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Councillor Column – 7 June 2022

Jun 7, 2022

For Immediate Release 7 June 2022
Authorised by Councillor Joanne Mackay

WASTE: The Triangle or the Circle?

Traditional waste management follows a triangular hierarchy. The best option is to avoid waste, then reuse it, then recycle it, then recover energy from it and then dispose of it in landfill.

Most Governments profess to stick to this waste hierarchy, but put most money and effort into the bottom of the triangle i.e. the disposal of waste. We tend to focus so much on ‘tonnes to landfill’ (the bottom of the triangle) that we neglect to look at avoiding waste generation (the top of the triangle). There are few effective programs aimed at waste avoidance and none that fit into a comprehensive circular economy strategy.

Have you heard of the Circular Economy?

This system has no waste. Everything is a resource used elsewhere in the circle.

A Circular Economy requires us to change our lifestyles, our businesses, our fundamental way of doing things. It involves education and behavioural change. It requires us, not government, to stop making, buying and disposing of things that we don’t need from resources that aren’t sustainable. Admittedly, this is very ambitious as our modern life is based on the triangle.  We are encouraged to consume to make the economy function.

Over the last 20 years, zero waste policies in Australia have driven massive change. The introduction of new initiatives like kerbside recycling, garden waste drop offs and construction and demolition recycling have to some degree addressed the biggest tonnages in our waste stream. We now need to look again.

A circular economy is based on services, connection and community, not material goods, disconnection and waste. It promotes local agriculture and manufacturing whilst making us more resilient to supply chain threats and reduce climate emissions.

There is an old adage, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve got’.  

We need to move from the triangle to the circle.


Councillor Joanne Mackay