Published in the Cairns Post, 1st April 2015


As you’re drinking your coffee have you ever considered that 99.8 per cent of the coffee bean used in your brew is waste?  That waste can be put to use growing mushrooms and the by-product from harvesting used as high-quality compost or to feed pigs. The waste from the pigs can then be captured to generate energy to grow, harvest and distribute the coffee.

This is not an April fool’s joke, but a simple example of an innovative business approach called the Blue Economy where multiple revenue streams are created from one product to maximise profit and create zero waste.  It is a sustainable approach that looks to create more value from what we’ve already got rather than relying on the consumption of large amounts of natural resources or investment in large infrastructure projects for economic growth.      



The Blue Economy was pioneered by economist and entrepreneur Professor Gunter Pauli to identify and develop innovative business models that create jobs and regenerate the environment using locally available resources.  

This approach is being adopted globally. For example, the Italian company Novamont has converted a former oil refinery into a bio-refinery plant. It is using organic renewable materials, including wild harvested thistles, to produce among other things a compostable coffee capsule.


Here in the Far North, some businesses have embraced the idea of maximising profit by converting former liabilities into income generating assets. Natural Evolution is producing high-value banana flour and ointment from waste green bananas. has established an online platform where individuals can rent out household items like lawnmowers and cots, which are only used occasionally, to other members of the general public.  This allows the equipment owners to make money and the renter to save money whilst also reducing the consumption of natural resources.  


In my former role as Chief Executive Officer of Advance Cairns I was privileged to work with many innovative businesses across a range of industries in Far North Queensland. However, many of our businesses and communities are facing significant competitive pressures from globalisation, the power of supermarkets, commodity price and exchange rate volatility, extreme weather events and bio-security issues.


I believe the Far North can mitigate these challenges and significantly benefit from adopting a Blue Economy approach as we:


  • Are sandwiched between two World Heritage sites (Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest) restricting traditional forms of economic development;

  • Have high-quality agricultural land, water, air and climatic conditions allowing us to be self-sufficient and sustainable;

  • Have innovative and creative industries that can create value-added products;

  • Have some of the highest levels of bio-diversity on the planet and traditional knowledge that can be used to create high-value pharmaceutical and cosmetic products; 

  • Have a strong entrepreneurial spirit; and

  • Have access to significant research capability and knowledge through our established academic and research institutions to create innovative sustainable business models.


Now is the time to think differently to design and adopt new business models that will create more diverse opportunities and ensure that our incredible part of the world continues to be precious for future generations.  


By sharing ideas and collaborating we can keep transitioning to a more resilient, prosperous and sustainable region.  If you are already on this path, I’d really appreciate hearing about your successes and ideas for our region, PLEASE COMMENT IN THE POST BELOW AND SHARE WITH YOUR NETWORKS:  Further information explaing the differences between the Linear, Circular and Blue Economy can be found here.  A number of Blue Economy case studies can be found here.


Stewart Christie

Director Possible People

Economic Design & Implementation Specialists

Accredited Blue Economy Expert



My View Article : Blue Economy – Creating Smart Growth Opportunities



Tropical North Queensland





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