UNSW Professor Veena Sahajwalla will spearhead a new national research centre investigating technology for waste reduction and materials processing, as part of the Federal Government’s $149 million National Environmental Science Program (NESP).
Fundamental changes to the fashion business model, including an urgent transition away from ‘fast fashion’, are needed to improve the long-term sustainability of the fashion supply chain, according to a global review published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.
University of New South Wales (UNSW) Associate Professor Alison Gwilt, one of the review’s co-authors, said the fashion industry is the second largest industrial polluter after aviation, and accounts for up to 10 per cent of global pollution.
“However, the industry continues to grow, despite rising awareness of the environmental impacts, in part owing to the rise of fast fashion, which relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent consumption and short-lived garment use,” she said.
“Fast fashion pieces are viewed by the consumer as disposable garments, since they are cheaper to produce and often made from poor-quality material. Normally they are designed to be on-trend, which means that new products are constantly arriving in store all the time.”
Academics from Finland, Sweden, USA, the UK and UNSW have identified the environmental impacts of the fashion supply chain, from production to consumption, focusing on textile waste, water use, chemical pollution and CO2 emissions.
“While impacts from the production of cotton and polyester continue to create concern, there has been a global response to developing new innovative fibres and fabrics that aim to replace resource-intensive natural fibres and petroleum-based man-made fibres,” the review states.
While most environmental impacts occur in textile-manufacturing and garment-manufacturing countries, the authors write that textile waste is found globally.
“Current fashion-consumption practices result in large amounts of textile waste, most of which is incinerated, landfilled or exported to developing countries,” the review states.
A/Prof. Gwilt said that when a garment is sold on the shop floor, producers often feel that’s the end of their relationship with the product.
“But there is a discussion about whether producers should actually be responsible for the waste that they produce, and how they can they better support the extended life of garments through repair services,” she said.
According to the review, these impacts highlight the need for substantial changes in the industry, including decelerating manufacturing and introducing sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.
“As we look to deceleration in fashion manufacturing it means that brands and retailers need to look at other avenues and opportunities for growth,” A/Prof. Gwilt said.
“Currently there is a real interest in the fashion rental and subscription service. For example, Rent the Runway, the US clothing rental service, has grown exponentially. While repair and remanufacturing services enable consumers to keep their garments for longer.”
Local councils and community centres could soon be able to reprocess their recycled plastic through a subscription based service.
UNSW business school students have won the 2019 Big Idea competition’s postgraduate category with their start-up idea Closed Loop – a local-level plastic waste recycling business.
Closed Loop aims to address plastic waste by renting plastic reprocessing machines to community centres and councils, giving the public an opportunity to upcycle their plastic.
According to UNSW graduate student Lauren Hayes, the team acquired an open-source reprocessing machine from Precious Plastics, a global community for plastic waste.
“The greatest way to have impact is to reach out to community centres and the government,” Ms Hayes said.
“We are working to place a reprocessing machine in every community centre in Sydney. We are also in discussion with numerous councils and looking to put a machine in their space as well.”
Ms Hayes said rather than recycling plastic, the machine reprocesses it into new products.
“In terms of what the processing machine actually does, is it different to a recycle bin. Reprocessing is when recycled plastic re-enters the world as new materials – rather than being just re-used, reduced, recycled,” she said.
“We take recycled plastic and it goes into the reprocessing machine. What it does is that it can produce new products such as bowls, iPhone cases, pot plants and coasters – depending on which moulds are used in the machine.”
The process requires uncontaminated plastic that’s been cleaned and sorted, depending on various factors such as grade and colour. The material is then shredded into chips and transferred to a 3D printer.
“The community centre will decide what customised moulds they would want to create out of the reprocessed plastic,” Ms Hayes said.
“As part of the subscription service, the community centre can request up to three customised moulds. That’s where our consulting service comes in.”
Ms Hayes said the next step for the project is to raise capital funding.
“We’ve pitched our idea and are looking to raise funds through a GoFundMe campaign. We might also join an incubator to raise capital, as we want to ultimately expand Australia-wide,” she said.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney have developed a new microfactory to transform fashion into useful building products.
UNSW research team develops process that converts old clothing, textiles and glass into high-quality construction materials like flat panels.
