Join the circle

30 Apr 2024

“Achieving a circular economy will require complete market transformation. How do we do it? We ask everyone to join the circle,” says GBCA CEO Davina Rooney.

On invitation of the Australian Government, Davina represented Australia and GBCA members at the World Circular Economy Forum 2024 in Brussels in mid-April. This forum is the “COP for circularity,” Davina says, attracting more than 10,000 circular economy frontrunners, including 1,500 in person from 158 countries.

“It was an inspiring forum and exciting to see global engagement and innovative business ideas. There are homegrown circular solutions in Australia that we are looking forward taking to scale.”

Australian case studies, such as Quay Quarter in Sydney, were showcased as global exemplars. So too was the 2032 Brisbane Olympics procurement strategy, which was applauded for exploring ways to design out waste and achieve circular, low-carbon outcomes.

“It was gratifying to see Green Star ahead of the curve, with circularity embedded in Green Star Buildings,” Davina said. The GBCA launched a circularity leadership challenge within Green Star Buildings in 2022. The new Green Star Fitouts rating tool will also be underpinned by circularity principles (check out the latest episode of the Green Building Voice podcast to learn more about what you can expect).

Everyone’s favourite speaker at TRANSFORM 24, 13-year-old co-founder of Good Citizens Eyewear, Harry Robinson, was invited to ask a ‘youth question’ at the Forum. “Harry used that opportunity to challenge us to ramp up recycled content in buildings,” Davina says.

Regeneration revolution

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation defines the circular economy as a “system where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated”. This definition is based on three principles, driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution; circulate products and materials (at their highest value); and regenerate nature.

“One of the key discussion topics at the World Circular Economy Forum was how often nature regeneration is overlooked, which is why our nature discussion paper, and the upcoming Nature Roadmap, is so important. Industry will play a central role in how we respond to nature, and now is your chance to shape the future of the roadmap.” The GBCA is calling for feedback until 30 June 2024 – so don’t miss the chance to have your say.

Following the Forum, CSIRO launched a new report, prepared for Australia’s Chief Scientist, which unpacks Australia’s circular economy opportunity. Construction is among the five industries with the most potential for Australia to build globally competitive products or services, alongside mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and resource recovery.

“CSIRO points to some ‘big bets’ for construction, including mining and agricultural byproducts as construction materials, such as masonry units or wood foams, cross-laminated timber, modular housing and low-carbon concrete.”

Procurement momentum

A new federal policy which outlines a commitment to use its considerable purchasing power to support circular approaches and environmental stewardship is another “gamechanger”, Davina says.

“Governments are beginning to reach out and pull the first lever at hand – procurement – to send a clear signal to the market that change is coming. Australia is embedding circularity into policy,” Davina says.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek announced the Environmentally Sustainable Procurement (ESP) Policy with an initial focus on reducing and repurposing waste, and on replacing construction materials from virgin resources with those made with recycled content. From 1 July 2024, all government construction projects above $7.5 million must comply. Read Green Building Voice’s article with Katy Dean and Katherine Featherstone to learn more.

“We are putting the finishing touches on a new piece of work, developed with Built and Coreo, to help people apply circular principles to real world projects. Watch this space,” Davina notes.

In the meantime, untangle some of the circular economy’s policy, procurement and project knots at Green Building Day: Perth on Wednesday 22 May; Brisbane on Wednesday 29 May; Melbourne on Thursday 6 June; Adelaide on Thursday 13 June; and Sydney on Thursday 20 June.