Professor Ruth Lane, Monash University, Seminar, Households and Churn in the Circular Economy

Professor Ruth Lane from Monash University will present her work on Households and Churn in the Circular Economy on Tuesday, 30 May 2023.

Professor Ruth Lane

Product longevity is one of the most vexed issues in emerging Circular Economy initiatives as it is antithetical to prevailing corporate business models. Yet there are many ways in which the lifespans of products and materials are currently extended within and between households, including through practices of repair, maintenance, gifting and second-hand transactions. 

These activities can be considered forms of ‘consumption work’ that may be critical for the realisation of the Circular Economy but which, like other forms of domestic work, lack visibility and the attribution of value (Hobson et al. 2021). 

Such practices are often entwined with the ‘doing’ of family (Holmes 2019) and are not necessarily considered environmental terms. However, as a critical site of material churn or retention, the household is significant to the broader challenge of sustainable materials use. 

I report on findings of a survey of 2717 households across Australia in which residents were asked about their practices of sharing, maintaining and repairing three types of products: (i) appliances and whitegoods, (ii) furniture and homewares, and (iii) clothing and accessories. The analysis of survey responses provides some insights into the socio-demographic profiles of households most and least likely to promote product longevity for the different product types. I conclude with some reflections on the significance of material churn in and among households for the temporality of the circular economy.

Ruth Lane is an Associate Professor in Human Geography in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, Melbourne. Her research focuses on geographies of waste, reuse and recycling, and contributes both geographical and material-centred perspectives to the problem of urban sustainability and resource consumption. She has variously focused at the scale of the household, the city and the nation and has spanned household waste, industrial waste and urban stormwater. 

She currently leads the ARC Discovery Project, ‘Household innovation and the transition to the low waste city’ and the ARC Linkage Project, ‘Measuring the benefits of reuse in the circular economy’. She is researching mattress recycling as part of the ARC Discovery Project, ‘Investigating innovative waste economies’ led by Professor Gay Hawkins, and leads a sub-project within the National Environmental Science Foundations ‘Sustainable Communities and Waste’ program called, ‘Governing community-led circular economy initiatives in rural and regional Australia’.

The event will take place in the AMBS Penthouse 10.30am-12.00pm. Refreshments available from 10.15 am.