Developing an industrial ecology marketplace for plastic waste

Organizer: Judith Herbst
Format: Onsite-Online, Afternoon

Plastic waste is major global issue that needs to be addressed by the public and private sectors along with support from civil society. Currently, around 4 million tonnes of plastic are annually consumed in Australia, but a poor national recycling infrastructure exists. There are multiple impacts of shipping waste overseas rather than taking responsibility to tackle this problem at home. Recently, the government has been taking steps to transition from exporting this waste following imposed bans by China, and refusals by other countries to accept exported plastics, mainly due to commingled waste streams. There is a disconnect between the stages of post-consumption from collection to recycling to developing an industrial ecology marketplace for plastic waste that needs to be overcome. Presenters will explore this state of post-consumption. The first session will examine the footprint of plastic waste. Next, opportunities that are being created for remanufactured products will be highlighted, and whether specific options are socially and economically valuable and viable. Design’s role in creating desirable and versatile products will form part of this discussion. Then barriers will be evaluated, including known risks of reprocessing types of plastic, and the need for verification and accreditation of repurposed materials that may not behave in the same manner as traditional products. The aim is for researchers and government representatives to exchange ideas about stimulating a circular economy for plastic, and in the process, revealing ways to mitigate gaps to turnaround relatively low recycling rates. Not only is there value in making more efficient use of this existing material to foster sustainability, but industrial ecology can also increase jobs and growth utilising innovation from industry leaders.

Themes: Integrated Action for the SDGs