Interview to Damien Giurco | Professor of Resource Futures at the Institute for Sustainable Futures
Does the Institute for sustainable futures you work in trying to combine the efforts of the industry and the government to look after better results? Are both sectors aware of the need of a combined work?
The Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney has a mission to create change towards sustainable futures by collaborating with government, industry and the community to undertake transdisciplinary research. There is an increasing recognition by both government and industry that complex sustainability challenges cannot be solved in isolation. In addition, the older model of undertaking research to produce findings to later be used by policy makers is not reliably effective or sufficiently timely – working together on shaping the questions needing to be asked and answered can help.
You belong to the Cluster Wealth from Waste. Can you evaluate the facilities you´ve seen during this trip?
The Wealth from Waste Cluster looked at transition pathways to a circular economy in Australia, particularly for metals. During the trip, it was good to see a range of technologies and approaches being used to manage waste and foster the circular economy. The technology and equipment were modern and efficient, including the use of digital technology. It was interesting to see waste management sites in an ‘ecopark’ or ‘technology park’ as in Australia a technology park often has a collection of small technology businesses, often start-ups, working on the same site. The Circular Lab had an impressive model of using Extended Producer Responsibility funds not only to manage the further use of packaging waste but also to improve the system through dedicated research and entrepreneurship. This is an interesting and exciting model for Australia.
Once this programme has finished, any advice to give to the Spanish industry, which things could be improved?
The source separation into multiple streams being similar across the country seemed better than Australia and to have a greater number of streams collected. There did seem to be a focus on recycling (as there is in Australia) and certainly for a circular economy both countries need to rethink, reduce, redesign for reuse and so on, which can be trickier but also a great space for innovation. It was pleasing to see the Horizon Europe funding moving towards both research and innovation rather than primarily research.
Most of the company’s you´ve been visiting during you trip have some facilities in Australia, what´s the image of the Spanish companies there?
Spanish companies in Australia would have a good reputation, business oriented as much as technology oriented and with an easy, cultural fit.
You also make part of the Metering for Urban Water, which looks after a more efficient use of water resources. Australia and Spain are especially by water scarcity. Do you think this we´re on the right track o there´s something else to be developed?
The showerheads in the hotel used a noticeably high flow rate of water, it was hard to get a sense of water use practices and perceptions in the community but many hotels in Australia would also say ‘hang up your towels for reuse (to avoid more washing) or leave on the floor if you want clean ones’ and when you stay in the same place for a few nights, this can reduce water consumption.
The SACF brings together companies and institutions to foster the relation between Spain and Australia. How do you think that relation can be strength?
The leaders program is a good initiative. The Spanish Embassy in Australia could organise a leader’s program reunion every few years to see what has developed as a result of the program here and to have leaders meet from different topics and years.
A distinctive characteristic of the SACF is the public-private collaboration. How is this collaboration in the waste management area? Does it work?
I think comparing different models of public private collaboration in Spain and Australia can be helpful on both sides. In Australia, there was once more public management of waste, but now it is largely local municipalities contracting out to private companies, which sort of works, but may not be fit for the future.