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New research hub to develop novel solutions to reclaim waste

The Australian Research Council’s (ARC) new Industrial Transformation Research Hub will focus on reducing waste to landfill and transforming reclaimed waste into new materials for use in construction and other manufacturing sectors.

The $18 million collaborative research hub will involve leading scientists, researchers and industrial experts from nine Australian universities and 36 state, industry and international partners.

The project will be led by RMIT University, and draw from expertise across multiple disciplines including civil, chemical, materials and construction engineering, artificial intelligence, behavioural sciences, environmental procurements and policies and standards.

According to an RMIT statement, Australia’s landfill space is expected to reach capacity by 2025, with roughly 30 per cent of total waste generated sent to landfill each year.

Calum Drummond, RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said the hub would deliver novel solutions for reclaiming Australia’s waste resources, and position Australia as a leader in research contributing to the circular economy.

“At RMIT we work closely with industry and other partners to tackle complex environmental, economic and social issues,” he said.

“We are proud to be leading such a globally significant research hub that will help transformation towards a circular economy and contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

According to Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, the hub will undertake research with real world applications.

“Our government is investing in research that will foster strategic partnerships between university-based researchers and industry organisations, to find practical solutions to challenges facing Australian industry,” he said.

The project will focus on 10 challenging waste streams: textile waste, biomass, tyres, glass, paper and cardboard, construction and demolition waste, fly ash, plastics, biochar and timber.

Research hub lead, RMIT Professor Sujeeva Setunge, said the multi-sector collaboration would focus on holistic solutions to address the waste crisis, co-designed in partnership with stakeholders.

“Our investigations will include changing behaviours, smart designs to minimise waste, optimum processing of waste and converting waste-to-energy, developing novel materials using recycling and upcycling technologies, and metrics and tools to encourage uptake of new materials and solutions,” she said.

“There is currently a material shortage for Australia’s $14 billion heavy construction industry, so this research to reclaim waste and transform it into new materials will deliver benefits both economically and environmentally.”

Setunge said she is looking forward to working with local, national and international partners, and acknowledged existing long-term collaborations with the Cities of Brimbank, Kingston and Hobsons Bay, as well as the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Pictured: RMIT Professor and research hub lead Sujeeva Setunge. 

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