Bega has made its intentions known to become Australia's most "circular" valley by 2030 with the launch of its flagship project - a National Centre for Circularity (NCC), which is due to open in early 2026.
The Regional Circularity Co-operative Limited (RCC), in collaboration with its key partners, including Bega Group, unveiled its plans for its centre - the first of its kind in Australia - in early November.
Bega Group program manager and RCC CEO Andrew Taylor said the NCC would encourage tourism and provide a home for circular economy initiatives and progress, enhancing the circularity agenda locally and nationally.
"The local community and visitors to the region will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the fruits of the valley transforming into a circular economy, and it will also inspire others outside of the Bega region to undertake and participate in the journey," he said.
"Through having a digital and physical presence and, therefore, being accessible by a local, national and international audience, learnings from the centre will have an impact globally."
According to Mr Taylor, there is good community enthusiasm behind the sustainability project, which is designed to showcase Bega Valley's circular economy knowledge, data and projects, inspiring others on their circular journey.
"Bega was chosen as the location for the NCC build due to the area having a good representation of economy and community," Mr Taylor said.
"There is wide diversity across industries in this area, providing an opportunity to test approaches to circular economy transition across multiple sectors and fields, therefore providing learning across a broad section of the Australian economy.
"This also enables testing of approaches to baselining circular economy and measuring the transition."
The National Centre for Circularity is a key part of the Bega Circular Valley 2030 Program, which aims to establish the Bega Valley as the "home of circularity".
"Being surrounded on three sides by forest and one side by the sea, having only a couple of river systems and highways in and out, as well as the diversity of land-based and aquatic industries, makes it the perfect place to undertake this challenge," Mr Taylor said.
About 26,000 tonnes of waste were sent to landfill in the Bega Valley in 2022, and it is estimated that 80 per cent could have been used as a resource in a circular system.
The Australia Institute circularity director, Nina Gbor, is a sustainability consultant working with councils, organisations, and community groups to create an environmentally sustainable future in Australia, focusing on circular economies.
"In a circular economy at a local level, products and materials are kept out of landfill and in circulation for as long as possible or even forever if that's an option," Ms Gbor said.
"There are also systems of restoration and regeneration within the circular system. There is no 'waste' because there's a (re)use plan for everything.
"This is done through reusing materials and products by repairing, repurposing, redesigning, borrowing, sharing, hiring/renting, recycling and regeneration.
"What's key here is the system is normalised as part of everyday local culture and lifestyle so that it's affordable and convenient for people, organisations and businesses to access circular services and take circular actions."
Other cities and communities around the world are also establishing circular economies.
The City of Copenhagen in Denmark aims to reach significant circularity goals in less than two years, such as collecting and recycling 70pc of household and light industrial and commercial waste, tripling reuse and 59,000 tonnes of carbon reduction.
In 2022, the City of Glen Eira in Melbourne launched a progressive circular economy plan.
Ms Gbor said circular economies create new and innovative employment opportunities by creatively reusing materials.
"Different industries in the local economy harmonise and support each other because what's waste to one industry is valuable, usable material to another, so they feed off each other," she said.
"For instance, composted food waste becomes usable fertiliser for local agriculture instead of going to landfill."
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