New funding for waste warriors

Do you have a project that will help Melbourne reduce waste and transition to a circular economy?

We’ve got grants of up to $5000 available to help startups, small businesses, social enterprises and small-to-medium food businesses deliver projects that reduce waste or reuse existing resources.

Applicants can apply for various support, including funds for business development activities such as research, testing and prototyping, training and mentoring and food waste reduction activities.

Applications for the Circular Economy Innovation Grants will open on Friday 19 March and close on 6 April 2021.

Why a circular economy matters

As one of the fastest growing cities in the developed world, we need to get smarter about the way we manage waste and, of course, create less waste in the first place.

In a circular economy, everything has value and nothing is wasted.

To achieve this goal, we need to work together to create innovative business models, design products with their whole lifecycle in mind, and focus on reuse, repair and recycling.

If you have a project idea that will help us create less waste and keep materials in the economy for as long as possible, apply for funding through the Circular Economy Innovation Grants.

Meet a previous grant winner

The Open Food Network is working to create a fair and transparent food system that reconnects people and regenerates the earth.

Central to this work is open-source software that aggregates products from farmers for direct sale to individuals and buying groups, like a virtual farmers’ market.

In 2019, we awarded the Open Food Network a waste-minimisation grant to help them to research how this tool could help get organic waste from places like Melbourne restaurants back to farms.

However, when last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns changed what waste was being generated and made it less safe to pilot this project, the team had to shift its focus.

‘We spent the time instead investigating a solution for on-farm waste, at the other end of the supply chain, which accounts for about a third of food wasted,’ said Jen Sheridan from the Open Food Network.

‘The grant enabled us to work with farmers to redirect crops that were stranded due to lost markets, such as restaurant closures, and to start to understand some of the challenges that create this waste in the first place.’

‘This has led to new services that aim to overcome some of those challenges, including a collaborative logistics service to help farmers get their produce to new markets.

‘We are also continuing to match producers’ supply with demand from government, social enterprises, and hospitality.’

Looking to the future, Jen is hopeful that more and more individuals and businesses will take action to reduce waste.

‘I would love to see us embracing circular, regenerative practices across Melbourne, rather than just thinking about how we deal with waste once it’s created,’ Jen said.

‘I do see really exciting pockets of thinking and action in this space.’

Did you know

We aim to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2030, as outlined in our Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy.

Our Circular Economy Innovation Grants are one part of this journey, building on the momentum of last year’s Open Innovation Competition, where the theme was circular-economy innovation.

Six top tips to reduce your waste

1. Refresh your knowledge of what goes in what bin to prevent recycling contamination

2. Find your local e-waste recycling hub to drop off your pre-loved tech for free

3. Take a zero-waste shopping trip to Queen Victoria Market

4. Get involved with your local community gardens and compost hubs

5. Learn how to reduce your food waste at home

6. Start a home-composting system with a discounted worm farm or Bokashi bucket

How to support sustainable farming

In addition to reducing our waste and composting food scraps, the Open Food Network also encourages us to consider how we purchase food in the first place.

‘Pre-purchasing food directly from farmers on the Open Food Network means that they can harvest just what’s needed – it stops waste from happening before it even leaves the farm gate,’ Jen said.

‘There are also farmers who offer Community Supported Agriculture shares, where eaters purchase a share of the whole crop upfront, which means that farmers aren’t over-producing as a way to manage risk.

‘If you’re looking to source larger quantities of food from local farmers and help avoid food waste, we’re welcoming new participants in our produce matching and our collaborative logistics programs. Just drop us a line to hello@openfoodnetwork.org.au.’