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

Digital platforms Recycling Circular economy Victoria

This report provides an update on the progress for Milestone 4 for the Victoria Circular Activator (VCA) Grant, by the Swinburne University of Technology research team.

In the previous progress report, the authors described a Theory of Change that will help with the conceptual development, and in this report, they primarily report on insights from interviews that have been carried out so far. Specifically, they report on barriers and opportunities associated with waste streams, further grounding of our ToC to enable the exploration of pathways for CE transitions, and an exploration of the possible roles of a data-enabled Virtual Intermediary to support the transition.

In terms of opportunities, the authors have identified a set of commonly reported opportunities and challenges associated with different types of CE business practices. At a high level, some opportunities would 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.

The authors have also outlined a set of archetypical roles that an 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-sectoral partnership, 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.

Related Information

Progress report: data platform conceptual framing https://apo.org.au/node/319340

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