Circular economy and infrastructure

Video transcript

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.

Professor Tim Flannery:

I’d now like to introduce our very first panel session for today which is going to be focusing on how Australia and Victoria are transitioning to a circular economy using infrastructure, and how industry is poised to build on this.

So please welcome our panellists.

We have Professor Veena Sahajwalla, who we have just heard give our fantastic keynote; we have Jodie Bricout, who is the Circular Economy Leader, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre advisory committee member, and Circular Australia board member; and Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader with Arup; and we have a panel moderator Ainsley Simpson who is CEO with Infrastructure Sustainability Council.

And just a note, Joyanne is joining us virtually, so she’ll be on screen.

Thank you.

So it’s over to you Ainsley.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Good morning, thanks Tim.

It’s wonderful to be on Wurundjeri land this morning and great to have you online in Turrbal country Joyanne.

Ready, fire, aim!

That’s why we’re in the room today, and that’s what leadership looks like in this decade of action.

We heard earlier this morning two and a half years ago Allen Garner, supported by Alexis Davison and Leanne Griffin and Tony Aloisio, saw and opportunity and they matched it with a challenge, and then they made some really smart decisions.

They chose progress over perfection, and they chose smart policy over strong personalities, and I think we are going to hear so many lessons on how we can scale and accelerate in the next couple hours on circular products, circular business, circular regions, and ultimately seeing our nation become a thriving circular net-zero economy.

But it really does start with some smart decision-making, and many of you in the room are on that journey as well.

Now, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council currently has $219 billions’ worth of infrastructure under rating, measuring their sustainability performance using the IS rating scheme, that spans around 330 different projects and most of that includes the Victoria Big Build.

We’re seeing massive changes in 95% waste being diverted from landfill, but most importantly it’s all of the co-benefits that come from circular economy practice and using resource efficiency more wisely.

So to kick us off today I’m going to start with you Joyanne.

What is the state of play in Australia right now when it comes to circular economy?

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

Thanks Ainsley.

Good morning everybody, apologies for not being with you in the room but I do join you in Turrbal and Yuggera lands up here in Brisbane.

The set of play for circular economy I think is really exciting across the nation at the moment, what we’re seeing is the National Waste Policy and particular the export amounts has really created an increase supply of materials, and what we’re then seeing is that a number of the state governments really respond to that.

And we have the Recycled First Policy in Victoria which has been hugely successful.

In NSW there is a new strategy as well and they’re very much looking from a picture with bases.

In Queensland they have just actually established a new circular economy office, and then the other states as well are certain to really come on board.

So very much looking at it from how we use materials that are already essentially in circulation we’re making progress with that.

I think where we now need to sort of shift our thinking is how do we consider what we are doing in our design in the first place to ensure that we make our assets flexible and able to be deconstructed to be reused more easily to be considered in that basis.

When we start doing that then we start thinking about it far more as a business model, as a business proposition, rather than just being a – at the moment we’re quite focused on a material strategy with regard to it.

And often a lot of the materials potentially are not achieving their highest uses, fantastic example in the Minister talking about using plastic to make a new composite sleeper which will be a really, really good higher use of the materials.

Sometimes we are potentially not getting the full value of our resources that we are extracting.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Thanks Joyanne, that’s great.

And when you think about circular economy practice and the variability that we’re seeing across all of the states and territories, one might recognise that it’s not a uniform circular we’re dealing with, it’s a little bit more like a hexagon at the moment that’s evolving.

Jodie, what do you see as the mechanisms for us to smooth those edges and get a little bit more – less variability and more increase uptake?

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Yeah, that’s a really interesting question.

I think there will always be a lot of variability and I think we need to be okay with navigating complexity.

I think we all need to really get – everyone in this room is going to have to repeat the same discourse around circular economy again and again and again, so everyone get used to talking about this, it doesn’t happen fast.

So for use to have this room packed with people that are working in this space is incredible.

