An eco-city uses only what it needs and produces no waste, creating many environmental and economic benefits that contribute to sustainability.
Future Melbourne 2008


A lot of discussion in this Priority was focused on practical ways for the city to reduce energy use. Many people discussed solar energy and mechanisms that can be used to increase its us within the city. There was also a large amount of practical discussion on ways to reuse and recycle waste and energy to reduce impacts on the environment, covering a broad range of areas including organic waste and everyday items such as bottled water and plastic shopping bags.

There was overlap between this Priority and Priority 5.1. and Priority 5.4.

Summary of ideas (total 99 statements)

Use of Solar Power (30 statements)

A large number of people suggested the use of solar power to increase Melbourne’s resource efficiency. This short statement is representative of many of the points made.

Solar Panels -- solar panels everywhere!! Why bother paying for electricity, and ruining the environment

Many people talked about solar panels on the rooftop of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, both new and old, residential buildings and homes, and retrofitting heritage buildings. One comment suggested that the open, top level of car parks, could be used to generate solar energy.

A couple of people suggested fitting public transport and transport infrastructure with solar panels. These included solar powered trams, traffic lights, roads and bike paths with solar panels. One person suggested that public art that also combines the use of solar panels should become ubiquitous within the city. Another person suggested that loans given by the Bank of Melbourne to non-residential buildings that utilise solar power, could be extended to residential buildings as well.

Reusing and Recycling waste and energy (28 statements)

A large number of people discussed the need to reuse and recycle both waste and energy more efficiently. Many people expressed the need for better waste and recycling management around Melbourne. Several of these people requested that the number of bins be increased, particularly those for recycling. This comment is illustrative of the above points.

Promote Recycling -- More recycling in Melbourne city! You see bottles everywhere. This is because bins are not made available. So many people aren't willing to walk a few blocks holding their empty bottle. It's hard to change behaviours of the people so we need to move the bins to them.

Some people stated that better segregation of waste should be encouraged — into recycling, organics and rubbish. One person cited Adelaide as an excellent example of how to achieve this. A few people mentioned that bins need to be cleared more often. One person stated that large businesses should be encouraged to recycle and segregate waste better. One other person expressed that renewable, decentralised energy should be made more available to residents and developers of high-rise buildings and apartment complexes, so that these initiatives are incorporated more frequently within buildings, increasing both participation and economic benefits received.

Several people talked specifically about the need to encourage better habits and methods of reusing and recycling resources or commodities. A couple of statements asked for the use of plastic bags in stores to be discouraged, and generally reduce the number of plastic bottles. A couple of people suggested increasing public water stations within the city, to help reduce water bottle use. Another person suggested the use of ‘Keep-cups’ for takeaway coffees instead of the non-reusable ones used at the moment. One conversation talked of a mobile application called Sustain Me to encourage better waste segregation and recycling habits. This idea explained the application as such.

…How do those recyclable materials end up in landfill? Misinformation. Can I recycle batteries? Can I put my coffee cup in the bin, even though the bin is lined with a plastic bag? Where do light globes go? Before the Sustain Me app, no one had a clear, succinct answer because there wasn't one: it all depends on where you at (sic) at any one point in Australia. Sydney recycles differently to Melbourne who recycles differently to Bendigo who recycles differently to Adelaide. And we move around, taking our habits with us, whether they are right or wrong. Sustain Me is the answer.
Sustain Me is a mobile app with a national recycling database, and it gives you the correct information where ever you are standing...

While one person in the conversation expressed an interest in the application, they felt that many people simply did not care or make enough of an effort with recycling and waste segregation.

Some people provided specific ideas on how different energy sources can be both recycled and reused. Some of the ideas suggested included incentivising the reuse of solar energy through city buildings via Environmental Upgrade Agreements (EUAs); harvesting the kinetic energy produced through people’s footsteps, and movement within the city to power other facilities; and using a decentralised underground water energy factory to provide water, sewage and energy services for inner-city Melbourne.

