Circular economy what?

What is the circular economy, and why do you need to be across it? According to Forbes, the circular economy will be a crucial component of the coming ‘net zero era’. Companies like Woolworths, Sydney Opera House and Commonwealth Bank have announced their targets. The circular economy is about thinking how you can use, reuse, and keep the loop going…and going. It’s about changing your mindset to ask how your waste can deliver economic value. There are some global brands doing it well: IKEA’s sell back program, Patagonia’s second hand marketplace Worn Wear, and GreenWave Ocean Farming are sequestering carbon by planting ocean Kelp. 

Guts caught up with local sustainability and circular economy consultant Annie Jiang, founder of Go Circular. She is passionate about transitioning the region towards a sustainable, regenerative future where linear project life cycles are a thing of the past. Annie and her team are helping businesses build sustainable practices into their products and processes. We chatted to her about what the circular economy is, why it is important for businesses, and how it’s changing the way we live and work.   

What is the circular economy? 

The circular economy is based on three principles; eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in the market for longer and at their highest value and regenerating nature. In the circular economy, just like in nature, nothing is wasted. It’s a regenerative economy where your waste becomes a commodity for another organisation (or your own) to input again and again.  

Why is the circular economy good for business?  

The business-as-usual approach is outdated, and more people are realising that we are at the beginning of an enormous market shift. The circular economy and renewables will be the new normal in the future. We are already hitting a tipping point, and once everyone is on board, change will happen exponentially i.e. transparent supply chains and product life cycles.  

The European Union Green Deal with the overarching aim of making the European Union (EU) climate neutral in 2050 will have profound implications for Australian trade. The demand for net zero products for EU markets from Australia is going up. These changes are redefining the rules of the game. Consumer behaviour is changing, consumers are already modifying their consumption behaviours and patterns, and they want transparency in a brand’s supply chain and end of product life management.  

Businesses will also soon need to understand the reality of resource scarcity and the increased costs and risks associated with this. Also, regulations and government policies will change here in Australia along with Europe and other parts of the world. 

What are some businesses in the Hunter that are making circular waves?  

We’re proud of the work Hunter Joint Organisations are doing with local partner councils to make an impact, through their circular procurement program, where partnering councils are utilising their collective purchasing power to create a demand for a local circular marketplace.  

MGA Thermal is a Hunter based thermal storage company that uses tech developed at the University of Newcastle to help store energy more efficiently. Their tech could be the net zero solution to battery storage.  

These organisations in the area are solving big sustainability problems and are ones to watch. 

For those who are keen to learn more about the circular economy, where should they start?  

Head to the UK-based Ella MacArthur Foundation or for something a little closer to home, NSW Circular. Or give us a call at Go Circular.  

Why did you choose to start Go circular? 

After more than 15 years of working for multi-national firms I stopped and thought, what should I be doing? This is when I changed tack and underwent environmental studies to find out how I could help businesses have a positive impact on the community, society, and the environment. And so, Go Circular was born. 

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Annie has more than a decade of experience including working for multinational firms such as Lenovo and Koolearn. She now sits on the MBA Advisory Board for the University of Newcastle. 

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