Most Australians across all states and demographics believe the recyclables they put into their council bins are ending up in landfill, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The series of surveys has also found that 49 per cent of people believe that green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, with 63.8 per cent of those older than 65 seeing no benefits being realised.
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Key findings also report that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more of the material if it was reliably recycled.
Confusion also surround which level of government is responsible for residential waste and recycling services, with some people thinking industry instead of government is responsible for waste management.
UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Director Veena Sahajwalla said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill, in the absence of a coordinated government solution to a waste problem, had not been lost on consumers.
“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Dr Sahajwalla said.
“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now.
“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”
UNSW’s SMaRT Centre launched a demonstration e-waste microfactory in April, which is able to recover the components of discarded electronic items for use in high value products.
UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as marble and granite.
“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more landfill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” Dr Sahajwalla said.
“Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”
A research team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Business School is conducting a joint-global research project on local governments’ purchasing, procurement and waste management.
The research comes as part of the PLUS Alliance composed of UNSW, Arizona State University (ASU), and King’s College London (KCL).
The study aims to better understand the barriers and facilitators of effective purchasing, procurement, and waste management for local governments, including the social, economic, and environmental implications.
The team has already conducted research in several countries including US and Japanese local governments. They are now looking to Australian councils to participate in the project for comparative Australian data.
The team is inviting local government professionals (e.g., managers, directors, and officers) to participate in an anonymous and confidential 15 -20 minutes online-survey. They are specifically targeting professionals from the following fields of expertise:
- Waste management
- Public works
- City Planning
- Environment/environmental compliance
The aim is to collect data from local governments with 10,000 or more residents in all states and territories. To participate in the survey, click here.
A new trial aims to divert spent coffee grounds from landfill and repurpose them into higher value uses.
Planet Ark will begin the Coffee 4 Planet Ark trial in September in Sydney, in collaboration Bingo industries and with leading coffee roasters and members, such as Lavazza. Tata Global Beverages via its Map Coffee brand will collect spent coffee grounds from limited corporate businesses in Melbourne.
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The program aims to roll out around the country in 2019 after it identifies the best and most cost-effective collection method.
Planet Ark undertook a 2016 feasibility study that found almost 2800 tonnes of spent coffee grounds are sent to landfill in Sydney alone.
Once in landfill, the grounds would begin to break down and produce methane. Diverting the spent grounds from Sydney would save approximately 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, according to the study.
To develop new end uses for coffee grounds, Planet Ark has begun working with the SMaRT centre at the University of New South Wales. It has also secured a partnership with Circular Food to produce a nutrient rich soil fertiliser called Big Bio, which will utilise the collected grounds.
Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said the Coffee 4 Planet Ark program was an important step in ensuring spent coffee grounds were being used to their greatest potential rather than entering landfill.
‘Currently, the vast majority of coffee grounds produced after extracting your coffee are going to landfill. Planet Ark believes in creating a circular economy where all resources are used to their greatest potential,’ Mr Klymenko said.
‘We are thrilled to be working with some of Australia’s leading coffee roasters to trial a collection and repurposing system for coffee ground waste.’
More than half a billion containers have been returned to Return and Earn reverse vending machines in NSW, eight months after the scheme launched.
The container deposit scheme aims to improve recycling rates and reduce the volume of litter in the state by 40 per cent by 2020.
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Each eligible container is worth 10 cents when returned to a reverse vending machine or depot.
Drink containers litter currently makes up 44 per cent of the volume of all litter throughout NSW and costs more than $162 million to manage, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) was the first educational institution to install a reverse vending machine as part of the scheme.
UNSW Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability Will Syddall said that while this initiative helps to reduce littering and improve recycling rates, it is just one step in improving the way we create and manage waste.
“In the waste hierarchy, reducing and reusing resources is better than recycling them. We encourage the community to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups so that they can avoid disposable cups and bottles altogether,” Mr Syddall said.
“We also recognise that we have more work to do to reduce the amount of single-use plastic and other consumables used on our campuses.”
According to the World Bank, half of the plastic ever manufactured was made in the last 15 years.
The University of New South Wales Sydney’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology has developed a new way to disrupt the traditional manufacturing sector with in-house recycling.