Rory Scott

A Circular Economy for Change

Words by Rory Scott

Styled by Lauren Robinson

Sustainability is the most important word when it comes to the future of fashion. With decades of production using the make-take-dispose consumer model, drastic and immediate change is needed to avoid irreversible environmental damage. There is a deep seeded need in modern culture to want something new, but the cost of this is now much more than money.

A linear economy is no longer sustainable as Australia alone creates 67 million tonnes of waste every year. With so much waste being created annually, a circular economy is the turning point to fight climate change. It is a concept that seeks to rebuild capital and eliminate waste from the current linear production system by keeping materials and resources in a continuous flowing loop.

Unfortunately, there is no real reliable market for recycled products in Australia, so a circular economy on a national level is not yet a viable choice. There is a critical gap in supply and demand, and this is unlikely to change without government intervention as the recycling sector is generating material that is simply not being purchased. Therefore, it is up to businesses and social enterprises like the World’s Biggest Garage Sale, who have successfully implemented the idea of a circular economy, to use their knowledge and passion to pioneer a new wave of business management that could be the change the world needs.

Started in 2013 by Yasmin and Leigh Grigaliunas, the World’s Biggest Garage Sale is an event that repurposes unused goods to raise money for children’s cancer research. Since its inception, over $314,000 has been raised for many different charity benefactors, and over 3.3 million kilograms of goods have been diverted from landfill. As one of the only companies in Australia that employs a circular economy model, the World’s Biggest Garage Sale has connected people through sustainability and altruism to further normalise the idea of recycling and reusing rather than throwing it away. 

In order to understand even more about the World’s Biggest Garage Sale, Yasmin Grigaliunas, the co-founder and CEO, answers some questions about her business and the importance of a circular economy in 2020.

Rory Scott: Why did you start the World’s Biggest Garage Sale?

Yasmin Grigaliunas: “We were trying to solve donor fatigue. At the time lots of people were trying to raise money for lots of different great causes, but lots of people were very fatigued at how many causes there were to support. So, we were looking for a way to raise money, without asking people for money. I cleaned out my cupboards at home… and then all my friends and family cleaned out theirs, and all of a sudden, all these dormant goods that were sitting idle in people’s home were making their way to our garage.”

RS: You have moved from a small garage sale to the pioneers of the circular economy in Australia, what is the biggest difference now to when you started?

YG: “Well we’re not really just the World’s Biggest Garage Sale anymore. We’ve just fit out a commercial space for a governmental department where we actually remanufacture products made out of materials that others might think as waste. We’re in a circular economy precinct now, we’ve opened Australia’s first fully operational precinct where we take materials from consumers and organisations and make new products that would otherwise be disposed of.”

RS: How does your company help businesses in Australia with sustainability and what opportunities exist to use the circular economy to change the current model?

YG: “We have lots of organisations wanting to work with us and some of them are asking for all sorts of sustainability and circular economy reports on how to help them solve their challenges. Instead of giving them a report we actually give them a team and get on the ground and we solve the problems together and create new models. This is a significant opportunity for not only our country but the world to share the sugar and borrow the butter, and actually come together with the community to solve some of the biggest challenges of the world and deliver a more equitable existence for us all.”

RS: As you are the only real example of a working circular economy in Australia, how important do you think your work is to the future of the Australian recycling sector?

YG: “I think it’s critical, it should be business as usual for most companies. When you look at something that you’d throw in the bin, we want to challenge people to think about how they might be able to use that material in another way. Our team is very creative… we don’t see waste as waste, we see it as a resource, and I think our place in this space is to not only deliver on a circular economy output but help inspire others to see that the impossible is possible.”

RS: With the possibility of a complete circular economy virtually impossible to achieve nowadays, what do you see as the future for the circular economy?

YG: “We see the future where it [circular economy] becomes the norm. Where you can go into a shopping centre or precinct like ours and make a purchase and feel like you’ve had a new experience with something old. It really has transformed the second hand industry to bring about a circular economy through education about the entire operation. We started Australia’s first circular economy meet up because we wanted to help educate people, not to tell our story but for others to tell theirs. The biggest thing for me is that I see a lot of people talking about it, but I would encourage them to actually go and start doing… get walking and do the talking.”