In the circular economy, there are words and there is action.
“There’s definitely no shortage of ideas out there … there’s a million of them,” supply chain specialist Chris Collimore says.
“But the big gap is commercial sustainability.”
Collimore, the country manager of startup saveBOARD, is one of those turning a concept into reality.
SaveBOARD’s first Australian manufacturing plant will be launched at Warragamba, in Sydney’s southwest, next month, and there are two more in the pipeline.
The company makes construction products entirely from used drink cartons, soft plastics, disposable coffee cups and similar products that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Its sturdy, lightweight alternative to conventional plasterboard, plywood or particle board is also totally recyclable.
Every offcut can be reused, while end-of-life saveBOARDS can be remanufactured for the next renovation or commercial refit.
The process involves significantly less carbon than manufacturing traditional building products and eliminates the need for glues or chemical additives as the raw materials are bonded using heat and compression.
“It’s basically like making a big cheese toasty,” Collimore said.
“You heat it up and cool it down a couple of times and the plastic melts between the gaps in the fibre.
“It’s a straightforward process, but it’s focused on reducing problematic waste … materials which, until we came along, had been completely un-recyclable and collected by container deposit schemes.”
Circular Australia chief executive Lisa McLean advocates for a renewable economy that follows a hierarchy of nine principles to extract maximum value: refuse, rethink, reuse, repair, refurbish, remanufacture, repurpose, recycle and recover.
“In Australia alone, we could unlock a massive $2 trillion worth of potential savings across two decades,” she recently told the Commonwealth Bank’s annual sustainability conference in Sydney.
“Those potential savings could come, for example, through reusing valuable resources currently going to waste in landfill, such as plastics, glass, masonry and metals.
“In addition, buildings and equipment could be repaired and adapted rather than replaced.”
Collimore said genuine solutions also needed strong partnerships.
SaveBOARD has agreements with container deposit schemes across Australia and expects within months to be utilising their entire collection volumes.
Packaging and retail companies, including major supermarket chains, have been equally supportive.
A saveBOARD plant is already up and running in Hamilton, New Zealand, diverting 40 tonnes of waste from landfill annually.