Circular Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

2018: the year we figured out we kind of suck as a species.


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Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 5.38.23 AM

2018 has been quite the year in the exciting world of waste management. I jest but as a species we really are on track to drown in our own waste while eating that last Avo on toast washed down with a skinny flat white. 

Thanks to the National Geographic, this was the year we all figured out plastic was not so great. It was also the year China said "You know what, Developed World? We are done taking all your "recyclables". You go figure it out". And in that moment we all realised that while we felt awesome separating our plastic from glass, without China paying for it, there is no recycling market. So in Melbourne and Sydney, container loads of our recyclables accumulate while the Government figures out what to do. 

In addition to that, last week the EU announced the phasing out of landfills by 2030 and with that an expansion of what is known as "EPR" – Extended Product Responsibility. Basically, if you make it, you take it back after the consumer is done with it. 

"A new component is the landfill reduction target. This sets minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes for products such as packaging, for which a recycling target of 65% is foreseen by 2025 and of 70% by 2030. Across the waste spectrum, by 2030 the law obliges all EU countries to ensure that all waste suitable for recycling or other recovery, in particular in municipal waste, does not go to landfill. What’s more, manufacturers of products covered by the schemes must take responsibility for their proper disposal as well as contribute to the cost. The waste package also encourages the use of recyclable and reusable packaging". 

The initial focus is packaging but the next obvious step is the product itself. And that my friends, in a world of plastic is going to demand some serious product redesign. 

Related to this is a book I am slowly working my way through called Sapiens, a  great, if not disturbing read about the history of us. What is astonishing is how we have managed to really cock up the earth in such a short period time. 

200,000 years ago – First Sapiens rocked up

70,000 – Homo Sapiens figured out imagination

40,000 – First indigenous folks landed in Australia

12,000 – Agricultural Revolution

5,000 – Writing invented – yay us

Up until this point, the planet is looking pretty sweet. Then 200 years ago, we fire up the Industrial Revolution which was great if you were the boss but fairly sucky for everyone else. 

After 200,000 years of living in tune with our planet, we take just 200 years to take us to the brink. It's remarkable. The most "intelligent" species could easily wipe itself out in short order. 

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And on that happy note, if you're looking for a fantastic dystopian drama, check out A Handmaid's Tale. Season Two is a cracker with the Colonies looking a lot like where we are heading. 

OK, that post went kind of everywhere. More focus next time. 






Circular Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

And now Luxembourg. Part II: The business opportunity.

The week was filled with back to back meetings. Our goal is to launch a trial of our gCycle offering with 20 nurseries as a part of our Ellen MacArthur Foundation's  CE 100 Co:Project. We are offering an alternative to the single-use plastic nappies that are the scourge of the planet. Each nappy takes one cup of oil to make and there are 29 billion of them being landfilled each year just out of the US and UK.  

As for the Co:Project, the question is, where to launch? We have opportunities in Scotland, the UK and Luxembourg. The focus is on Europe because unlike the rest of the world it seems, this part of the world actually gets the scale of the crisis that the planet is facing and have demonstrated the will to do something about it.

This week, we investigated Luxembourg and met with the Government (concerned about solid waste, the planet in general and providers of Grants), childcare provider Arcus and backend providers with technology to take our bio-based nappies and convert them into resources like soil, power and fuel. We have learned so much and are spending this evening digesting  it all. The country is leaning in on the Circular Economy and knows the linear approach is coming to an end.  

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Kim in control, doing a demo. 

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Arcus has a Reggio inspired philosophy where the very youngest of kids in their care choose what they will eat, where they will sit and drink out of a regular cup thanks very much. None of this "strap 'em in and here's your plastic sippy cup…".

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A place to play house. Kids choose what they do and when they do it. It's either anarchy or pure genius. 

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A pretend mini school to play in. 

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Natural light abounds. 


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Arcus Management and Kim at their soon-to-be-opened training centre to give unemployed youth skills to join the workforce including the logistics part of our project. 




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The Arcus team in the engine room. 

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Provide enough blocks and cities can be built. 

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Nap time. 

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Glorious natural light for little ones to thrive in. 

And now to meet with the people who can turn muck into money. 

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Food waste converted into biogas and then gas gas. 

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Engineering types helping us make gCycle a reality. Note the constant offerings we provide in meetings. 

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This piece of kit takes food waste and our material and creates gas that is sold back to the grid. An improvement on billions of oil-based  nappies landfilled annually for 500 + years.

And then to the Government…

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Tim Tam diplomacy. You offer Tim Tams and hopefully grants come back to you from across the table. 

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And lastly a Luxembourg health food store. Between this and the sheer number of smokers, it's a miracle they make it to 50. 


Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Day Two: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy 100 Workshop in Krickenbeck, Germany

Before I launch into a review of the day, let's take a look at our digs for the event. It's a castle. Yes, a castle. 



Sunrise at the castle. 

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A room with a view. 


The dining room. In our room…Yes a dining room. 


The living room. In our room.


