Waste and the Circular Economy

The theme for the 2020 Open Innovation Competition was ‘waste and the circular economy’.

From 21 May to 3 July 2020 we invited the community to solve the issue of eliminating excessive waste within the City of Melbourne.

It is estimated that close to 800,000 tonnes of waste is created within the City of Melbourne boundary every year, some of which is recycled, most of which goes to landfill.

As the city’s population and density increases and as mass consumption is a defining trait of our culture, we must find ways to engage industry and innovate our way towards zero waste along entire supply chains.

Problem statement

The 2020 competition asked the question:
How might we create a more transparent circular economy by better addressing and influencing the ways in which the whole supply chain can eliminate waste?

The challenge

In 2019, the City of Melbourne launched its Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030. This outlined a bold vision to turn Melbourne into a zero-waste city to lessen environmental impact, enhance liveability, and make the waste and resource recovery system and supply chain more resilient by adopting circular economy principles.

The strategy clearly identifies reducing the production of waste as the most important priority as it reduces the need for recycling and recovering.

It is not only high level changes at a city level, but also individualised behaviour change, that are recognised as key to achieving this.

We looked for solutions that enhance the accessibility of information to producers, industry, logistics, wholesale, traders, as well as to consumers. The goal was to educate these groups about the current waste supply chain and increase understanding of the role everyone plays in creating and completely eliminating waste.

We also looked for proactive circular economy solutions that ensure the people and places of Melbourne play an active role in eliminating waste going to landfill.

The challenge of waste is not unique to Melbourne and we also encouraged participants to approach the problem with a ‘global mindset’ and think about how their solution might be applied to other international cities. In particular, to the City of Bandung, Indonesia, one of our competition partners.

Now, more than ever, we need to look beyond the “take, make, waste” approach and focus on solutions that have a less damaging impact. This change will require a rethink of supply chains which are largely built for delivery and not recovery.

The linear economy, based on products used once and thrown away, is no longer feasible. The future is circular and needs to be embraced now.

What we asked you to solve

Competition submissions need to:

  1. fall into one of the two solution categories, A or B; and
  2. address one or more of the four opportunity areas

Solution categories

A. Enhance the provision of information to increase understanding and education around the current waste supply chain and the role we play in creating and eliminating waste all together.

You are encouraged to incorporate data-driven and technology-enabled approaches into your submissions, which address issues such as lack of transparency, benchmarking performance and incentivising behaviours. For instance, it can:

  • Provide information to help producers, industry, logistics, businesses, consumers and entire supply chains to feel more confident and informed in their decision making around consumption, the generation of waste and resource lifecycle.
  • Address the lack of consistency, reliability and continuity of information related to the supply chain.
  • Encourage awareness and increase transparency across the entire system to drive actual behaviour change towards zero waste.

B. Proactive circular economy solutions ensuring the people and places of Melbourne play an active role in eliminating waste to landfill and moving towards a circular economy.

Your solution must help transform Melbourne into a place that is proactively eliminating waste from the supply chain and moving closer to a circular economy. For instance, it can:

  • Provide incentives for producers, industry, logistics and businesses to make their operations more waste conscious and actively design out/eliminate waste.
  • For waste that can’t be eliminated, uncover ways of modernising our waste collection and processing systems, separation and collection of waste and re-invigorating our recycling sector.
  • Provide solutions to maximise the use/reuse and overall lifecycle of resources by increasing its value in the supply chain.

Opportunity areas

Participants were encouraged to incorporate data and emerging technology into their ideas to address one or more of the opportunity areas:

Construction and demolition waste

Commercial and industrial waste

Individual waste including households

Circular economy solutions that address social equity

Guidelines and resources

Resources and data sets:

Data.Vic Resources:

Victorian Planning Authority Resources:

HERE Technologies resources and data sets:

We would like to help you help us. Since this competition requires a good understanding of the stakeholders' concerns and experiences, we arranged access to virtual 1:1 sessions with a range of mentors/experts for anyone considering entering the competition.

These sessions were designed to assist your understanding of the issues and considerations before completing your submission. You can check out the available mentors and experts then request a time to connect for a 1:1 video call session. You can also submit a question via the public Q&A tool on this platform.

We also offered pitch training to all applicants via our partners at Marketing Entourage. This online training course helped participants define their purpose, market position, target audience, brand and develop the perfect pitch.

Additionally, in-depth pitch training was offered to the finalists chosen to pitch at the final showcase event.

The judging panel included representatives from the City of Melbourne and the competition’s partner organisations. The panel will evaluate submissions based on the following five criteria:

  1. Innovation – the extent to which the submission is unique to, or adds value to, existing solutions.
  2. Impact – the extent to which the submission demonstrates the potential to effect change.
  3. Scalability – the extent to which the submission can scale, including the appeal it has to secure buy-in and/or a wide consumer base.
  4. Technically and conceptually sound – the extent to which the submission addresses the brief. Namely, the concerns and needs of our community (city workers, visitors and residents) and/or how it is supported by data or other evidence.
  5. Feasibility – the ease with which the submission can translate into a sustainable and cost effective operating model.

Prizes were awarded to the Open Innovation Competition winner/s and other top submissions. The prizes included:

Cash prizes

A cash pool of no less than $30,000 to be divided among the top three submissions.

  • 1st prize: $20,000
  • 2nd prize: $7,000
  • 3rd prize: $3,000

MAP Velocity program

Two of the top submissions received admission into MAP's 2020 Velocity program, an early stage startup incubator run by the Melbourne Accelerator Program. The 15-week program comprises 10 workshops centred around customer discovery and market validation with specialised experiences for both for-profit and for-purpose entrepreneurs.

RMIT LaunchHUB program

Two of the top submissions received admission into RMIT Activator’s LaunchHUB program, a 12 week accelerator program which supports a cohort of dedicated founders on the journey to market launch. The program offers access to co-working space, coaching, professional advisory, workshops, access to student interns, and RMIT expert connections.

International prize

There will be one ‘International Prize’ winner who will take part in a curated virtual program with The Greater Hub at Bandung Institute of Technology and the City of Bandung. This opportunity will enable the winner to test and adapt their solution for the Indonesian and global market. The program will also include support from Melbourne-based co-working space 11th Space with a free three month hot-desk membership. Please note that only Melbourne-based teams are eligible for the international prize category.

Product Discovery Workshop

One of the winners, selected by Mo Works, will undertake a Product Discovery Workshop. Mo Works will work with the product owner to define the scope of the product, provide defined users stories with function details of each feature, user flows for main functions, product development milestones and requirements to deliver the product. Mo Works will provide detailed technical documentation of the product that includes:

  • Product function breakdown
  • List with user flows for each main function
  • User stories
  • Technical stack and integration


The top submissions may be offered mentorship and support from various partner organisations. The support may involve access to select resources and facilities of the partner organisations. Further details about this prize will be made available at the conclusion of the competition.

Open Innovation Competition