Developing a Model to Evaluate a Business Case to Achieve a Circular Economy in Recycling Waste Management at a Regional Level

Location: Adelaide CBD (with field work in Naracoorte), SA

Duration: 5 months

Project Background

Councils are generally price takers in waste management and are in a vulnerable position to changes in the waste market, as was experienced when the China National Sword Policy took effect in 2018. The Policy exposed gaps in the waste and resource recovery sector, which impacted all Councils across Australia. Recycling facilities had to lift their gate prices as recovered materials were either greatly devalued or markets no longer existed. In some cases, as experienced in the Limestone Coast, providers simply discontinued their services. Cost of service has nearly doubled, significantly impacting residents and council providing the service.

Smaller regional councils need to transport the recycling materials long distances to achieve effective recycling outcomes, with current systems requiring economies of scale. In addition, there are hidden streams such as plastic car bumpers and windscreens, that do not enter the recycling system via councils, but nevertheless, add a cost burden to businesses.

It is time for a different perspective and to closely investigate a more regionalised or localised circular economy. A council area could be viewed as an island, so recyclable materials could be recovered and reused within the area. Glass and plastics can be reused in road making, and paper and cardboard can be reused in many different ways.

Naracoorte Lucindale Council are seeking assistance to develop a business model; involving establishing a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and assessing whether the costs in recovery, possible processing and reuse of recyclable materials within a regional context are achievable.

Research to be Conducted

The project will develop a model for Councils to implement to achieve the following objectives;

  • To reduce the waste management cost burden to Councils and regional business communities;
  • To deliver sustainable environmental outcomes;
  • To identify public private partnerships; to ultimately
  • Create a regional or district level circular economy for recyclable materials in waste management

Skills Required

We are looking for a PhD student with the following:


  • Understanding of waste/recycling management
  • Background knowledge of approaches taken by other regions to address recycling
  • Strong Quantitative and Qualitative skills


  • Desirable skill

Expected Outcomes

This internship will work with a sub-committee of the Limestone Coast LGA Waste Committee to develop a model into which information can be fed to establish a business case for the:

  • Viability of establishing a small-scale Material Recovery Facility to recover materials for reuse within a smaller geographical region,
  • Assessment of costs required to refine materials to a reusable state; e.g. crushing of glass, pelletising of hard plastics, processing of paper and cardboard
  • Possible public private partnerships to achieve the above

The results of the project will be reviewed by the full LCLGA Waste Committee and, if feasible, further developed by the committee at a regional level or at an individual council level. This project has application for all regional councils in South Australia, that have growing issues in managing recyclable waste.

Responsibility for implementing the proposed model for evaluation will rest with individual councils that will need to consider their own waste volumes, opportunities to reuse materials and business partnerships that could be developed within their own council area, or in partnership with neighbouring councils.

Additional Details

The intern will receive $3,000 per month of the internship, usually in the form of stipend payments.

It is expected that the intern will primarily undertake this research project during regular business hours, spending at least 80% of their time on-site with the industry partner.  The intern will be expected to maintain contact with their academic mentor throughout the internship either through face-to-face or phone meetings as appropriate.

The intern and their academic mentor will have the opportunity to negotiate the project’s scope, milestones and timeline during the project planning stage.

Applications Close

2 October 2019


APR – 0691