Circular Economy and Waste Management

Context

Waste management is an essential service. It is also a challenging and rapidly evolving area of policy and activity that presents opportunities for the water industry. Recycling Victoria: A new economy, the Victorian Government’s recycling policy released in 2020, highlights the importance of developing the circular economy in Victoria. In circular economy resource management models, sewage and biosolids are recovered and reused as recycled water, waste-to-energy, nutrients and biosolids applications.

Management of sewage is part of the core business of water corporations – they are the largest processors of organic waste materials in the state. Yet the industry does not capture all the value of these resources, and there is strong interest in finding opportunities to build on its organic waste processing capabilities.

The water industry has significant expertise in the treatment of liquid organic waste, which is closely related to some treatment methods for other organic waste (including food waste). The industry faces challenges in financing research and development and new facilities to build on this expertise to participate in the circular economy. Water corporations also need to balance the financial risks and rewards of entering a competitive market for waste management.

Rapid developments in policy and investment in recycling and the circular economy in Victoria offer opportunities for the water industry to expand its role in waste management. They may also provide a vehicle for addressing existing challenges with biosolids and sewage and foster innovation in the industry. Beyond, there is the opportunity to create a life cycle approach to the production and disposal of assets, built into the design of new infrastructure, and influencing the supply chain toward low footprint technologies.

Objectives

  • The role of Victoria’s water corporations in waste management and the circular economy is clearly understood and supported by the industry, the Victorian Government, and the community

  • Circular economy systems are well integrated, and generate and sustain new markets for recovered resources in which the water industry can participate

Position Statement

  1. The water industry seeks to deepen its participation in the circular economy and supports the development of a legislative and regulatory framework that enables that participation.
  2. Funded research and development are needed to support innovation in waste management and the circular economy in the water industry.
  3. The water corporations seek access to government funding on a level playing field with all participants in the circular economy.
  4. The opportunities of the circular economy should be approached with the eyes of ‘designers’ not ‘managers’, going beyond sewage treatment and making investment decisions based on how to recover and reuse resources.
  5. Collaboration between the water industry, regulators, policy makers, industry, local government, research organisations, and the community is essential to strengthen the role of the water industry in the circular economy.

Key Stakeholders

  • Recycling Victoria

  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

  • Essential Services Commission (ESC)

  • Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF)

Underpinning Principles

  • Responsible environmental stewardship (sustainability)

  • Good governance (financial sustainability)

  • Leadership and innovation (innovative thinking)

Accessibility

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