Don't call it waste

Published: 2 August 2022

At Sustainability Victoria, we see the beauty in waste. In fact, materials often treated as rubbish are so valuable, we find it hard to call it ‘waste’ at all. For example, just a 5% improvement in materials efficiency could boost the Victorian economy by $6.4 billion.

Recycled products are all around us – you just need to know where to look. You’ll find recycled materials in everyday consumer products like kids' toys, mattresses and food packaging, as well as roads, sports fields, footpaths and outdoor picnic furniture. Even your food scraps are being recycled, made into new quality compost to help grow your next meal.

But changing the way we think about waste is not just about recycling. To truly get the most value out of the things we make and use every day, we need to transition to a circular economy – a reset on the way we consume and value our resources.

What’s a circular economy?

A circular economy is a chance to look at waste in a new way: materials as a valuable resource, made, used and repaired, then recycled to be made into new products again – a continuous cycle.

For a long time, the status quo has been a linear or ‘throwaway’ economy – where we take a new product made from virgin (new) materials, use it once, twice or even multiple times, then throw it away, never to be thought of again (except by your local, friendly landfill staff).

With every product sent to landfill, its inherent value and the materials it’s made of are also thrown away and our planet is left with the problem.

A new way of looking at waste

We have entered a new era of constant reinvention and transition. In a circular economy, waste is treated as the beautiful and valuable commodity it is. The circular economy never stops – waste as we traditionally know it is minimised because everything produced is transformed and used somewhere else, continuously.

At Sustainability Victoria, we see the potential of recycled materials, the transformation of one thing into another. It’s one of the reasons we get out of bed in the morning – a recycled one. We’re investing in an advanced manufacturing sector that makes new and useful products, improves the quality of recycled materials, and improves confidence and demand for recycled materials and we’re accelerating the research, technology and infrastructure to make it happen.

We’re excited by the numbers. For example, did you know that the recycling sector creates 9.2 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes of waste managed, while landfilling creates only 2.8 jobs? Transitioning to a circular economy could generate more than 3,900 new jobs, building new capacity in design, repair, efficiency and materials usage. In Australia, this circular transition could rescue more than $324 million worth of resources that could be used by the manufacturing, construction and agricultural sectors.

If the whole world gets on board, a global circular economy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 4 major industry sectors – plastics, steel, aluminium and cement – by 56% in developed economies by 2050.

Beautiful, right?

Related articles