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As they say in architecture, sometimes less is more. In a world that is increasingly constrained in terms of material and energy resources, this saying has moved beyond a one-liner about aesthetics to become something of a social and economic imperative.

At least on the question of material waste, Australian governments at both the State and Federal level have recognised the need to act.

Prompted by new restrictions on recycled waste imports enacted by China earlier this year, COAG environment ministers have announced an update to Australia’s National Waste Policy.

The plan is to incorporate ‘circular economy’ principles; lowering input requirements, waste flows and emission rates by closing material and energy loops in production processes.

The policy update includes several ambitious targets, including that 70% of plastic packaging be compostable or recyclable by 2025 and that up to 80% of all waste should be diverted away from landfill by 2030.

However, the policy does not outline the specific steps required to achieve these goals; it has been left up to manufacturers and businesses to sort that out for themselves.

Energy, meanwhile, continues to be a somewhat intractable political issue. Under the Paris Climate Agreement, signatories (including Australia) have agreed that the world is constrained in terms of its carbon emissions if it is to avoid warming of more than 1.5°C.

Australia still lacks a cohesive national policy for achieving its emissions reductions, which goes hand in hand with uncertainty around energy provision for business

Manufacturers recognise the need to decarbonise their processes, not least because of the sharp rise in natural gas prices in recent years and the associated economic incentive that provides.

As with waste, they are stepping up when government fails to provide the right policy framework.

A trio of Victorian craft brewers are at the forefront of a shift to a more circular economy.

A recent tour of their facilities revealed how each is using some straightforward strategies, as well leading-edge technologies, to close material and energy loops in their breweries.

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