A brand new event in partnership with Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Hub and Diversified Communications, Circularity 2022 will bring together industry, government, and academia to share knowledge, collaborate, and drive actionable change towards a more circular future in the Asia-Pacific.
Heading up the launch of the first Circularity event is Paul Klymenko, co-CEO and Executive Director of Australia’s most trusted environmental organisation, Planet Ark. The event will take place from 24th-25th November at the Hilton Sydney, and will comprise of a two-day conference, onsite exhibition, networking breakfast events, and a gala dinner where the very first ACE Awards winners will be announced. The ACE Awards is a new initiative from Planet Ark’s ACE Hub that aims to recognise and celebrate those who are driving Australia’s transition to a circular economy. Mr Klymenko spoke with us recently about the ACE Hub initiative, the goals and benefits of creating a circular economy, and the need for radical collaboration that is fuelling the first Circularity event.
Australian Circular Economy Hub
“Planet Ark is an environmental not-for-profit,” Mr Klymenko explains, “which is 30 years’ young this year. We have a vision where people thrive in balance with nature, and we’re hoping to do that by creating a carbon neutral and circular economy. We believe if we collectively achieve this, we will solve all our environmental problems – from climate change to ocean plastics.”
To facilitate this move to a circular economy, Planet Ark has created the Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Hub initiative, with the goal of facilitating the transition to a carbon neutral circular economy in Australia.
“One thing we realised is that we needed to have an annual gathering of what we call a ‘coalition of the willing’,” Mr Klymenko adds. “So we have created Circularity 2022, which is our first attempt at doing that.”
A circular economy, in the simplest terms, is the exact opposite of the current economic framework – a linear economy – and is characterised by humans taking resources from nature, using them for products and services, and then disposing of them.
“Most of that ends up somewhere in the environment – sometimes it’s in a hole in the ground, a landfill, sometimes it’s dumped on land and sometimes, even worse, it’s in our oceans. A circular economy is the opposite, and it follows effectively the laws or the rules of nature. There is no such thing as waste in nature, it’s a resource for another process.”
A circular economy is therefore all about taking the resources we get from nature and making sure we maximise their utility through constant refurbishment, recycling, and repurposing, which will ultimately reduce the human footprint on nature.
“Circularity 2022 is designed to inspire, educate and provide opportunities for what we call ‘Radical Collaboration’. That’s when people are getting out of their normal comfort zones of collaboration. It could be something like an energy business partnering with a recycling business, for example. The energy business might be using solar panels and batteries to create a renewable energy system, but end of life those materials need to be captured and repurposed, so they can be turned into the next renewable energy system.”
The aim of the Circularity event is to bring together the latest in circular economy activity across the APAC region, including research, implementation of circular economy thinking, and most importantly to provide opportunities for networking and the formation of radical collaborations.
“The amount of people we have in the room is one measure [of the event’s success],” Mr Klymenko says, “but more importantly it’s about the connections, the collaborations that form, the great ideas that get shared and inspire people, and most importantly people knowing that they’re not alone – they are part of the ‘coalition of the willing’.”
Current best estimates are that the world is only about 10% circular, meaning 90% of resources taken from nature are lost. The combination of climate change and environmental pollution is pushing the planet towards a potential environmental catastrophe.
“We’re getting to a very sticky point in history. If we’re going to be able to continue to thrive, we have to be able to decarbonise our economy and radically reduce our footprint on nature. By the end of July [each year], we’ve actually used up the productive capacity, what I call ‘Nature’s Interest’. For the rest of the year, we’re digging into its natural capital.”
The process of Ecological Footprinting attempts to estimate when we’ve used up the productive capacity of the natural world in a year, and it’s currently getting shorter and shorter every year. The result is the occurrence of more floods, bushfires, loss of species and pollution of air and waterways. These are the results of using up natural capital.
“The time for action is now. It’s really important that we do it now. Fortunately, we’re getting so much more action on climate change and decarbonising our economy, but the other half of the problem has to come from circular economy thinking. We’ve got to actually be repurposing resources, not dumping them into the environment, and making sure that we need to extract less resources from nature.”
Circularity 2022 has been designed for the widest possible appeal, with everyone from business and government leaders, circular economy practitioners, sustainability and recycling professionals, academics, and all those interested in a circular future being invited.
“We’ve put a lot of effort in at Planet Ark to carefully curate the program,” Mr Klymenko says. “So there are lots of interactive panel sessions, keynotes, networking opportunities, and side events, and there is a really good conference dinner planned, with lots of opportunity to network. In that dinner we’ll also have the first ACE Awards, to congratulate the people in Australia who are leading the charge in circular economy implementation.”
Mr Klymenko and the team at Planet Ark are committed to getting as many people involved in the Circularity 2022 event as possible, with invitations being extended to anyone interested in helping make a circular future achievable. Find out more about Circularity 2022 by visiting circularitylive.com.au.