Smart and circular at Melbourne Knowledge Week

Published: 31 May 2021

The Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre and Planet Ark Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Hub hosted the event ‘Smart and Circular’ on Thursday April 29 at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2021.

The event was hosted by circular economy expert Jodie Bricout, who was joined by a panel to explore how data and technology can be used to design out waste and enable circular economy business models.

Our panel and how they apply a smart and circular approach

Lachlan Feggans, Director, Sustainability Asia-Pacific at CHEP

CHEP is a Brambles company that has pioneered the circular share and reuse business model allowing businesses access to a network of pallets, containers, RPCs and beverage trays. The CHEP model is powered by smart technology that enables the collection of data across the supply chain to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.

View Lachlan's LinkedIn profile and CHEP's company website

Marjon Wind, Start Up Partner at Madaster

The Madaster platform develops material passports for buildings that register the materials and products used. Documenting, registering, and archiving materials in buildings and construction objects makes re-use easier, encourages smart design and eliminates waste. With Madaster, every building can become a material bank.

View Marjon's Linkedin Profile and Madaster's company website.

Mark Mitchell, Chairman at Supercool

Mark founded SuperCool over 40 years ago.  Supercool offers technology solutions (including sensors and software) to the cold chain that improve data accuracy by calculating the temperature of food in various conditions based on information from the ingredients shown on the manufactures data sheets or food product packaging. This enables companies to better plan and predict the impact of temperature fluctuations and abuse on products to design out food waste.

View Mark's Linkedin Profile and Supercool's company website.

Noreen Kam, Founder of LUP Global

Noreen founded LUP Global to provide a circular solution to address the enormous amount of company assets that are under-utilised, under-maintained and often sent to landfill despite the potential opportunities that exist to extend the life of the asset for reuse/resale.  LUP Global supports companies to improve their management of high-value and high-volume assets through improving data collection with the use of the LUP Circular Asset Database. This improved data collection allows companies to better maintain and reallocate under-utilised assets to other industries and countries that can use them to the fullness of their lifecycle.

View Noreen's Linkedin profile and LUP Global's company website.

Summary highlights

Key takeaways from the event:

  • Adopting a circular approach in business can reduce waste, reduce costs, create new revenue streams, improve resource security and increase competitive advantage.
  • Circularity in business also benefits society and the environment as it encourages innovation, improves efficiency and effectiveness of resources, creates jobs, reduce carbon emissions and design out waste and pollution.
  • Data and technology are key enablers for a circular economy as they support business to identify opportunities, develop circular solutions and track progress.
  • Most businesses have data and technology available. However, establishing a strategy and processes to make data and technology useful is necessary to transition a business towards a circular model.

Barriers in driving the adoption of circular economy business solutions

The overall theme of barriers identified by the panel included establishing collaboration and transparency across the supply chain. Key topics discussed:

  • It can be difficult to convince multiple decision makers across the supply chain of the benefits both in cost reduction for the individual player, as well as the value that they can provide down the supply chain by designing out waste and becoming more circular.
  • Focus on short-term financials. For example, there is a lack of appetite for a robust Quality Management System (QMS) between all stakeholders in the cold supply chain. Businesses that purely focus on short-term financials see the investment cost of establishing a QMS in the cold chain outweighs the cost of food loss (as food is seen as cheap). This is a significant barrier world-wide, even though over the longer term the cost of food loss outweighs the QMS.
  • There is a lack of visibility of the broader supply chain and of the pool of assets available for utilisation.
  • The lack of consideration of the long-term opportunities when designing. For example, the current focus in the built environment is majority on the inputs (e.g. low carbon material) as opposed to treating buildings like a material bank and designing for circularity and longer-term material value.
  • Legislation needs to move towards product stewardship as it has in the European Union.
  • The barriers to becoming circular that the audience identified was they could not easily find, connect or collaborate with other organisations and that their organisations do not prioritise circular solutions or strategies.

Solutions to become circular and overcome the barriers

The time to change is now. The panel discussed solutions:

  • Education and conversations are critical. Start as soon as you can.
  • Creating collaboration and transparency in the supply chain.
  • Enabling visibility across a diverse pool of assets through OEM collaboration and partnerships. Having the ability to track the IP and life cycle against that asset through the manufacturer.
  • Using circular economy metric tools that help to measure and demonstrate the benefits and impacts of circularity. Tools include: Circulytics Tool, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and CTI Tool (Circular Transition Indicators Tool).
  • Bring attention to the triple bottom line to highlight social, environmental and economic gains to show the true value that becoming circular provides.

  • LUP Global works with Original Equipment Manufacturers who provide data that enables better visibility and lifecycle management of assets. Some may see this as cannibalising their sales of new products but for the OEM it creates more revenue streams, such as preventative maintenance and access to second-hand markets, which allows them to tap into a different customer.
  • Legislation that creates enabling conditions such as moving towards product stewardship.

Advice for getting started

The panel also provided advice for a business wanting to use data and technology to start their circular transition. This included:

  • Start the conversation in your organisation about how you could use or improve the use of data and technology to design out waste and uncover circular opportunities.
  • Get started today. Start small - it doesn’t have to be perfect. One single asset, one single department, one single stakeholder and build from there.
  • You don’t need expensive software you can start with improving data management in a spreadsheet.
  • Network as much as you can and look for opportunities to collaborate across the supply chain.
  • Businesses are not alone. There is support available for businesses – education, funding, or networking. Organisations that can help are CEBIC, our partner for this Melbourne Knowledge Week event – Planet Ark Economy Circular Economy Hub, Ellen Macarthur Foundation and the Madaster Foundation.

Relive the event

Watch the full recording of the event below.