We’ve come so far.

If everyone thinks back to pre-ecologiQ or five years ago, we’ve come a massive amount in that time, but to actually mainstream this and get it to become normal, not only in Victoria but across the country, is going to require an enormous amount of repetition and patience from everyone.

So first, wouldn’t it be great to see ecologiQ in each state, that would be absolutely magical, but that takes a long time to get there, and maybe ecologiQ’s not the right mechanism in different states as well.

It’s difficult to just cut and paste everything everywhere, it would be great if we just could, but I think we need to accept that you need to walk with people on this journey as well, and walk with the governments, and walk with the industries in different states to making that happen, and in New Zealand as well it would be really great to see that across everywhere.

So that kind of repetition and going through it, and for those of you who are from local governments here, Sustainability Victoria is putting on a masterclass around circular economy, so that’s a free masterclass.

And we ran it last year and we interviewed a bunch of local governments in Europe to try to get their perspective on how they’re making it happen, and there was this lovely woman from Finland who’s working on circular procurement, and she was explaining how it took quite a long time for them to work with the procurement agencies to make it happen naturally.

All of you would know how much work it takes to get circular materials into procurement, even after you’ve prototyped it it’s a long haul.

And she said to me, she was very adorably sweet as well, she was like yeah, it took a little while, like, we had to keep going in but I think they’ve got it now, I think it happens from the beginning of the project now.

I said oh, that’s great, how long does it take?

She goes, I think it was 11 times.

And I think we have in our head that we do a prototype and we write a spec and it’s done.

But this is actually a really big systems change to how people do things and how they’ve been doing them for a long time, so I think there’s just a lot of patience around that in terms transforming what we’ve already been doing in Victoria around materials and making it truly mainstream.

And then the second massive thing, as Joyanne said, the real circular economy game is not about materials.

So I think you need to question whether you be heroes of the linear economy of the circular economy.

At the moment a lot of what we’re doing is catching the mess that the linear economy is spitting out, the 16 tonnes of meth that the linear economy is spitting out in Victoria, and trying to desperately plug it back into the system.

Until it’s designed to flow better we’re not really in a circular economy.

So the sleepers that we’ve been talking about, as they’re taking waste and putting it into the spaces, that’s more of kind of saving the linear economy and plugging it back in.

What’s really interesting is how they’re designing those sleepers to last longer, if they could repurpose them and things like that, and they’re actually building that into the design, so then we’re really thinking circular.

So how do we keep things at their highest value, think through how assets can stay assets longer, how we can remanufacture and refurbish things, that’s when we’re getting much further into the higher value uses of circular economy approaches.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:


And Veena, you shared many examples on the circular product side, if we think just about infrastructure how do we start shifting to circular business and circular regions?

You mentioned some of the investments, what do you think one or two of the key take-outs are?

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor:

Yeah, look I mean, I think we talk about different kinds of products that you need in an infrastructure setting, I think if you could imagine that in that entire sort of systems way of thinking that we’ve been talking about, what are the kinds of current products?

I mean the sleepers are a great example where you can sort of say well, they’ve clearly got to be highly engineered and they’ve got to perform and meet those performance expectations, but we’ve also then got to be able to have a really good way of controlling the kinds of materials you want to bring in because it’s not good enough to say well, we have a plastics problem, there are many different kinds of plastics, and there are many different kinds of glass, and there are many, many different kinds of metals and metal alloys just like we know that steel and aluminium and a lot of these metals can actually be reformed over and over again by controlling the way you make high performance and alloys.

If you can do that successfully with metals, and of course we know, we take it for granted that you can make different kinds of steel alloys for instance, by bringing in different alloy additives and improve performance and quality, you can in the same way ask what do I need to do in terms of delivering better strength, or better fire retardancy, or better products that then are designed appropriately which then can – that kind of design element, when someone says look, I’ve got this particular additive in this polymer and I have to refine it or it’s not going to be good enough for a given application.

