A critical review of Surf Coast Shire’s Circular Economy Action Plan

Centre for Climate Safety has reviewed the Surf Coast Shire’s Draft Circular Economy Action Plan, bringing forward substantial feedback rooted in the centre’s deep commitment to environmental advocacy and community engagement. 

Centre for Climate Safety’s submission, a ten page document with numerous references to scientific research, was handed in to Council today. Lead author of the submission paper was experienced climate advocate Vicki Perrett.

“The gist of the problem is that councils don’t want to operate landfills. The Anglesea Landfill will be full by 2027 and Drysdale by 2030. However Cleanaway has sold its future landfill sites and has advised the market it intends investing $1.4 billion in two waste incinerators in Melbourne and Queensland,” said Ms Perrett.

The submission emphasises the urgency of adopting genuinely sustainable waste management practices to faciliate the Shire’s transition to a restorative and regenerative circular economy.

Critique of the plan
In the submission’s introduction, Centre for Climate Safety commends the Surf Coast Shire on its comprehensive plan including its general approach, priority areas and specific actions for 2024-27. However it expresses significant concern regarding the inclusion of waste incineration as an option following the closure of the Anglesea Landfill. 

The centre argues that waste incineration contradicts the very essence of a circular economy by destroying recoverable materials and perpetuating the linear Take-Make-Waste paradigm. Incineration is criticised for its high cost, inefficiency, and considerable environmental and health impacts, including substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental and health impacts of incineration
The submission details the myriad problems associated with waste incineration, noting its classification alongside non-renewable energy sources like coal and nuclear power in international contexts.

Centre for Climate Safety highlights the health risks identified in studies linking incinerator proximity to increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and other serious health issues. Furthermore, the submission criticises the greenwashing often associated with waste-to-energy claims, which misleadingly suggest incineration is a sustainable option.

Local and global perspectives
Globally, the shift away from waste incineration is becoming more pronounced, with many regions advocating for more sustainable alternatives. The centre urges the Shire to consider these global trends and community opposition, pointing out the lack of social licence for incinerators in Victoria and the broader Australian context.

Strategic recommendations for Surf Coast Shire
The submission offers detailed suggestions to enhance the Shire’s action plan, advocating for:

• The prioritisation of waste reduction and resource recovery over incineration.

• The adoption of innovative and community-supported recycling and reuse programmes.

• Investments in local infrastructure to support a truly circular economy, such as material recovery facilities (MRRF) and improved waste sorting systems.

• Enhanced public education efforts utilising resources like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s materials to promote understanding of circular economy principles.

• Strong advocacy for improved product stewardship and packaging regulations to ensure producers are accountable for reducing environmental impacts.

In conclusion, Centre for Climate Safety commends the Surf Coast Shire for its ambitious action plan but strongly urges a re-evaluation of its approach to include waste incineration. By aligning more closely with global best practices and focusing on local and sustainable waste management solutions, the Shire can truly transform into a model of circular economy success. 

The centre expresses optimism that with thoughtful adjustments, the Shire’s Circular Economy Action Plan can effectively guide the community towards a sustainable, zero-waste future.

→ Read or download the submission from Centre for Climate Safety

→ More information about Surf Coast Shire’s Draft Circular Economy Action Plan

Zero waste instead of incineration

“Landfill space becomes scarcer and more expensive, while the carbon footprint of incineration, and the additional taxes it incurs, is increasingly ruling out waste-to-energy as an option. Denmark is now decommissioning 30% of its 26 incinerators, both to improve recycling rates, and cut down emissions associated with incineration.”


→ Reuters – 22 April 2024:
To get to zero-waste, hundreds of European cities are spurning incineration
“Nearly 500 municipalities across Europe working towards certification as a Zero Waste City”

The basics of the circular economy

Dame Ellen MacArthur video on the basics of the circular economy: