Circular economy

In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste from being produced in the first place.

We need to live within the limits of one planet - in fact, we need to mimic nature's closed loop system.

Diagram showing how circular economy works. The diagram is a circle with each stage flowing in to the next (and repeating). Stages include: Production and re/manufacturing; sales and distribution; use, repair and resale; collection and sorting; reprocessing and back to production and re/manufacturing.

Implementing a circular economy requires a collaborative effort from stakeholders that include businesses, government and consumers. It requires changes in the way products are designed, manufactured, and consumed, as well as changes in policies and regulations to support this transition.>

The City of Onkaparinga is uniquely positioned to accelerate the change to a circular economy through our roles and the Community Plan 2030 which already identifies the transition to a circular economy as a strategic priority.

This handy video explores how through a change in perspective we can re-design the way our economy works - designing products that can be 'made to be made again' and powering the system with renewable energy. It questions whether with creativity and innovation we can build a restorative economy.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is an economic system that aims to minimise waste and maximise the use of resources while regenerating our natural environment.  

Currently, with our one size fits all approach, 90 per cent of materials in the global economy are either wasted, lost or remain unavailable for reuse, and the demand for materials is escalating. 

Building a circular economy in the City of Onkaparinga is based on three principles, driven by design:

  • Eliminate waste and pollution
  • Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
  • Regenerate nature

It involves different strategies such as the sharing economy, product as a service, closed-loop production, and waste-to-resource technologies. Circularity is not only determined by products and material flows. Ecosystem regeneration and responsible resource consumption are integral components of circularity. These strategies aim to create a sustainable and resilient economy in our city that promotes resource efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Diagram showing circular economy versus linear economy. Circular economy includes avoid and reduce; reuse repair and redesign; remanufacture; recycle and compost; recovery. Linear economy includes incineration; landfill; uncollected.


How is council preparing for a circular economy?

Implementing a circular economy requires a collaborative effort from stakeholders that include businesses, government and consumers. It requires changes in the way products are designed, manufactured, and consumed, as well as changes in policies and regulations to support this transition.

We are uniquely positioned to accelerate the change to a circular economy through our roles and the Community Plan 2030 which already identifies the transition to a circular economy as a strategic priority.  Residents responding to the 2022 community survey considered waste and recycling as the top focus area for council. 

Several of our programs and projects already contribute to this aim, i.e.:

  • Minimising the impacts of our own operations, such as using recycled-content materials, LED street lighting, and solar power.
  • Providing infrastructure and spaces, such as bike lanes, community gardens and halls.
  • Providing services, such as library lending, Makerspace, kerbside collections and community transport.
  • Educating, supporting and advocating, such as community education programs and advocacy.

What progress has been made so far?

In 2019, Onkaparinga was one of nine SA Councils which committed to prioritising buying products made from recycled material, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was an Australian first.

The MOU was the beginning of a circular procurement pilot project, led by the LGA. The goal was to increase local demand for recycled materials, support the development of a circular economy in SA, and ultimately reduce waste and recycling costs for councils.

Through the MOU, we committed to prioritising the purchase of recycled-content products through the procurement process and tracking and reporting on recycled-content purchasing by weight. 

Recycled materials purchased for Council operations

In 2022-23 the City of Onkaparinga purchased over 6500 tonnes of products made from recycled material – a great step toward a more sustainable future.

This comprised of:

  • 5841 tonnes of recycled asphalt used in roads and pavements
  • 661 tonnes of recycled and minced rubber tyres used in roads and playgrounds
  • 43 tonnes of recycled plastic used in kerbside bins, fencing, barriers, signage, plant tubes and tree water savers
  • 3 tonnes of recycled copier paper for printing at our offices, libraries and centres
  • 2 tonnes of wood pine-chip used as soft fall in playgrounds.

What’s next?

Council’s Climate Change Response Plan 2022-2027 sets out several circular economy actions for us to address within its term, i.e.:

  • Developing a set of circular economy indicators.
  • Continuing to monitor and trial new materials and products.
  • Working with manufacturers to make products from recycled materials.
  • Expanding the use of recycled materials in our roads and assets.
  • Investigating opportunities for a demonstration project that uses recycled materials in multiple asset types at a unique location.

You can keep updated on our progress via this webpage, by following Sustainable Onkaparinga on Facebook, or by subscribing to our quarterly e-newsletter ‘Branching Out’.

Pyramid diagram showing how to reduce waste. The large side of the pyramid is at the top, and the point is at the bottom. The top starts with Avoid and reduce - sustainable purchasing and procurement; refuse and distribute. Next is reuse repair and redesign - Extend the use through maintenance and repair; minimise disposal through design and repurposing. Next is recycle and compost - Optimising recycling through appropriate collection and sorting; composting, mechanical and chemical processing. Next is recover - identify appropriate end markets. Last (and least) is treat/dispose - minimise residual waste.