What you actually have to say, once you’ve got a high performance product you’ve got to judge it on the basis of its performance as you expect for another life and another life.

Not going back and saying well, do I need to reform and refine something to the enth degree while it’s completely perfect, because that’s what’s going to stop me, well that’s not what you do when it comes to recycling steel right?

I mean you take all kinds of scrap steel, you use an electric arc furnace to be able to melt that steel and to control the chemistry of what you’re making, so you then prepare for its next life, that’s really what material science and engineering and manufacture allows.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

And innovation is really about, exactly.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor:

So you can actually achieve that outcome if you focus very much on the kinds of performance expectations you have for a given engineered product, and then you say, what are the input materials?

How do I need to combine different feedstock materials?

And sometimes all it does take is thinking about those extra additives or components and materials that need to be brought into the mix.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

We are going to start opening up for questions so keep them flowing.

Going back to mechanisms though in terms of how we actually stimulate this as new business practice and a way that we actually deliver infrastructure and think differently, one of the questions is really about what the levers might be, and here in Victoria it was policy, using a ready, fire, aim practice which meant we didn’t strived for perfection we just got started.

And there’s power in progress, but the question really is whether there is opportunity to create legislation, or increased responsibility around product stewardship.

And it’s quite an important question when we recognise that we actually have a duty of care to be good ancestors and it really does start today.

Joyanne, I wonder if you’ve got any thoughts on legislating or mandating practices and what those levers might be around product stewardship.

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

Yeah, I mean I think if you look to the jurisdictions around the world that are leading the way, actually policy and legislation has really underpinned it.

I mean if we look to Europe, we look to the EU taxonomy and it has made the circular economy and consideration and delivery on circular economy as one of the key requirements of the EU taxonomy.

It’s completely driving industries and businesses to really consider what does this really mean to them?

We also have, in Ireland my home country, it actually passed a Circular Economy Act earlier this year and that actually very much underpins resource recovery, products stewardship and responsibility at a national level.

And that’s fundamentally changing how people are considering materials, how they are considering residual value, how to do they maximise residual value, and Jodie talked about, like, the fact that we need to consider this very differently, very much as a design basis.

And just building a little bit on that from what Veena was saying, she’s very much talking about it from a materials point of view, but when we think of infrastructure we really need to think about the infrastructure and the many layers of infrastructure, and the many layers of the differently assets that are involved in building an infrastructure.

And back to our sleepers for example, there’s a fantastic example again from the transport agency in Ireland where they realise that in terms of the asset management of their sleepers they need to be replaced, sort of, probably, you know, so on an ongoing basis, probably approximately every 20 years, but they found that in a number of places they had to remove aspects of the infrastructure in order to replace the sleepers, which had a different design life which didn’t make sense.

So they were wasting, you know, there was sort of a part of the infrastructure to deal with other parts of the infrastructure, so what they ended up doing was, as well, why don’t we redesign the sleepers, and how do we actually construct and install the sleepers.

So we can look at it from a materiality point of view, but we can also think about it from a construction basis as well, and can we actually change the way that we actually construct things from the design point of view, and therefore we are stopping wastage through the system at all times in doing it.

So back to your original question, I do believe that we need to take a more purposeful approach to product stewardship, and I think we do that because when we keep the value at the top, you know, in focus at all times and we have people think about how do we continue to gain the value from this resource, not just through its first cycle but through its second, third and following lives as well.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Thanks Joyanne.

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Can I just jump in and just tell a story associated to this?

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Of course you can.

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Because the previous question was actually making the comments as well about the plastic bottles, which is a very obvious comment, like why are we sitting here with water bottles talking about circular economy and the recyclability of these?

I would hope that these are already recycled bottles ‘cause for Coke for example, I think it’s 98% of the Coke branded bottles in Australia are already made from 100% recycled PET.