One conversation proposed the idea of harnessing the power of the Yarra River. The person suggested that water from the river could be reticulated through part of the city for both heating and cooling purposes. Furthermore, a water turbine could be installed to power the above, as well as other facilities such as street lights at night. Another commenter disagreed with this idea, suggesting that the Yarra may not have the capacity to produce the suggested amount of energy, or to have a water turbine installed in it.

Reduced use and consumption of energy and resources (19 statements)

Many people mentioned the need to reduce the amount of energy and resources used. Specifically, they talked of more sustainable and responsible use and consumption of resources. Some people stated that plastic drink bottles and packaged water should be banned. This statement sums up the above.

Ban Bottled Water Sales -- Bottled water represents an evolutionary endpoint from which we must retreat - seven litres of water and one litre of oil are used to produce one litre of bottled water…

A few people provided an alternative to this, such as using more reusable bottles and increasing the number of water fountains in the city. Several other people called for a ban of plastic bags around the city, especially in retail stores. One person suggested that a tax be placed on the use of plastic in bottles and bags. Another person asked that stores start charging for the use of plastic bags. A couple of people suggested that packaging be made of more biodegradable materials.

A few people suggested the need for better usage of energy resources and minimising waste. A couple of these comments were general in nature, highlighting the need for more responsible use and consumption of energy. Three other comments provided specific ideas on how this could be achieved. One person suggested increasing green spaces in the city, use of solar panel on skyscrapers, reuse of grey water in gardens and more energy efficient homes to minimise Melbourne’s ecological impact. Another idea suggested intelligent lighting systems for buildings, where only the top floors of buildings are lit at night, instead of the entire building. Another idea proposed an intelligent streetlights system that dimmed or brightened lights depending on the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

One person stated that more vegan and raw food consumption should be encouraged, as animal farming has a significant impact on the environment.

Reduction in Organic and Food Waste (14 statements)

Several people stressed the need to reduce, recycle and manage food and organic waste better, so Melbourne can become more resource efficient. A little over half of these people spoke specifically on the subject of food waste, suggesting ideas on how this could be reduced and managed better. These included educating communities to manage and compost food waste; working with business and other organisations to encourage positive behaviour-change in order to reduce food waste; developing an efficient municipal-wide Food Waste Plan to ensure that organic and food waste is captured from both residents and large scale businesses; develop community gardens and restaurants that provide leftover food to the homeless; impose a fine or tax on groups that do not do so; and, to provide more recycling and organic bins in the city, rather than just general rubbish bins.

A couple of people suggested working with building managers to reduce food and organic waste. One of these people suggested putting regulations and planning in place for large buildings to ensure they captured and re-used organic waste for local food production. Food growing could occur through initiatives such as vertical gardens. Another person suggested incentivising closed-loop buildings that used food production as the driver for “recycling” building waste.

One person suggested an initiative called Smart Food. This is described as follows.

Every time you shop, all your food items are recorded and sent to your smart phone and the cloud. You essentially have a digital fridge on your smart device, within this ‘smart fridge’ you can clearly see how far each food item has before expiration. Once your food enters the 70% stage of its life, SmartFood hits the nudge zone; it’s time for action. Your smart device notifies you and you have 2 options; eat your food now or trade on the digital marketplace. The eat it now option lets you eat it yourself or you can choose a surprise dinner party; the surprise dinner party will match you to other locals wanting to cook the food that night but needing more ingredients. The algorithms in the app automatically match people, their food and a recipe within seconds. The trade option is to trade food on a digital market place; food can be collected by carrier pigeons (drones) and delivered to those needing the food. Points are gained for food that is saved from waste.

Reduce Pollution (8 statements)

Several people suggested the need to reduce pollution, particularly air pollution, within Melbourne. A little under half the people suggested specific ways that this could be achieved. One person proposed buying back wood heater installations and imposing a levy on wood burning emissions. Another person suggested an increased consumption of vegan and raw food. A third person stressed the need to address climate change and switching fuel sources to reduce pollution.