There's something new brewing down in South Australia, and it isn't Coopers Lager.
The circular economy has found a new home in Adelaide thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of Loop Circular Economy Platform, a new training and information hub helping Australian businesses combat excessive waste.
The concept of the circular economy has been thriving in Europe, where since 2012 businesses have been attempting to hop onto the bandwagon. The key principals of the circular economy have even been legislated across the European Union.
So what is the circular economy?
The new way of thinking about how we can make better quality, reusable and recyclable products is best explained by Jodie Bricout, the CEO and co-founder of Loop Circular Economy Platform.
"It's useful to first think about what we mean by linear economy," says Bricout.
"The way we're set up now, we take a lot of resources from the earth, we make stuff out of it, we consume things, and then it pretty much just goes to rubbish. A lot of it is recycled but mostly it's not really made with future cycles in mind when it's actually conceived and designed."
"What a circular economy tries to do is think about how we can design our economic system so that all the stuff we use, the products, the components of those products, if they were all thought through so that they could be reused and repurposed in different ways right from the beginning."
"We want to intentionally use things that last longer, things that are modular. If we could set up a system like that then the economy could be healthy and it would be beneficial to the environment at the same time."
In Australia, entrepreneurs and businesses have long been pushing for concepts like sustainability which form the basis of the circular economy. But those concepts don't do much to tackle the issue when there's still clear systemic problems in the current way we do things in Australia. What the circular economy is primed to do is to re-start our entire way of thinking about our system of consumption and ensure that, at every stage in a product's lifespan, waste is completely minimized or outright eliminated.
In a time when climate change is a constant looming threat, when our oceans are filled with plastic and non-bio-degradable waste and our natural resources are dwindling, a circular economy might be the best hope we have for our planet.
But circular economy is great for business too. The World Economic Forum puts the potential economic benefit of transitioning to a circular economy at USD 1 trillion annually worldwide and a South Australian report suggests it could create over 25,000 jobs there by 2030. These benefits come from activities such as developing bio-based materials; activating underutilised assets such as office space or cars; services to resell, maintain, repair and remanufacture goods as well as expanding the recycling industry.
Behind Loop Circular Economy Platform is more than a decade of research and practical work in the industy. Co-founder Bricout was born and bred in Adelaide, before moving to Europe to work on research with companies who are now the best examples of the circular economy.
In November 2017, the Loop team held a conference in Adelaide called Powering the Change to a Circular Economy. More than 200 people from across Australia came together with a thirst to learn how the principles of a circular economy can apply to their own businesses. The best part about the circular economy is that it's principles can, and should, apply to every single stage of a product's life right down to the creation of energy for manufacturing products.
Following the success of the Conference, Bricout and Melissa Miller realised that to make a significant impact and to really push for a circular economy in Australia they needed a hub where businesses could come and learn about how to integrate the principle.
On Wednesday 27th June, Loop launched in the Adelaide CBD. With the help of Renew Adelaide, the team has a brand new office which had fresh carpet laid by international flooring company Tarkett (both groups are prime examples of the circular economy).
In attendance were representatives from Tarkett, Ikea (which just announced its commitment to the circular economy in Australia) and the Finnish Innovation Fund (which sets $60 million dollars aside every year to power up businesses that run within the circular economy).
Bricout says the aim of Loop is simple; to instigate change towards the circular economy in Australia by bringing together business, government and research.
"I spent 13 years in France working on these questions and what I found over there is that the real innovation happens when a lot of different people with different expertise were at the table to make things work," says Bricout.
"I came back home in 2016 and I've been really energised by the amount of people trying to make things happen in Australia but it's not linked up. It's not easy for them to work together. It's not easy for businesses to hook in and ask how it's tangible. That's why we decided to found Loop as a not-for-profit organisation to really create that space where these different stakeholders can come together and create really exciting projects around this."
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