It’s actually a really interesting question, because I first met Tony Aloisio at a Roads conference in 2018 where I made myself really unpopular in a keynote, because there was all these Roads people that were very proud of the number of bottles that they were managing to put in their roads.

And I was saying well, A your roads aren’t really horizontal landfills, like talk about what quality and what value these things are bringing to your roads.

They’re not landfills, we’re not out to solve a waste challenge with your roads, you’re actually out to build a really great, durable, long-lasting product.

So how are those tyres that you’re putting into the roads actually improving the road?

And secondly I said, there’s going to be massive competition for that PET in the future, don’t you realise that packaging is going towards 100% recycled material, so you’re actually in a massive competition for materials now and it’s happening all the time.

So when I see – I think there was a slide this morning that talked about two kind of waste issues to do with the roads and the infrastructure, but the third one was about quarrying and about how you’re finding it hard to actually access materials, that’s what you’ve got to zoom in on.

You’re in a competition for materials and value in your roads.

And the other thing I just wanted to add on the bottles as well with the link with product stewardship is that is the most successful example of product stewardship in Australia.

Most packaging in Australia is now recyclable so it is designed for those lower value loops in the system now, and it’s really being transformed towards recycled use in manufacturing as well, and there recycled PET plants being set up, multiple of them in Australia as well, so you can see in the packaging areas, really a leader in how that product stewardship’s worked.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Great story, thank you Jodie.

Now, I’m sure all of you met this person but anonymous really gets around, they are at almost every conference I attend, so welcome anonymous.

But I am going to actually reward Jeremy whose question just popped off the screen.

But the question was around what kind of design practices can we start adopting so that we’re making these decisions a whole lot earlier?

In addition to that, how can we then start making infrastructure, really consider end of life in the asset itself as well as some of the materials that we’re using?

Who wants to kick that one off?

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor :

I guess the obvious one is when we talk about materials and design, and this is where science and engineering has to play an important role, is that you can’t just assume that just because you’ve recycled something that that product is going to do its job and be durable.

In fact, what if these kinds of plastic materials then produce microplastics in service right?

So in all of these cases we just have to ask upfront, is that the right kind of material for that application, will it degrade and downgrade in service?

Because if something falls apart and degrades in service, well the chance of capturing that and putting that back into another life and another life is not going to happen right?

I mean when we talk about design, upfront we’ve got to ask what kind of material have we tested and prototyped something, not just from point of view of the property, like let’s say a mechanical property consideration, engineering property’s consideration, but I would also say environmental consideration, because if something falls apart, breaks down into microplastics you clearly have not chosen the right kind of material for the right application.

And then of course, you know, when we talk about packaging and putting materials into various applications, we can’t avoid about thinking there are many complex materials where you’ve got multi layers.

When you’re putting multi layers, and laminated structures, whether they are in your windscreen glass, or whether they are in your chip packets, the realities are that that then has to be given due consideration as to how you put it back into remanufacture.

I mean it’s all right if you can get your PET back into becoming our PETs again, some of the materials like these polymers are the low-hanging fruit, absolutely, you should be putting recycled PET back in as a high quality PET bottle.

But what if you’ve got all kinds of other laminated structures, your glasses and your metals and the polymers, you need to be able to then go back and design it appropriately so you can in a way unmake it and remake it.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Jodie, you’re itching to jump in.

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Sorry, and I won’t talk too long Joyanne because I know you’ll be able to talk about Arup’s amazing work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on this.

But something I really love just thinking about, about that designing for end of life.

First it’s actually zooming out and thinking through multiple lifecycles whenever you’re thinking through designing things, what’s going to happen to this after?

But secondly, and this is a real interesting part, is that we don’t really know, we don’t know what systems are set up to be able to remanufacture things in the future, so I like to really think about future-proofing things and for multiple possible scenarios.

And this is really important for climate transition too, right, we’re not quite sure what the future’s going to hold.

So, how can you build in as much flexibility, modularity as possible?

