Towards developing a digital platform for a systemic shift to a circular economy: Progress report 2

Last updated: 7 September 2022
Prepared by: Swinburne University
Prepared for: Victorian Circular Activator and Sustainability Victoria
First published: 31 August 2022


This report focuses on the barriers and opportunities associated with circular business practices and waste streams, further grounding of the Theories of Change (in progress report one) to enable the exploration of pathways for the circular economy (CE) transitions, and an exploration of the possible roles of a data-enabled Virtual Intermediary to support the transition.

At a high level, some opportunities arise from more collaboration and partnerships and more effective community engagement. Key challenges are associated with not enough coordination, inadequate standards and regulations, and uncertainties about the demand for recycled materials. Another important finding is that there is a common lack of imagination and ambition in the adoption of CE strategies. Therefore, there is an opportunity to adopt higher-order CE strategies which are also referred to as the R principles.

This report outlines a set of archetypical roles that a virtual intermediary can play in the transition to a CE and explored what this may specifically look like in the context of Victoria. Key findings in relation to the potential roles of intermediaries are that:

  • local councils are key champions in the transition to a CE, although they are often hamstrung by limitations and lack of resources, and there is an important opportunity for a virtual intermediary to support them to overcome such challenges
  • intermediaries may help reduce transaction costs, for example by facilitating the co-investment of infrastructure and services for reverse logistics; or enabling access to online platforms to connect businesses and drive waste-as-a-resource services
  • intermediaries may help overcome inertia, for example by promoting community acceptance of CE practices, as well as organising workshops and seminars on adopting CE practices and business models
  • intermediaries may support ongoing learning by streamlining and standardising data collection as well as driving ongoing collaboration, inter-sector partnerships and industry learning among organisations.

Overall, there are opportunities for a virtual intermediary to create economies of scale, reduce risk and fast-track cross-ecosystem learning that can be boosted by intermediaries.

Read the full report