Measuring the benefits of reuse

Reuse Immersive – Reverse Garbage, Salvos and King Cotton

Craig Reucassel with Kirsten Junor, CEO Reverse Garbage

Charitable Recycling Australia hosted a reuse immersive at Reverse Garbage on Wednesday 2 November 2022. 50 key government policy makers and council stakeholders came to hear the Monash University presentation on the headline findings from the ARC Research on Measuring the Benefits of Reuse in the Circular Economy.

Most also attended the site tours at Reverse Garbage, Salvos Stores and King Cotton for a deep operational dive into the reuse operations at a charity, a social enterprise and a commercial reuse facility for a sector-wide educational. Delegates shared how impressed they were with the efficacy of the reuse operations with its 86% Resource Recovery Rate … although quite a few also wandered off to the retail areas to do some op shopping (which is just fine).

Delegates were treated to an enjoyable day and an education on the huge environmental, economic and social benefits of reuse – which sits at the top of the waste hierarchy as a best and highest use intervention but remains largely unrecognised in government policy interventions and unfunded, with most government funding only focusing on lower level interventions such as recycling and resource recovery.

Interestingly in Europe, it’s not just Environment departments that embrace reuse. European Government Employment departments actively fund reuse as it is a great economic and job creation activator – creating 10-20x as many jobs compared to recycling alone.

Charitable Recycling Australia’s Reuse Immersive was designed to help Australian governments embrace reuse and accelerate towards the Circular Economy through faster progress towards their own targets as well as other clear benefits:

  • CO2 Reductions
  • Landfill Reduction
  • Economic Growth
  • Job Creation
  • Social Welfare
  • Engagement with the Next Generations

This event marks the commencement of the evidence base and advocacy campaign from Charitable Recycling Australia to get reuse, repair and other higher level waste hierarchy interventions integrated into government policies.

Summary of the immersive event

As part of the ARC grant project Measuring the Benefits of Reuse in a Circular Economy, Monash University has co-designed a draft set of National Reuse Measurement Guidelines to enable a standardised approach to collecting, interpreting and reporting on reuse impact data.

  • This is relevant for all Australian governments as it allows reuse to be integrated into their Circular Economy policies as a highest and best use intervention on the Waste Hierarchy.
  • Contingent on government support, Charitable Recycling Australia will then be able to measure all reuse data across charities and social enterprises in a first ever National Measurement of Reuse contribution to Australia’s economy, environment and society.
  • The guidelines will then enable all reuse organisations to measure and report on their own impact.

In the Monash University approach, reuse will be measured at the point of sale, which captures information about the quantity of items resold, the category of items, and their cost – and allows for the interpretation of data into average weights per category, average material composition and product life cycle assessments that are readily available.

Using this data and other reporting as outlined in the framework, it is now possible to demonstrate the social, environmental and economic impacts of reuse, including:

  • Avoided virgin material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions savings 
  • Employment and volunteer opportunities – in a high job creation sector including scaling jobs for people facing barriers
  • Skills development and work-readiness support – to capture the additional supports the charitable sector provides over and above typical training, to integrate people facing barriers
  • Education and community engagement – to capture reuse workshops, events and training
  • Total value of reused goods sold in the charitable and community reuse sector each year
  • Total value of goods provided for welfare and in-kind to other organisations

Some of the key policy opportunities for Australian governments to support reuse include:

  • The integration of reuse into government policies with reuse targets and funding, as a highest and best use intervention at the top of the Waste Hierarchy
  • A national standard approach to measuring reuse, with appropriate resourcing and support for Charitable Recycling Australia to collect, interpret and report reuse data.
  • Specific grant funding for reuse, the preparation for reuse (diversion) and repair
  • Incentives to support collections, sorting and repair of reusable items, including dedicated funding streams targeting specific items and materials.
  • Tax architecture to encourage brands to donate unused pre-consumer items to charity

Charitable Recycling Australia is calling on all Australian governments to incorporate the waste hierarchy and circular economy into their policies, by integrating reuse and repair with measurable targets.

Charitable Recycling Australia is also calling governments to fund the measurement of all reuse data across charities, social enterprises and commercial reuse supporters in a first ever National Measurement of Reuse contribution to Australia’s economy, environment and society.

Please contact Charitable Recycling Australia or Monash University for a copy of the National Reuse Measurement Guidelines, prepared by Allen, M., Lane, R., and Healey, S. (2022.

All photography and video courtesy of Humanitas Productions

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