So things like attaching information to your components and products so that, you know, they might not be recyclable now, or they might not be able to be remanufactured now, but they might just be in the future, in 20 or 50 years when they come to end of life, so how can you attach the maximum amount of information to them that will facilitate that shift in the future.

That’s what I wanted to add but Arup’s been doing amazing work in this space.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Joyanne, tell us a little bit more.

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

I mean Arup has been the knowledge partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation around this environment for the last, probably up to seven years, and really, you know, sort of using this relationship to drive progress in the built environment.

Because a lot of the work around the circular economy has been at a product level, sort of, quite a micro-level, or it’s been actually quite macro, so very much at a sort of a city level or a higher level jurisdiction, policy level.

But they wanted the meme, particularly for the built environment, given the built environment is one of the biggest users of resources in the world globally, you know, takes up the most from cement, from steel, and actually plastics and things like gravels and materials, it’s just a massive consumer.

And we have a massive infrastructure demand, we actually will not be able to deliver the infrastructure demand globally based on the resources we have and we need to do things differently.

So, we’ve been very much drawing on what both Veena and Jodie said, it’s really thinking about it and this idea of a design strategy, what can we do, how can we design what we are doing from the beginning to have flexibility, to have agility, to have as much information as possible.

Things like material passports, they are starting to become mandated in Europe, they will come in here very shortly, so how can we have the necessary information associated with our designs, with our build designs, to enable us to have those material passports using products that have PETs is a really good start because therefore we have that necessary attributes that we have.

But then starting to think about the business strategy, so what can we do differently in terms of – can we actually refuse some of the things that we’re doing, can we consider about having some of the products we traditionally use and have that as a service, lighting at the service on our infrastructure is a good example.

And then as Veena sort of said already, and as Jodie was talking to, this idea of knowing, understanding what products we’re using, understanding what materials we’re using, so we can consider what is going to be the overall impact of them, and the overall opportunity to sort of keep them at their highest is, as I said, and making sure – and why do we want to do that?

Well we don’t want to be creating problems in the future, we don’t want to be causing havoc to a longer term environmental liability associated with our assets.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

You mention there the tyranny of time and it’s never lost on me that the decisions that we’re making today are going to be with us with 50 and 100 years, and I think it’s really valuable that we’re starting to think about all of the wider benefits of more sustainable infrastructure, thinking yes, there’s circular economy practice, but we also have quite a considerable climate challenge.

And more recently we’re seeing that our resource efficiency, and some of our emissions reduction targets, can actually be coupled, they’re not separate, they are mutually exclusive, they are highly integrated, and I think the time is now to start thinking about genuine circular economy as opposed to just recycling.

We need to push the boundary beyond just thinking about the content of products that we’re using.

We’ve got a really great question from James, thank you James, you outcompeted anonymous.

How can we make it more attractive to preserve infrastructure and reduce demolitions, and envisions I might add, and can the Big Build be a bit smaller, and I’d like to add an even bigger impact?

So Joyanne, you went last in that round, any thoughts on making the Big Build smaller but bigger impact?

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

A great question.

I think the very first thing we need to be actually doing is can we refuse what we want to do in the first place, is there a way of extending the assets that we have, is there a way of doing things differently?

So the Welsh Parliament is actually requiring that every new infrastructure project considers its need first and foremost, that’s the first requirement, can it actually be refused, can it be done in a different way?

I genuinely think we need to do this, but then also we also need to think about well, if we do need something cannot augment what we have?

If we do have to actually demolish something well, what is the ability, you know, can we demolish it in a different way, is there an opportunity to salvage the materials, the precious materials that we have within it, so what can we do in terms of side practices in order to take a bit more time, to maybe consider our demolition techniques so we can salvage more as we go along.

I only thing we really need to think about is when we are building, particularly when we may have temporary works and longer term permanent ones, is there an opportunity to rationalise what we’re doing so we have less wastage and less spoilages as  we go along with it.

