Late last year, Planet Ark’s ACE Hub hosted its very first Circularity conference, bringing Australia’s growing circular economy community from all over the country together under one roof. The conference took place on the 24-25 November 2022 and was officially launched by Planet Ark’s co-CEO Paul Klymenko at the Hilton, Sydney.
Over the course of the two days, business and government leaders, circular economy practitioners, sustainability professionals, waste and environmental managers, academics and active circular community leaders came together to discuss the latest topics, trends and insights regarding the circular economy in Australia and the Asia Pacific.
“Build it, and they will come,” said Planet Ark’s CEO Paul Klymenko as the program kicked off.
Circularity provided a unique opportunity to gather over 300 members of Australia’s budding circular economy community in person and provide them with a platform to share ideas, deepen some old connections and develop many new ones.
We also worked closely with the Hilton and our event partners in reducing the conference’s environmental impact wherever possible. This included features such as:
A backdrop with a modular design that could be deconstructed and reused elsewhere.
Cercle coffee cups that could be reused throughout the day and collected at drop-off pods throughout the venue to be then washed and reused on the second day of the event. This helped save approximately 895 coffee cups from entering landfill, thanks to our refill sponsors Pilot Pen.
All vegetarian and plant-based meals were served throughout the conference.
We would like to thank everyone involved in making this conference an inspiring and successful event. This extends to all our sponsors and partners, event organisers, staff members as well as attendees on the day. Join us as we reflect on the key aspects of Circularity and the momentum that it has built for Australia’s future.
Keynote speeches by Arthur Huang and Hon. Minister Tanya Plibersek
Day one of the conference was kicked off by the Founder of Taiwan trash material upcycle company MINIWIZ, Arthur Huang, who also featured in the recently released Going Circular documentary. Everyone in the room was blown away by the knowledge and calibre of circular innovation MINIWIZ is undertaking. Arthur guided attendees through past, current and future projects and how they use design to make spaces more sustainable and circular.
“Recycling infrastructure is definitely a must and Australia needs it…The good news is that this isn’t new, the technology is there,” Arthur said.
Day two was launched by none other than the Hon. Minister of the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek, who also took this opportunity to announce the establishment of a Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group. A huge feather in the cap of Australia’s circular transition, Tanya explained that this new expert group will be set up to guide the country’s 2030 circular economy targets, making it an exciting time for businesses and individuals to come together to bring about this change. The group will also look at how products are designed, manufactured and used across all sectors.
“Better waste management and more effective recycling are important – but they aren’t enough on their own. As a country we must do more to design out waste in the first place, and make better use of recovered resources,” Minister Plibersek said.
"It is going to take time, it is going to take some difficult conversations, it is going to take a real shift in the way we make our goods and services. We need to always try and bring the full life out of our resources whenever and wherever we can."
A room full of knowledge sharing, innovation, circular case studies and inspiration
The two-day conference featured over 100 local and international speakers and thought leaders coming together to discuss the latest circular solutions and catalyse progress across the Asia Pacific. Sessions covered a multitude of topics including environmental policy, design, built environment and precincts, fashion and textiles, Indigenous knowledge, local government, circular metrics, behaviour change, renewable energy solutions for emissions reduction, resource recovery, sustainable finance and much more.
The depth of information presented here was proof of how much potential Australia has in reimagining our current economic system and bringing circular practices to the forefront of business, government and everyday life, but also an indicator of the responsibility we have moving forward.
Many spoke about the need to be bold and brave in implementing circular economy principles. This no doubt represents a significant challenge but seeing what is already being done shows that progress and scaling up are achievable. Perhaps most importantly, we need to imbibe more learnings from our First Nations people in ensuring that all circular solutions are more inclusive and in alignment with nature.
Launch of the very first 'State of Circularity in Australia' report
Demonstrating a true example of circular economy collaboration in action, the conference witnessed the launch of the first State of Circularity in Australia: Perspectives from the field report, which was co-authored by the ACE Hub and its Technical Supporters Edge, MRA Consulting Group, Point Advisory, Thinkable Partners, ThinkPlace and thinkstep-anz.
Within this session, each speaker touched on their individual chapter findings across their respective industries and discussed the importance of collaboration in not only achieving a circular economy but also in making this report come to life.
The report covers topics such as ecosystem mapping and data visualisation for a circular economy, retaining value, circular thinking, the power of sustainable procurement, and the role of local government in a circular economy.
The 2022 report and its findings can be viewed here.
Celebrating Planet Ark's 30th birthday and Australia's circular innovations
Hosted by Costa Georgiadis, the conference also included a Gala dinner introduced by Planet Ark co-CEOs Paul Klymenkoand Rebecca Gilling, who took everyone down the 30-year memory lane of Planet Ark’s campaigns, achievements and impact to date. It was delightful to see so many people come together to share such an important milestone in the organisation’s journey.
This was followed by the first ever ACE Awards that celebrated and recognised the companies, organisations and people at the forefront of Australia’s circular progress. The awards were split into five categories and the winners included:
Design for Circularity Award: Underwear for Humanity
Retaining Value Award: Huskee
Emerging Circular Leader Award: Sam Oakden (Stop Food Waste Australia)
Circular Leader Award: Close the Loop Group
Full Circle Award: Huskee
Read more about the awardees here.
In case you missed the conference or to revisit the sessions, you can purchase Circularity On Demand and gain access to the full Circularity 2022 program.
Thank you for being part of the conference and stay tuned for an even bigger event in Melbourne in 2023.
Thanks to our event partner Diversified Communications, our sponsors BINGO Industries, eleXsys, Tetra Pak, Iron Mountain, the Netherlands, Pilot Pen, Holcim Foundation and our partners KPMG Australia and GECA for supporting us in building this conference.