Two sisters from the Sunshine Coast have launched an Australian-first project helping small businesses adopt the principles of the circular economy and experience the social, environmental and financial benefits of sustainable waste management. Passionate about small business and the environment, Jaine (a nurse) and Ashleigh (an environmental scientist) Morris have recently launched The Circular Experiment.
The key principle behind the circular economy concept is that resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible. So instead of a make, use, dispose, or linear model of production and consumption, the focus is on a make, use, reuse, share, repair: a circular model that closes the recycling loop.
The Circular Experiment is an Australian-first example of the circular economy in practice. The project is based on a 220-metre shopping strip on Ocean Street, Maroochydore, which is home to a diverse mix of businesses including cafes and restaurants, hairdressers, retail stores and service businesses.
So far 45 businesses are participating in the six-month program. The Morris sisters work with each individual business and the precinct as a whole, to determine how the principles of the circular economy can be applied to deliver benefits to the participants and the environment.
What has been achieved so far?
Before the project launched, waste management on Ocean Street was inefficient, recycling was often contaminated, and the businesses were doing it alone. The Circular Experiment team also found that 70% of waste coming from Ocean Street was being sent to landfill unnecessarily, and half of that was food waste.
To address this, the sisters have been working closely with the Ocean Street business community to provide information about which items can and cannot be recycled, and the importance of separating materials to avoid contamination. This means items once destined for landfill are now being correctly sorted and recycled.
Jaine and Ashleigh will also launch a series of educational workshops to be held in a vacant shop on the strip. A permanent display will provide recycling and waste management information for residents and businesses, and regular workshops will be held by an officer from the local landfill.
This week a food waste pilot program has been launched, which means the organic waste from three businesses will now be transported to a nearby bulk composter. This will reduce the organic waste going to landfill and, if successful, the service will be expanded to other businesses who have already shown interest in participating.
Several cafes and restaurants in the precinct now send their used coffee grounds (a whopping 500 kgs per week) to a nearby farm to be used as compost, and they now combine their orders for supplies into a single delivery to businesses along the street, which reduces the emissions previously spent on multiple deliveries.
Two new cigarette ballot bins have already reduced cigarette litter on Ocean Street - a major local complaint - by 46% (the collected butts will be sent to TerraCycle for recycling) and the Post Office bar is undertaking an audit to ensure its energy use is as efficient as possible.
Participating businesses are also encouraged to share, trade or sell excess or unused appliances and resources through a program called Coastshare rather than purchasing new or sending old items to landfill.
The current program ends in December 2017 and the results will determine whether The Circular Experiment will be replicated in other communities and even on a larger scale in the future.
- Become part of the circular economy by purchasing products made from recycled materials
- Support businesses that are practising the principles of the circular economy, such as cafes banning disposable cups, crockery and cutlery, wholefoods stores that are packaging free, or businesses that make products from recycled-only materials
- Check out businessrecycling.com.au for tips on how businesses can manage waste and become more sustainable
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.