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CSIRO’S Circular Economy Roadmap charts path to triple job creation

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has released a new roadmap on key strategies for creating jobs and reclaiming billions in economic value from plastic, glass, paper and tires currently going into landfill.

The National Circular Economy Roadmap found innovation is crucial to realizing Australia’s largest economic gains, which will come from designing new products and materials, including through advanced manufacturing, and in embracing new business models that will create domestic and export markets for waste streams.


The six elements of a circular economy, as described in the CSIRO report, include:

  1. Retain material through use and collection

  2. Upscale and innovate recycling technologies

  3. Innovate and collaborate in design and manufacture

  4. Develop markets for secondary materials and the products that use them

  5. Streamline nationally consistent governance

  6. Secure a national zero-waste culture

This could more than triple job creation from resource recovery in Australia, where the recycling sector currently generates 9.2 jobs per 10,000 tonnes of waste, compared with only 2.8 jobs for the same amount of waste sent to landfill.

Increasing Australia’s recovery rate by just 5% would add an estimated $1 billion to GDP.

The Australian Government’s ban on the export of waste last year creates an opportunity for a new circular economy strategy that turns landfill into economic returns.

Science can transform our economy into a circular one that renews and reuses what we previously discarded, and indeed a virtuous circle that creates higher paid jobs, advances new Australian technology, and protects our environment.

We’re on a mission to make it real. The practical path laid out in this roadmap is part of CSIRO’s mission-led focus on using science to solve our greatest challenges while driving our economic recovery and building future resilience.

—CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall

The roadmap aligns with a number of circular economy missions being developed by CSIRO and partners in industry, universities and government, including a mission to end plastic waste, a mission to transform Australian mineral commodities into higher-value products, and a mission to transition to net zero emissions.

Project leader Dr Heinz Schandl said the roadmap was commissioned by the Federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and developed in collaboration with 83 industry, research and government partners to shape a circular economy strategy for Australia to address fundamental environmental issues and foster regional employment.

The roadmap identifies six elements for moving towards a circular economy of plastics, paper, glass and tires:

  • Retain material through use and collection

  • Upscale and innovate recycling technologies

  • Innovate and collaborate in design and manufacture

  • Develop markets for secondary materials and the products that use them

  • Streamline nationally consistent governance

  • Secure a national zero waste culture

Lost to landfill: The hidden gems in waste:

  • Plastic – $419M: Australia loses $419 million every year by not recycling PET and HDPE plastics.

  • Paper – $115M: Cost savings from sending paper fibre to landfill is around $70 per tonne. With 1,642 kilotonnes sent to landfill each year, that’s $115 million.

  • Lithium – $2.5B: Sending lithium from batteries to landfill results in a lost economic opportunity of up to $2.5 billion by 2036.

  • Litter – $70M: Australia spent $70 million cleaning up dumped waste in 2016–17.


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