I think that’s a fantastic question.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

That’s great.

And building on from that we’ve got a question about Recycled First will assist in meeting decarbonisation targets?

Jodie, any reflections?

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Yeah, so decarbonisation is so key in this, and I was actually thinking just quickly on the previous question with James.

So I joined this wonderful company called OROCON four months ago, and we’re having these questions as well, and last night walking home from dinner we walked down Bourke Street and my colleague pointed out 500 Bourke, which is a 45-storey 1980s building that was going to be knocked down.

And I kind of did my research when I got home and our engineers actually really questioned that and challenged them to make it a building of the future through refurbishment.

And they’ve actually gone and done it, and one of the main levers was around the net-zero strategy, so we are really finding that our clients are having to think creatively and quite differently about the projects because they’ve made serious net-zero goals and targets, and it’s going to be tough to meet them.

They can meet some of them with moving to renewables, but you know, 45% of greenhouse gas emissions are around the products and the materials that are flowing around us.

So we actually really have to question what we are building and really recapture the greenhouse gas emissions that are in our recycled materials as well to actually contribute back to that climate change element.

So I would love to see more, like at the next ecologiQ conference, that when we’re putting up the big achievements from all the projects that the carbon benefit of those projects is communicated.

I think a lot of them might be calculated already but I think that needs to be front and centre of what you’re doing.

And sometimes it’s difficult because in a transition system, the recycling systems might be a little bit more clunky on carbon to get going, but as they become more efficient the carbon benefits should and will be considerable, and that should be like front of line in terms of communications as well.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

As you can imagine I am a little bit of a fan of measuring what matters.

We’ve got another really great question about supporting suppliers and that is relevant because in the room you are focused on products, you are also focused on business, many of you are focused on regions and place-making.

How should we support suppliers, small and large, producing recycled materials as they seek to progress approvals etcetera?

I think it’s how do we accelerate?

Veena, any suggestions there, what’s available?

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor :

Yeah, indeed, indeed, and this is why of course I was using some of those examples of how we’ve put in this whole sort of thinking around what micro-factories are all about.

It’s not always about making that finished item, ‘cause we tend to think that a factory or a production unit is something that makes that finished item, but what we are really talking about is looping in and having that ability to bring in all kinds of suppliers, as long as we know the destination of where it’s going.

So it’s about having complete transparency in that supply chain so if somebody is accessing a high quality feedstock material, you need to be able to know what quality are you able to access.

So as a supplier you need to be then prepared to actually say, you know, here’s my material, this is the full material’s analysis of what I can give you.

So if you are somebody who is supplying different kinds of materials you can then go back, it’s almost like having a full sort of characterisation and diagnostic done on your feedstock materials, so you’re making it easy for someone who is in that supply chain, let’s say there is a market demand for a particular material, you’re actually making it easy for the manufacturer in that supply chain to say, well actually, I like what this supplier’s giving me because it’s completely transparent, I fully understand what these materials contain, they’re actually telling me are there any hazardous substances in it, are they materials that are going to cause environmental harm, whatever the case might be.

I think for suppliers to then also be supported through manufacturing processes is going to be important, so as we’re talking about decarbonisation, that’s actually a good sort of segue to saying if you were to use recycled content that’s actually got all of that energy gone into making it in the first place, you can reduce your carbon footprint and decarbonise in a big way if you’ve got that quality control of what suppliers are giving you.

So suppliers can actually play a very important role in showing how their materials are better than having original materials and recycled materials that get put back into.

And so the accountability, if I can put it this way, allowing for carbon accounting that takes into consideration that you’re prepared to put the hard work in to accessing good quality recycled materials is a great win-win outcome for both sides.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Yeah, I think so.

My reflection on that question is also because many of you in the room are members of the ISC and what you tell me is really helpful is having absolute certainty regarding demand, is this something that’s going to just be a flash in the pan or is there going to be a consistent demand where you can actually invest and start moving your products forward, invest in marketing and connecting with those customers that you’re going to need to interface with.

