Mark Bouris is in isolation, and he’s getting pretty over it.
He’s on day 12 of his mandatory isolation when he speaks to Yahoo Finance, and he’s keen to get out.
“It’s just me and my dog,” he said.
“And I love my dog, but I don’t love him that much.”
The isolation period, and the COVID era more broadly has however come with some small positives for the Wizard Home Loans and Yellow Brick Road founder: he’s gotten his spring cleaning well and truly done.
“COVID has made me declutter. During COVID last year, I got rid of so much shit - I had cupboards that hadn’t been opened for years and years, and I just thought, ‘What the hell’s that? We don’t need that, we don’t need that or that.’
“Some of the stuff was rubbish, but there was stuff in there.”
He called in help from his sons who then took the unwanted gear and sold it on Gumtree. So far he’s offloaded desks, furniture - “Anything I don’t want, they sell”.
‘Anything I don’t want, they sell’: Gumtree and the future consumer
For Bouris, the whole process shows two things: different generations’ mentalities towards needless ‘stuff’, and the future of the circular economy.
His generation is more likely to hold onto things they don’t need.
Younger generations can’t afford to. They’re reassessing their values, they’re thinking about the environment and they’re living in smaller homes: they literally don’t have the space to accumulate junk, he said.
According to Gumtree’s Trading in the Circular Economy report, 43 per cent of Australians chose to sell pre-loved, unwanted or unused items last year, rather than throwing them out.
That’s around 16 items per person, or 110 million all up. The report put the Australian circular economy’s value at $48 billion, with the average Australian standing to make $5,300 just by cleaning out and selling unwanted items around the house.
Bouris said the sale of secondhand items has been “turbocharged” by platforms like Gumtree.
Previously, to clear out your junk you would have needed to either give it to a friend, take it to an op-shop or rent out space at a local weekend market.
“People who want to sell, they can sell it to a lot more potential buyers, and as a result of that, it’s much easier to sell,” he said.
And as the circular economy grows, it’s shaping - and being shaped by - changing consumer attitudes.
Businesses that succeed today are the ones that understand consumers’ don’t want more ‘stuff’ that they’re going to throw out after a few uses, wears or months.
Instead, businesses that invest in quality products that last will be the ones to thrive.
“There’s definitely an opportunity for new brands to rise,” he said.
In particular, Bouris sees opportunities for companies that are providing products that are easily put back together into used items that still work well.
For example, rather than needing to update your entire phone when the battery died, brands that allow consumers to fix - rather than turf - their used devices.
In a world on the brink of a climate catastrophe, it’s about efficiency of resources, Bouris said.
The themes of the future are social convenience and anti-convenience products.
“People are starting to move towards things that are more meaningful, that are being made properly and that haven’t engaged child labour,” he said.
“There’s no use-by date - if [I were a young entrepreneur] I’d be looking at all of those things, and also that the material it was manufactured out of was a recycled material.
“I really do believe that we’re moving towards that. COVID has actually made us think more about stuff more than we ever had before.”
Private sector innovation to shape the world
Bouris believes that innovation and the push to change the world has in recent years been largely driven by the private sector. And he doesn’t see this changing.
The entrepreneur, who briefly considered a foray into politics, has now made up his mind: he can get more done where he is right now.
“I did play with the idea for a long time, but [politics] is a hard game. It’s a mug’s game, in some respects.
“I don’t think there would be anything more frustrating, for me, than having to talk to somebody to get something through the lower house, and then have to talk to people in the Senate - who have nothing to do with my party, and to have to do deals with them.
“I just don’t like the whole thought of it, and I think it’s become worse over the last three or four years.”
Instead, he thinks the private sector can have more impact on politics than ever before.
“I have a greater chance of influencing an outcome in relation to how I would like to see something happen, outside of politics than I would have inside of politics,” he said.
“I like to achieve things. I like to get outcomes.”