Circular economy pitches

July 3rd, 2023

Plastic futures: speculative design for a true circular economy [pdf]Manuela Benavides (QUT Centre for a Waste Free World)

The Circular Economy (CE) has been internationally elevated as a major pathway to tackle the plastics waste crisis and distancing the economy from perpetual growth of resource extraction. At the very heart of the CE is a need to move away from capitalist growth models, an overhaul of our ways of production and consumption, and a shift of focus from economic growth to social justice and wellbeing. However, government policy and industry reports display a conflation in discourse and practice between the CE and recycling. Private and public institutions have rebranded a process that has been around for decades, with questionable success, into the cornerstone of a transition towards a circular economy. Recycling is one of the many strategies of the CE, but it is far from being a comprehensive one. By creating a fictional future within a speculative design workshop, we aim to provoke thinking beyond the dominating discourse in order to foster innovative ideas, observe attitudes and behaviours; and conceptualize a systems map of the plastics economy in Queensland through interactions observed.

Circular ecosystem innovation and inclusive economic innovation in Western Cape York [pdf]Anya Phelan (Griffith University)

Due to extreme distances and the resulting financial burden of access, the isolation of the Central and Northern Australian Outback mounts distinct challenges for people living and working in this remarkable and vast part of the world. Environmentally sustainable waste management and recycling is one of those challenges. This project focuses on community-based enterprise development and aims to support the advancement of people living in Far North Queensland through innovative recycling solutions and new employment opportunities. We examine how community-based enterprise and Indigenous entrepreneurship support dynamic and alternative economic models to address complex challenges in remote and outback Australia, particularly through the circular economy perspective. This project is part of a collaboration with the Weipa Town Authority, Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council, The University of Queensland, with funding from the Connellan Airways Trust.

A community driven 3D printing micro-factory aims to democratize plastic recycling [pdf]Aziz Ahmed (University of Wollongong)

The proposed concept aims to empower communities to recycle plastic waste and transform it into value-added products using 3D printing technology. The approach encompasses several key elements. Firstly, a reward point system will incentivize community members to recycle and sort plastic waste. Secondly, an online co-design platform will allow individuals with limited 3D drawing experience to select and customize a variety of household items for 3D printing. Thirdly, a net-zero 3D printing micro-factory will be established at the community level, equipped with all necessary tools and comfortable workspaces for recycled-plastic-based 3D printing. Fourthly, selected members of the community will receive training to operate the equipment. The system will be designed for low maintenance and operating costs, ensuring its sustainability in the long run. Community members can redeem their reward points to obtain 3D printed versions of their customized designs. The initial investment for the micro-factory could be jointly funded by government agencies and plastic product manufacturers, with the aim of promoting sustainable practices and reducing plastic waste in the community.

Processing end-of-life coated paper products for use as structural materials [pdf]Matthew Flynn (University of Southern Queensland)

Many products made from paper and cardboard are waterproofed with a plastic or wax coating, rendering them unable to be recycled with the rest of the waste stream. An example of this is single-use coffee cups, with an estimated 1 billion cups used in Australia each year, and less than 1% being recycled. This highlights the need for a circular solution for single-use cups. We are investigating the use of operationally simple, low-cost methods to convert waste such as coffee cups into value-added structural materials, diverting these materials from landfill. The use of simple equipment that can be implemented at small scale is particularly important in regional and rural areas, where an economy of scale cannot be achieved. The materials have been prepared various size-reduction techniques, and compacted into panels in a heat press. The impact of size-reduction technique on the structural properties of the panels will be presented