Published: 22 NOV 2021
Green economy
Green Infrastructure
Waste Minimisation

Moving from our traditional ‘take, make, and waste’ economy to a self-sustaining, waste-free, nature-friendly model is the solution for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

"We are leading in the wrong areas,” the Sustainability Business Network (SBN) writes in its new report, ‘Going Full Circle’. "Aotearoa New Zealand is amongst the highest generators of waste per capita in the OECD.” And not just waste, but also greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - this year New Zealand registered the second-largest increase in net emissions since 1990 of any industrialised nation. As a country, our collective emissions may be small, but on a per capita basis they are inexcusably high.


A low-carbon circular economy

With our new target of cutting GHG emissions by 50 per cent (below gross 2005 levels) by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050, the future for Auckland lies in a low-carbon circular economy. Ditch the old, linear model of ‘take, make, and waste’, and replace it with one in which we ‘reuse resources, eliminate waste, and restore nature’.

As we and the SBN pointed out in 2018, a circular economy could save Auckland up to $8.8 billion and slash our carbon emissions by 2700 ktCO2-e (kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent) by 2030. So, although the climate crisis presents us with unique challenges, there are also unique opportunities for investment and growth.


Six sustainability principles

It is easy for businesses to feel trapped within the linear model, and certainly progress towards net zero is currently far too slow. ‘Going Full Circle’ identifies six areas on which to focus if we’re going to change to a faster gear:

  • Designing for circular outcomes
  • Stimulating demand for more circular solutions
  • Adopting business models that promote circular practices
  • Developing policy and legislation
  • Establishing accessible infrastructure
  • Embedding new technology

The report expands usefully on these focus areas. Meanwhile, the SBN’s Go Circular 2025 programme provides practical tools and resources to help Kiwi businesses thrive in a low-carbon circular economy by being more sustainable and resilient.


Auckland launches circular economy lab

In 2020, Tātaki Auckland Unlimited partnered with Circularity to design and deliver XLabs, New Zealand’s first circular economy lab. Founded in 2018 by Louise Nash, Circularity is a circular design and innovation partner that sets out ‘to radically redesign business for a more resilient and regenerative future’. Their proprietary Circular by Design toolkit puts circular economy theory into practice with six methods:

  • Closed-loop systems
  • Smart materials
  • Regenerative behaviours
  • Circular business models
  • Networked participation
  • Embedded intelligence

XLabs is a creating space for New Zealand businesses to imagine, design and collaborate on new innovations for real-life challenges — creating circular solutions right at the intersection of sustainability, science and technology. Again, collaboration is the emphasis, bringing together innovators in business to help disrupt old patterns for new.

The launch of XLabs in 2020 brought together nearly 50 collaborators, working together in an in-person design sprint to design and validate circular solutions using the Circular by Design principles alongside expert collaborators, including:

  • EV Maritime, which aims to replace Auckland’s ferry fleet with fast, electric, zero-emission vessels;
  • Haka Tourism Group, which wants the future of tourism to include fossil fuel–free travel, and zero plastic food packaging;
  • Fletcher Building, foreseeing opportunities to ‘build interiors as a service’ – for example, to reduce MDF waste streams; and
  • Bobux, rethinking shoe design in order to dramatically extend the life of children’s shoes.

The 2021/2022 program is now underway and available to all businesses across Aotearoa NZ — made possible in partnership with The Ministry for the Environment Manatū Mō Te Taiao.


Circular businesses

More widely, there are plenty of Auckland businesses that have begun a transition towards a circular model.

The Better Packaging Co. has created a solution to the huge amount of plastic waste generated by the e-commerce industry – a reusable mailing satchel that can be used over and over to send goods in.

Solo Plastics is committed to a circular economy. At end of life, its HDPE (Type 2 plastic) pipes can be re-chipped and extruded into pellets for reuse in new products. Since January 2020, it has recycled over 113 tonnes of polymer.

Aldrin Thayalakal from the Invest Auckland team has been working with Community and Social Innovation (CSI), an initiative within Auckland Council, on an eco park plan for boosting Māori and Pasifika prosperity in south Auckland, as detailed in a recent digital look book.

The eco park is destined to become New Zealand’s biggest network of recycling and circular economy businesses.

CSI acting general manager Tania Pouwhare says, “It’s about growing our Māori and Pasifika enterprise and doing that in a way that is also good for our planet, tackling really big issues all within the one, at-scale, catalytic project.”

There will be investment opportunities in this project from Q1/Q2 2022.


Investing in infrastructure

At present, New Zealand lacks much of the infrastructure that will enable a full transition to a circular economy. This ranges from reprocessing plants and logistics hubs to soft infrastructure, such as data capture, that will enable traceability and oversight on goods and services. All of these require substantial investment for accessibility at a national level.

The government is enacting a staged increase of the municipal waste levy, which will have a twofold benefit in a) disincentivising wasteful habits and b) freeing capital to reinvest in waste minimisation and recycling infrastructure.

Beyond this, however, there exist plentiful opportunities for investors who want to be part of Auckland’s transformation to a circular, productive, sustainable and profitable economy.


Find out more

Contact Investment Specialist Andrew Carpenter to learn more about investing in Auckland, New Zealand.

DISCLAIMER: This article provides general information on potential investment opportunities in Auckland and is not intended to be used as a substitute for financial advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the relevant author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited. Tātaki Auckland Unlimited disclaims all liability in connection with any action that may be taken in reliance of this article, and for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it.