW is a ready consumer of resources, produces a lot of waste and has poor recycling practices.

The state is responsible for a quarter of Australia’s total emissions, Sydney recycles only 7 per cent of its water 35 per cent of the 20 million tonnes of waste generated in the state goes to landfill.

“As we head into a resource-constrained future where climate change and pandemics like COVID-19 expose weaknesses in our current linear economic approach, we need to plan for the new zero-carbon economy,” Ms Mclean said.

“The circular economy is the new economic framework to accelerate this transition, delivering new jobs, markets, products, infrastructure and services, and replacing broken supply chains through innovation and collaboration.”

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