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Barriers Australian SMEs Face to Embrace Zero Waste and Join the Circular Economy

  • Written by Danling Xiao, Co-Founder of ReCo

As the Co-Founder of ReCo, a pioneering sustainable, hyperlocal refill delivery service, I am deeply committed to challenging the prevalent make-use-waste model that has plagued Australia's consumption habits for far too long. Our mission is clear: to make sustainability simple for businesses and consumers alike and pave the way for a circular economy that puts people, communities, and the environment first.

Recent research has unveiled alarming statistics about Australia's plastic consumption, revealing that our annual plastic waste generates emissions equivalent to 5.7 million cars. These emissions are set to double by 2050, exacerbating the already pressing issue of climate change. As a business focused on environmental responsibility, we are determined to be part of the solution, and we encourage fellow SMEs to join us on this transformative journey.

The barriers Australian SMEs face to achieving zero waste and participating in the circular economy are not insignificant. However, it is essential for businesses to understand these hurdles and proactively address them to build a more sustainable future.

One of the primary challenges is the prevailing make-use-waste model ingrained in our society. The linear approach to consumption encourages a throwaway culture that results in vast amounts of packaging waste. To transition to a circular economy, SMEs must break away from this linear mindset and embrace a circular model that promotes reusability, recyclability, and waste reduction.

Moreover, the logistics of implementing a circular economy can be complex, especially for e-commerce businesses like ours. In traditional logistic services, there is often a lack of emphasis on sustainability and circularity, making it challenging for SMEs to find partners that align with their eco-friendly goals. However, we found an ideal collaborator in PACK & SEND, which offered cost-effective and customised solutions to fulfill our specific requirements. Their dedication to the environment and innovative approach to logistics were crucial in enabling our circular model and overcoming logistical hurdles.

Additionally, SMEs must consider the limitations of their geographic reach. ReCo started in selected Sydney suburbs, and we recognise that to make a more significant impact, we need to expand our services beyond the local community. Partnering with established companies like PACK & SEND allows us to leverage their nationwide centres for distribution and reach a broader audience interested in adopting sustainable practices.

As we've witnessed firsthand, embracing sustainable practices is not only an ethical responsibility but also a smart business decision. ReCo's success story illustrates how tapping into bespoke logistic solutions can create a win-win situation, benefiting both the business and the environment. With the use of PACK & SEND’s solutions our refill rate of about 75%, a 99.5% success rate in empty jar collection, and with careful supply chain management, a low jar breakage rate of about 0.15% demonstrate that sustainable initiatives can be profitable and practical.

The path to a circular economy for Australian SMEs is undoubtedly challenging, but the rewards are immense. By acknowledging the barriers and adopting solutions informed by recent research, businesses can play a pivotal role in reducing waste, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and creating a more sustainable future. ReCo's journey demonstrates that when SMEs partner with like-minded companies and embrace a circular mindset, they can pave the way for positive change. Let us stand together in the fight against plastic waste and build a better, waste-free future for Australia and the planet.

Photo credit: Jason de Plater / ReCo

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