Victoria boosted with Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre

Victoria now boasts a $7 million Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre with an initial focus on reducing food and organic waste. This work will build off Sustainability Victoria’s Love Food Hate Waste program that has helped reduce the 250,000 tonnes of edible food that is thrown away by households each year – enough to fill Melbourne’s Eureka Tower.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Centre, stating that that it will fast-track Victoria’s recycling revolution. She said the Centre will work with a variety of businesses – from farms and cafes to factories and appliance shops – to streamline the way they operate, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

“This new centre will spark innovation and help businesses to make sustainable changes and reduce waste.” “This will gather some of the best minds and research about recycling innovation, so that Victorian businesses can get the most out of their materials.”

Expert advice 

The centre will do research and offer expert advice and resources through a virtual hub, facilitate collaboration and events, and offer grants and support for businesses. To mark the launch of the centre, the first round of the $10 million Recycling Victoria Business Support Fund has opened. The fund will help businesses, industry groups and not-for-profit organisations to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste to landfill, increase recycling and reduce their operating costs.

Meanwhile, the first round of the $3 million Recycling Victoria Innovation Fund is also now available. This funding will support partnerships between businesses, industry groups, research institutions, community groups and charities to identify, develop and scale-up more environmentally sustainable opportunities and business models. The centre is part of Recycling Victoria – the Government’s action plan and investment of more than $300 million to transform the state’s recycling sector, create thousands of jobs and set Victoria up for a more sustainable future.

Coles plastic bags re-used to build carpark 

Coles and Victorian recycling organisations RED Group and Replas will install a concrete slab carpark made partly out of recycled soft plastics.

Presently under installation at Coles Horsham in regional Victoria, the carpark is the first commercial construction project in Australia to make use of Polyrok – a sustainable alternative to aggregate minerals used in concrete, such as stone.

Made from plastic bags and soft plastic packaging recovered from the REDcycle program, Polyrock has the potential to divert 105,000 tonnes of soft plastics from landfill each year, if used in commercial concrete projects across Australia, according to the venture partners.

Coles state construction manager Victoria Fiona Lloyd explained that this was the first time the product had been used in a commercial environment, “We know how important it is to support initiatives that help to close the loop with soft plastics.

“This project alone will help repurpose approximately 900,000 pieces of soft plastic, to be used in the carpark at the soon-to-be-competed Coles Horsham redevelopment.

“We’ve worked with RED Group, Replas and RMIT University throughout the whole development process and we’re excited to see how we can use this technology in more of our stores.”

Replas joint managing director Mark Jacobsen added that “Polyrok reduces the carbon footprint due to the reduced thermal mass it provides. This tackles the plastic problem and climate change all while being fit for purpose. If innovative products like this were adopted in all buildings and car parks, the collective reduction in greenhouse gasses would be enormous.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans said the welcomed the collaboration was welcome.

“There is huge potential and opportunity for infrastructure projects to help us build a more circular economy. This is why the Federal Government has prioritised the development of new national standards and guidelines to encourage the use of recycled content in roads and other projects.”

Coles is marking National Recycling Week with this and other initiatives including a new food waste diversion project in Queensland and new sustainability features at its latest supermarket in Chatswood, New South Wales.

Coles has worked with REDcycle since 2011, becoming the first major Australian supermarket to have REDcycle bins in every supermarket. Since the partnership began, Coles and its customers have diverted over 1.3 billion pieces of soft plastic from landfill.