Roadmap to a circular economy

Monash University’s BehaviourWorks Australia has developed a roadmap for circular consumption, to assist industry bodies and policy-makers in addressing the ongoing waste crisis.

The Behavioural Roadmap to Circular Consumption identifies areas in the production-consumption cycle where changes can be made, opportunities to reduce Australia’s material footprint, and ways to encourage the efficient use of limited resources.

A material footprint is an indicator of raw material extraction used to meet the final demand of the economy, and the United Nations states it is one indication of the pressures placed on the environment to support economic growth and to satisfy the material needs of people.

The Roadmap identifies the connections between all parties, consumers and their behaviours to better understand relationships and influences in the system.

Lead researcher Jennifer Macklin says the connections are between consumers and other stakeholders in the system such as designers, producers, importers, retailers, service providers, as well as government and the civil sector.

Policy makers can explore these connections to develop or review systemic behavioural public policies that encourage responsible consumption and reduce Australia’s material footprint.

Behavioural system mapping is an emerging technique that combines the strengths of two research approaches to produce practical guidance on where and how parties can address complex challenges. It then allows the use of behavioural science tools to create the desired change.

The report highlights eight behaviours that organisations and individuals can adopt to reduce Australia’s material consumption, including:

  • Make do with less/without
  • Borrow/rent
  • Source secondhand
  • Buy built-to-last items
  • Buy items made from circular materials
  • Keep (re)using item
  • Repair items
  • Pass items on/back.

Macklin says there are three key areas from the eight that will speed up the transformation of the whole-of-production and consumption system – specifically borrowing/renting an item, sourcing items secondhand, and buying items that are built to last.

“The impact of consumer demand on product choice is well known but a change at any stage of the supply chain can also influence customer action beyond simply what products are placed on the market,” says Macklin.

“It’s the first time policy-makers have a tool that highlights the behaviours with the most transformation potential in order to achieve a circular economy.”

More information on the Roadmap is available here.

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