And finally a place to sleep. The room in it's entirety is larger than our flat at home. I lost Kim for a full 30 minutes in here. 

Then we move into the common areas of the place.  

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The chapel becomes a bar / lounge…

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The TV has been replaced by an ocean of alcohol. 

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Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 1.38.36 AM
Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 1.38.36 AM




Google's research. 




Grappling with issues of never-ending consumption and under-utilisation of all the stuff we own. 


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Wrapping up a "Troika" process. Super valuable. 

The City of London's efforts to get Circular. 

And finishing with the beginning in mind, today we started with a 6 km run. I am not sure I've been at a conference where so many runners came together. impressive!   

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Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 1.51.40 AM

Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Krickenbeck, Venlo

Day One: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy 100 Workshop in Krickenbeck, Germany

The April Summit is being held in Krickenbeck, Germany in a forest, in a castle. As you do.

The Foundation's work is to bring the Circular Economy to life.  With gCycle, we are definitely in the right place and based on meetings last week in London and conversations on Day One here, there is a momentum around all things Circular, especially in Europe. Interestingly a friend from the US is doing something similar to us – an extreme focus on the UK and EU rather than the US to grow his Circular business such is the support / interest of it in these parts. 

Day One started with a tour of Venlo, NL a delightful town that is the very first Cradle to Cradle city in the world. gDiapers was the very first Cradle to Cradle certified consumer packaged good way back in 2007 so the principles are close to our hearts. Seeing the way the design principles have been incorporated into Venlo's new town hall was pretty remarkable. The building essentially breaths thanks to a solar chimney up top and internal and external vertical gardens. All the furniture – most by Herman Miller, was sold to the City for a 10 year period. After that time, Herman Miller buys it back for a predetermined price. During the 10 years, Herman Miller maintains the furniture. The furniture company will collect and repurpose rather than send to landfill. The air quality internally is better than externally and absenteeism is down. The building started saving the Town money as soon as it was built. They have gone on to build an elementary school and other buildings using this process. 

We then hit Ecor – a fellow Circular Economy 100 company who takes any cellulose fibre and creates a range of building and other products. It is beyond clever. Read their own write up about the time we spent with them here. They are one amazing company. 

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The original Town Hall. 


The snazzy new Town Hall. Note the Solar Panels up top. 


Fabulous furniture. 


Internal gardens. The temperature in this space perfectly self-regulates. 


Looking upwards, a central column allows air flow. 


Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 


Groovy Staircases. 

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A seat so cool I am not totally sure how to sit in it. And a mouse & keyboard looking for a monitor. And someone forgot their handout. 


At Ecor we saw the process in action. An absolute Waste to Resource game changer. Slightly concerned about their gardening skills. 

We headed to Krickenbeck to check in and hear about Google's progress in creating healthy spaces for Googlers. I had no idea our indoor environments were just so bad for us. We also heard a progress update from the Foundation on their work with the EU and UN to garner support for the Circular Economy.  We wrapped up with dinner which included a chocolate fountain dessert.  I may or may not have returned to it 6 times. It's hard to remember after all the chocolate. 

This is a great community of action-oriented innovators with the ability to really change the world. Looking forward to Day Two.

Conferences, Cradle to Cradle, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

First week down in London

Last week was jam packed full of meetings. And there were tailwinds for us too. The UK Government announced significant funding to end single-use plastic waste, Sky (yes, Murdoch's outfit) announced their own funding to support new technologies to end ocean plastic waste and the full impact of China's ban on importing recyclables from around the world is now starting to hit home. And it's not pretty as stockpiles of waste start accumulating. 

We started north of London at Cranfield University and their Graduate students who are working with us on our gCycle business modelling. 

CU Sign 1

I like to call it Strategery…

CU Sign 1

We met with Milton Keynes council to figure out their nappy waste issues. Note the sustenance we offered from Australia. 

CU Sign 1

Kim got all MBA like on us and started writing stuff on the white board. Really hope she didn't use a permanent marker!

CU Sign 1

And we finished off with a Pub dinner. 

We then headed due west, nearly running into Wales to meet our engineering partners.  We have co-designed some great kit to make resources from dirty nappies. As a Bachelor of Arts graduate I did my very best to look informed and in-the-know as we saw machines whirr. I nodded heaps. 

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Again, note the nutrition we brought to the table…

Then we headed South East and spent an afternoon with gTeam member Steph. A shocking hair day for me. Unforgivable really. 

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It wasn't all work.

Completely coincidentally I ran into a Mum of one of my son's best mates at a cafe in Chelsea. We also met up with my brother, hit a pub with our fabulous friend Tom who is putting us up and thanks to the power of social media, spent Friday night at an impromptu dinner party with old friends from Portland, Oregon and others all in the impact investing space. A remarkable group and much fun. 

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Just bumping into friends on the other side of the globe. 

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Mini family reunion. 

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Portland Reunion in London. 

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After work Pub time. 

Then the weekend hit and we headed to the Continent to meet up with the kids (a much longer story for later) and then headed to a conference in Germany on all things Cradle to Cradle & Circular. More updates to come!