A Circular Economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use at their highest possible value, and regenerating natural systems. This means shifting away from the ‘take, make, use and dispose’ approach towards a more circular method where the value of resources is retained for as long as possible.
In other words, a Circular Economy model not only reduces waste to landfill but keeps materials in use and ensures valuable resources are recycled into usable materials. Thus, maximising the synergy opportunities of material exchange, with the waste stream (including energy, water, materials and waste water) from one development potentially serving as the input for another.
A Circular Economy not only benefits the environment by reducing the carbon and ecosystem costs of development, but it can also provide significant financial savings and enhance social capital.
Fig.1: Circular Economy Diagram - National Waste Policy 2018
Circular Economy principles for the built environment
Embedding Circular Economy principles into the built environment can uncover significant opportunities financially, socially and operationally for businesses, governments and cities. Circularity minimises structural waste and helps realise greater value from built environment assets. Implementing these principles can also help developments meet their emissions obligations and contribute to making urban areas more liveable, resilient and sustainable.
The earlier in the project lifecycle that Circular Economy principles are embedded, the more opportunities arise to assess viable solutions to ultimately design out waste.
It all starts with good design:
Fig.2: Circular Economy opportunities for the Built Environment
Where to start your Circular Economy journey
To help organisations and/or projects on their journey to circularity, WSP has developed a Circular Economy Matrix and Toolkit.
The Matrix is a quick and effective way to kickstart informed conversations on collaborative sustainable resource management. It is based on a combination of information from industry best practice.
We can help organisations work through the Matrix and Toolkit and achieve the following outcomes:
- An understanding of Circular Economy key principles.
- A clear picture of what is relevant (material) to an organisation’s activities, its value chain and stakeholders.
- The organisational or project boundaries for Circular Economy action.
- A set of graphics that articulate where current (and future) actions should be focused.
- A platform from which advocacy and action can be spearheaded.
- The ability to map, visually, an organisation’s journey to circularity.
Circular Economy Matrix and Toolkit
We are currently developing the NSW Circular Design Guidelines on behalf of a leading government department to facilitate the transition to a Circular Economy in the Built Environment through design choices.
Our Waste Management & Resource Recovery team has also recently facilitated a holistic application of Circular Economy principles at the Master Planning Stage for the Moree Special Activation Precinct (SAP). This enabled us to ensure that infrastructure and resources are managed as efficiently as possible to minimise wastes, including the efficient location or the co-location of certain land uses and infrastructure.
Other Circular Economy projects include a Whole Of Life Cost (WOLC) model addressing the lifecycle costs associated with managing a typical power pole from purchase through to disposal. The key focus here was on recommended disposal methods in line with the waste hierarchy. Our Team is also providing technical advice to a Tier 1 construction company to investigate opportunities for re-use of construction materials for an iconic project in Sydney.