Although on its surface a regular greenfield development, the Queensland community of Yarrabilba is predicted to be the premiere circular economy community in the nation.
A circular economy consultant on the project, Coreo cofounder and chief executive officer Ashleigh Morris, states that the conventional linear methods of managing waste, energy and transport have been replaced with creative closed loop systems planned to “design out waste”.
The site, under development by Lendlease, is based in the Logan local government area, 40 kilometres south of Brisbane.
Once the three-decade development is complete, it will accommodate about 45,000 people and 17,000 homes. The town boasts a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating.
Morris’ business has collaborated with the developer on a circular economy masterplan, which will oversee additional development. She states that the initial step is to determine the location and quantity of waste generated in the town, and then conjure creative methods for drawing value from these resources.
For instance, waste building materials from home construction and non-residential infrastructure will be collected and gathered at a multiuse precinct.
At the facility, the waste will be separated into streams and cleansed. This is a primary part of the key circular economy principle, Morris says, because it is only when materials of the same type are grouped together that they carry substantial value.
As opposed to being sent to Bunnings, pre-used bricks and other materials will be available for purchase as recovered resources by community residents and businesses. This move will, she says, attract jobs and industry to the area.
One concept being considered is the feeding of organic waste into an anerobic digester to generate renewable energy, which then can power the operations of a local startup business.
Overall in this area, traditional linear waste, energy and transport systems are being re-imagined. The masterplan features water recycling, appliance leasing, large scale commercial composting, electric vehicle charging and more.
Coreo claims prominent clients like Lendlease, Queensland government, resources companies, universities and the Brisbane Airport.
Morris and co-founder and sister Jaine Morris founded the Brisbane-based business earlier this year, in the wake of a six-month pilot project to morph a Sunshine Coast street with a bar and shopping precinct into a self-sustaining precinct, featuring everything from energy to cigarette butts.
This pilot program helped businesses lesson their impact and escalate social capital in the city, but it also showed that business can generate funds from circular practices. The project was so successful that participating businesses founded a collective traders association when completed.
Morris says that her company’s team of six people is finding it difficult to keep up with the great demand for its services.
Morris said that the Yarrabilba project is a sample of Australia’s globally innovative private sector-motivated implementation of the circular economy.
Despite a noted lack of laws in place to incentivise circular initiatives, Morris says that she has faced only a single regulatory barrier, related to water ownership.
Overall, though, she says that governments are receptive to the concept of circular economy programs, seeking the aid of educated stakeholders to advise them on the subject.
Morris says that, despite growing understanding of the circular economy concept, some people believe that the term circular economy is synonymous with recycling—which she cites as a last resort choice in the waste recovery hierarchy.
The circular economy, said Morris, is an economic performance-based model that spans across all systems and concerns the decoupling growth stemming from the consumption of finite resources.
She also said that sustainability is a state to aim for, one that can eliminate common environmental problems like climate change and waste, that result from an overabundance of extraction and hazardous materials contaminating the atmosphere.
The Coreo founders recently addressed a C40 Women4Climate Mentorship Programme session at Lendlease.