From a supplier side there also needs to be capability building, we suddenly don’t have thousands of people overnight able to do all of these great things that we suddenly recognise that we have a very short time to deliver.

I think that it’s absolutely critical that you continue to engage and connect with one another at events like these, through many of the support services and maps and directories that are available, where supply and demand can connect in a really easy way so that you can be familiar with what products might be out there.

And then I think it’s really important to reward and recognise and share the stories and lessons with equally where things didn’t go well, because the faster you share the faster collectively as a system, a network of systems.

Let’s see, we’ve got time for one more question and then we might wrap up.

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

I think just adding to what you said about the systems, I think what’s really critical is that people need to think about the circular economy as an approach it’s not an outcome.

So we want to decarbonise and hit net-zero with that as an outcome, and where the circular economy is very much an approach, and therefore you talked about, you know, so system of systems, so we’ve already got a job, we need to operate within a system of systems, so we need to have circular policy and circular strategy and circular bases, and to provide that confidence.

We then need to have circular businesses who have that ability to sort of understand and operate.

We need circular design because if the engineers are not sort of embracing this sort of thing, the sort of the opportunities, or the designers then have said to the circular businesses do you know how to circular markets.

And then talking to, sort of very much where Veena sits, is that we need products and materials to be able, circular products and materials that can be used in circular design, produced by circular businesses, you know, are provided the confidence by having circular policy.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

That’s fantastic, thanks Joyanne.

What we might do is quickly wrap up with one reflection from each of you about a key take-out of how we drive more circular economy?

Veena, Your quick reflection.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor:


I would probably say that if were thinking about a methodology through which want all to be connected, then I think it’s up to all of us, doesn’t matter big or small business, is to be able to show that what’s so special about the kind of material or the product that we’re making so the bone is in our courts to be able to say, is it a low carbon product, is it something that uses less energy in its manufacture, all of this means that transparency in all businesses talking about, and let’s shout out from our rooftops if we have used recycled content, because I think to me it’s about both the engineering and the environmental benefits.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

Thank you Veena.

Joyanne, your last reflection.

Joyanne Manning, Australasian Resources Leader and Global Circular Economy Skills Leader, Arup:

Yeah, I’m just reiterating my point around the circular economy, you know, is an approach, you know, it is a systemic new way of thinking rather than just being an outcome for a specific thing.

Recycled First program has been fantastic, it addressed the key problem that we had, but there is a lot more to happen really to shift ourselves to be truly delivering a true circular economy.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

And, Jodie?

Jodie Bricout, Circular Economy Leader, Aurecon, Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) advisory committee member, Circular Australia board member:

Yeah, stay patient, this is about shifting the entire economic system, it’s not going to happen after lunch, so keep banging on the drum.

I know it’s really hard when you’re getting the same feedback again and again and again, but our time is here and it’s coming and keep going.

Ainsley Simpson, CEO, Infrastructure Sustainability Council:

And in this decade of action lead like Allen Garner, ready, fire, aim.

Thank you.

Professor Tim Flannery:

Thank you so much Ainsley and that spectacular panel for giving us, what I’d call the sort of fundamentals of the circular economy, really, really key issues, really hard issues, but absolutely essential.

We won’t get to where we need to get to until we address those concerns that were raised during that panel.

Look, we’re now going on to a morning tea break, and we’ll resume the next session with a panel discussion on construction, economics and resource availability at about 11:20am.

Before we break I’d like to remind you all to stay up to date with today’s program by downloading the ‘attendee app’ which is available at the Apple Store or Google, and see the registration team if you need assistance with downloading the app.

Have a great morning tea.

I hope we get to have lots of discussions and we’ll see you back here at 11:20.

Thank you.

Text: Victoria’s Big Build. EcologiQ Greener Infrastructure Conference 2022. Victoria State Government.