Project number: 2020-078
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $158,000.00
Principal Investigator: Kate Barclay
Organisation: University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Project start/end date: 16 Mar 2021 - 29 Sep 2021


Current resource use challenges sustainability and resilience of industries. Circular value chains allow management of waste losses and maximise resource recovery. A circular economy (CE) mimics the cycles in nature in which there is no waste. Maximum value and utility of products and materials is maintained in CE through a combination of extending product lifetimes, increasing resource use intensity, and end-of-life material recycling. CE includes the idea of regenerative development, i.e. as the earth’s resources cycle as materials through the economy they restore and enhance, rather than deplete, natural capital.

Economic opportunities of circularity are well identified, the World Economic Forum estimates global adoption of CE principles would deliver cost savings of US$1trillion dollars per annum by 2025. A recent UTS:ISF study estimated an Australian CE could be worth AU$2 billion by 2025. However, current knowledge gaps constrain how CE may develop, at what scale it makes sense to close loops, and the strategies, policy mix and incentives needed to promote circularity.

For fisheries and aquaculture, CE adoption addresses waste challenges through the creation of new value chains for fish/shell waste and substitution or recycling plastics and provides co-benefits of resource efficiency, contributions to healthy aquatic eco-systems and creation of added value and new employment. Frameworks to guide ‘CE thinking’ exist e.g. Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s 10R’s and ReSOLVE (see Supplementary Material), but have not been explored, are often omitted in food innovation debates (Pagotto and Halog 2015), and opportunities for implementation within the sector are still emerging (e.g., replacement of fish-feed for abalone with wine production waste or repurposing mussel shells as high-nutrient fertiliser). The need to understand the context, opportunity and benefit of CE innovations and to identify strategic approaches to sectoral circularity at scale are apparent.


1. 1. Develop increased knowledge of how the concept of circular economy relates to fishing and aquaculture, including downstream activities such as post-harvest processing and packaging.
2. 2. Develop increased knowledge of how circular practices being applied in other sectors and industries relate to the fishing and aquaculture sectors and could be adopted by fishing and aquaculture businesses. This includes opportunities for fisheries/aquaculture industries to develop circular linkages with other marine and land based sectors.
3. 3. Identify opportunities that are available and areas for exploration in the short, medium and longer term to progress a circular economy for fisheries and aquaculture.
4. 4. Identify barriers to adopting circularity within the fisheries/aquaculture sector, and known strategies for addressing those barriers.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9953662-6-8
Authors: Rebecca Cunningham Kate Barclay Brent Jacobs Samantha Sharpe and Nicholas McClean
Final Report • 2022-09-30 • 7.78 MB


The aim of this project was to understand current circular economy (CE) activities, opportunities and barriers in the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Australia through extensive stakeholder engagement. This research and consultation project has found that there are many CE activities occurring throughout the sector at a range of scales. However, there are significant barriers to overcome to fully realise the opportunities that CE presents. One finding is that the scale of the enterprise plays a role in the ability of any business to absorb elements of the supply chain and optimise the reprocessing of their waste streams.  
Those businesses working on developing new and niche products may require additional collaborations to meet their circular goals. There is also a balance to be struck in terms of gathering the appropriate volumes of waste or reuse materials for a business to be economically viable, while ensuring that the transport and storage (e.g. freezing) of those materials does not invalidate a company’s existing carbon footprint.  

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