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Learn from the new wave in innovation

May 24, 2016

Local innovators are leading the way on sustainability innovation – learn from three of the best

Australia has long been on the global innovation radar across many industries, and now the world sustainability community is sitting up and taking note of a new wave of local environmentally focussed entrepreneurs and innovators coming from ‘the land down-under’.

From centres of invention to backyard entrepreneurs, we spoke to several Australian leaders in sustainability to find out their number one tip on fostering innovative, sustainable solutions.

Planet Ark – ‘Involve others outside the business’

One of the longest running examples of an extended producer responsibility program in Australia, ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ relies on manufacturer participation and collaboration to foster innovation.

Planet Ark’s Recycling Program Manager, Ryan Collins states that ‘manufacturer participation is essential to address the growing pile of e-waste.’ In partnership with the participating manufacturers, Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera and resource recovery partner Close the Loop, ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ provides free recycling for individuals and workplaces.

In April 2016 the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program hit the milestone of 31 million cartridges recycled since the program began in 2003. In terms of environmental benefits over 13,100 tonnes of resources have been diverted from landfill by this program with significant water, energy and resource savings.

The SeaBin Project – ‘Benchmark to encourage further innovation’

Aussie surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski quit their jobs to come up with a sustainable solution after constantly being exposed to floating rubbish in every marina they visited around the world – ‘the inspiration for The Seabin Project came from our own negligence to our oceans, our source of life,’ states Ceglinski.

After crowdfunding USD$260K, The Seabin Project is now becoming a reality. Installed on a dock and plumbed into a shore-based water pump, the Seabin is basically a water filtering system designed for contained environments like yacht clubs, marinas and ports. Here, without needing to contend with stronger currents and ocean storms, it can chip away at pollution by sucking water into the bin bringing the surrounding trash, oil and detergent along for the ride. A removable catch bag made from natural fibre then gathers the debris.

Through continuous education and benchmarking, the founders have decided to no longer send the plastics captured by the Seabins to landfill as this only creates newer problems for the future. Instead Ceglinski says ‘at this moment in time we have redesigned the Seabin and decided to build them with ‘No New Plastic’ – meaning that they’re built from 40% captured ocean plastics, and 60% land based plastics’.

“This means The Seabin Project will be part of a circular plastics economy,” says Ceglinski – “it’s a slow process but we are very confident and optimistic about the direction we are headed [in].”

Garage Sale Trail – ‘Be motivated by a sense of purpose’

Founders of one of Australia’s largest council powered community and sustainability campaigns ‘The Garage Sale Trail’, state that their desire to see the world make a change to a more sustainable existence inspired the national grassroots waste education program.

“It was a simple idea of ‘Don’t Dump It, Sell It’,” says co-founder Andrew Valder.

Starting at Sydney’s Bondi Beach in 2010, the Garage Sale Trail has emerged as a fun and creative way to combat illegal dumping and enable reuse on a community-wide scale.  Today, the initiative is Australia’s fastest growing sustainability and community event involving over 150 government and private partnerships and more than 350,000 people annually across the nation. Last year, the Garage Sale Trail hosted 13,971 garage sales on one big day, which saw over 3.7 million items listed for sale.

‘It’s about sustainability, community, commerce and fun that inspires social and environmental change,’ says co-founder Darryl Nichols.

What can you do differently and courageously to challenge and encourage innovation in your organisation, culture and community?



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