New efforts to reduce and re-use waste to boost a ‘circular’ economy.

The size and complexity of the waste challenge facing society dominated discussion at the first meeting of the  Circular Economy Innovation Network (CEIN).

The CEIN is an initiative of the NSW Government through the Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer to bring together governments, industry, universities, and not for profit groups  to reduce waste and promote sustainability in an economy where waste is valued as a resource.

CEIN Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Founding Director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, said some organisations have made significant progress in reducing waste and using it as a resource, and the first meeting was a testament to that.

What is clear is that we need much greater coordination and connectivity across stakeholders to identify the opportunities and problems in getting a circular economy really going,” she said.

And that is where the new Network comes in. CEIN will bring stakeholders together to not only enhance current efforts to build a circular economy, but to identify the big impact opportunities.”

CEIN Co-Director, Ashley Brinson, Executive Director of the Warren Centre at Sydney University, said the passion and enthusiasm displayed during the first meeting demonstrated a strong collective desire to truly establish a circular economy in NSW and Australia.

We heard from both the Chair and Co-Chair of the NSW Government’s Steering Committee for the CEIN, as well as many stakeholders representing the different sectors and industries that are central to a circular economy, and a key acknowledgement was the need for a coordination of sustainability efforts.”

The CEIN will look to map and identify opportunities for stakeholders to work together in the goal to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and ultimately boost industry (growth and jobs) by developing a circular economy.

The first meeting was held at UNSW as CEIN host, and attended by 150 stakeholders wanting to enhance sustainability, and was emceed by Michael Sharpe, Director of the federal government-initiated Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

The CEIN is undergoing its start-up phase and is developing a series of stakeholder workshops to identify themes and opportunities, as well as other activities such as identifying tools and resources needed to promote innovative solutions to reduce and re-use waste and improve product design and production to reduce and re-use waste.

For instance, we can actually change the way things are done now in design, production and manufacturing to reduce waste, and we know we can use waste as a resource rather than for most of it to end up in tips,” said Professor Sahajwalla

By making the right connections between researchers, businesses and governments, we can play a significant role in developing a true circular economy in Australia.”