Monash University Grant to Reset Australia’s Post-COVID Material Economy along Sustainable Lines

Monash University has been awarded an Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Grant to measure the benefits of reuse in the circular economy.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how vulnerable our society and economy is on globalised commodity chains so this grant is timely in that we must reset our materials economy along more sustainable lines, embracing circular economy principles that promote product longevity, and the repair and reuse of products and materials,” said Dr Ruth Lane who is overseeing the research for Monash University.

Charitable and community enterprises play a critical role in domestic commodity chains involving repair and reuse. They collect donated goods that would otherwise go to landfill, they provide skills development and employment training for staff and volunteers, and they ensure the availability of affordable second-hand goods and materials.

Research partner organisation National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations estimates that 285 million products are reused each year, diverting 622,000 tonnes away from landfill.

Charitable and community enterprises also offer insights into how we could better support reuse commodity chains as part of a wider reset for a more sustainable circular economy that delivers social as well as environmental benefits.

The just announced research project, ‘Measuring the benefits of reuse in the circular economy’, will advance understanding of reuse commodity chains, their societal benefits and contributions to a sustainable circular economy. Drawing on case study research with charitable and community reuse enterprises, it will identify factors that facilitate or inhibit reuse and develop rigorous methods for assessing the benefits of reuse organisations in terms of materials processed, employment, skills development and contributions to regional economic development.

The National Waste Report (2020) indicates that reuse generates more jobs per tonne of goods than recycling, which in turn generates significantly more jobs than traditional landfill.

The outputs of the research will provide a sound evidence base for government policy and target-setting and strengthen conceptual understanding of the key drivers and enablers of reuse and how these are linked with broader economic activities.

“COVID-19 has shown how important reuse is, to reset an unsustainable material economy, to create new jobs into the future, and provide affordable second-hand goods and services for those in need”, added Dr Lane.

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