Circular Economy - An Essential Introduction

Circular Economy Monash University SEMMA South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance Sustainability Victoria

Over the past few weeks Cacti Conserve has been involved in a collaborative project hosted by Monash University Business School and South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance (SEMMA), and funded by Sustainability Victoria. The recent workshop Sparking the Circular Economy in Melbourne’s Manufacturing Industry provided an introduction to the model and key practices identified as successful Circular Economy systems currently being practiced in some European nations leading the way in this space.

So what is the Circular Economy?

In brief, it’s a model identifying and defining practices intending to maintain the value of a product at each stage of it creation, use, and expiry. Maximising resource value and potential of raw materials, processed materials, embedded energy, product usability and durability, end of life resource capture and recovery.

The Value Hill graphic below displays how the various stages of product creation, use and recovery in a Circular Economy system retain value of materials, components, products via small, medium and long closed loops. 

Circular Economy Value Hill

Figure shows the value hill in a circular economy (Source: ‘Null Offall’ strategy Luxembourg, adapted from Circle Economy - NL)

The Circular Economy practices call for;

  • Considerate design
  • More sustainable manufacturing
  • Higher quality products
  • Capacity to repair
  • Avenues for re-purposing
  • End of product life component and raw material capture
  • Greater collaboration between industries and communities

The goal of the Circular Economy model is to facilitate closed loop systems producing no waste and allowing the environment to recover.

Below are the 10R Circular Economy Practices identified by Monash University in the recent project.

 10R Circular Economy Practices

Many of the these practices are in use through local manufacturing systems, and the participants of the workshop generously shared how their manufacturing systems were using these, or finding challenges in implementing these practices. All of us identified areas within our systems with potential for improvement. The introduction and discussion provide by the workshop also pointed out some barriers and opportunities to be addressed both locally and nationally. Regulation can be used as a tool to facilitate these practices – an example would be the ‘right to repair’ cases, and re-defining outdated energy retail regulations to allow micro-grids of supply and use relationships within commercial or residential neighbourhoods. Consumer demand was also noted as a major influence is the adoption of best practice sustainability models. The most recent consumer metrics are placing the environmental impact of many retail goods second only to comfort.

Here at Cacti Conserve we are proud to be practicing many of the 10R’s in house, and we are excited about exploring more ways to make our processes, products, and waste more compliant to the Circular Economy principles. We see our role in local commerce not only responsible for our own systems, but also to contribute sustainability of businesses and communities with whom we share this beautiful country.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss the Circular Economy practices please reach out.

We thank the following institutions for the work they are doing to support the local manufacturing industries in this space.

  Sustainability Victoria  Monash University  South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance

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