Waste Management Review speaks with Veena Sahajwalla about a decentralised approach to sustainable materials research and technology.
Lisa McLean has been appointed as the NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network’s first CEO.
NSW Circular works collaboratively with government, industry, research organisations and communities to initiate, create and communicate circular economy opportunities and solutions for the state.
According to a NSW Circular statement, Ms McLean has been successfully advising industry and governments in developing new policy frameworks and regulations that bring about market change to enable the circular economy over the past 14 years.
“Lisa established and leads Open Cities Alliance, a peak industry association with unique membership from government to private sector and research organisations,” the statement reads.
“Open Cities advocates for the circular economy, prosumer rights and new zero-carbon local utility and mobility precinct approaches.”
Ms McClean also initiated and established the Australian Solar Thermal Association, has advised electric mobility providers and worked with sustainable water utility Flow Systems.
NSW Chief Scientist Hugh Durrant-Whyte said Ms McLean’s appointment will build on the strong foundations established in NSW Circular’s first year of operations.
“The network has already engaged with communities across NSW to look at the technological and non-technological challenges involved in identifying and managing diverse material and waste streams, and how we can extract value from them,” he said.
Additionally, NSW Circular Chair Chair Margaret Harding said the network has already undertaken significant work to help identify circular capabilities in NSW, as well as knowledge gaps.
“Having Lisa come on board, with her high-level experience as a senior executive in several organisations engaged in circular economy, renewable and recyclables markets, will enable NSW Circular to begin to extend its operations and develop sustainable business models and processes at scale,” she said.
Of her appointment, Ms McLean said she is passionate about building collaborations between key stakeholders to bring about change and create a sustainable future.
“I’m equally excited at the prospect of working alongside Professor Veena Sahajwalla, one of the true global pioneers in new recycling technologies,” she said.
“Our challenge now is to develop new ideas and work practices, drawing on diverse skill sets and sectors, to create innovative, high impact strategies and solutions for NSW’s pressing waste issue.”
The University of NSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) has secured nearly $1 million in funding to help commercialise a technology that transforms waste materials into value-added products.
UNSW was one of five winners to share in $5 million from the NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer’s new Physical Sciences Fund.
The fund aims to support potential commercial applications of high impact research across all branches of science.
According to SMaRT Centre Director Veena Sahajwalla, the funding will help advance the commercialisation prospects of the team’s microrecylcing science.
“We’ve developed manufacturing technology and capability so waste can be reformed into value-added materials and products, and kept out of landfill,” she said.
“Environmental benefits aside, this scientifically developed technology will help to drive the emerging circular economy, create jobs and enhance social and economic outcomes, not just for local communities but more broadly for the nation.”
The Microfactorie transforms waste materials including glass, single-use coffee cups, used coffee grounds and textiles into ceramic-based panel products that can be used as tables, countertops and tiles.
NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the Physical Sciences Fund translates scientific innovation into tangible, real-world outcomes to benefit communities, the state economy and the environment.
“NSW is renowned for its innovative science sector, which is why we’re not only investing in developing and nurturing ideas, but commercialising them too,” Mr Stokes said.
“Our inaugural winners are turning rubbish into luxe building products, using drones to save the environment, improving the efficiency of mines and the wine industry, and literally pulling water from thin air,” he said.
NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said bringing great ideas to market was a challenge facing universities and small companies.
“In addition to giving financial support, the Physical Sciences Fund provides advice and facilitates collaborations to ensure that each project’s scientific rigour is matched with seasoned entrepreneurial know-how,” he said.
Other awarded projects include a light-weight data gathering drone, a magnetic resonance analyser, architectural surfaces manufactured from recycled materials, agricultural technologies and a device that produces drinking water from atmospheric moisture.
The National Cleantech Conference & Exhibition (NCTCE) is calling for industry experts, researchers, non-government and government organisations and consortiums to participate in its 2020 speaker program.
NCTCE provides a national platform for collaboration, learning, networking and business between innovators, investors, producers and commercial end-users of clean technology.
An NCTCE spokesperson said the program covers all sectors including water, energy, waste, transport, agriculture, manufacturing and the built environment.
“The NCTCE, the only multi-sector Cleantech event in Australia, is seeking contributions from various disciplines, skills, knowledge bases and experience,” the spokesperson said.
“Do you have a new solution to announce, project success to feature or company case study to share with the Australian Cleantech Industry community?”
According to the spokesperson, industry experts such as Veena Sahajwalla and Arron Wood are already confirmed to speak.
“The theme for 2020 will be Cleantech: fast tracking sustainable growth, and focus on the opportunities for the Cleantech industry as an instigator of innovation, economic development, creative collaborations and inclusive prosperity,” the spokesperson said.
NCTCE will run 3 to 4 August 2020 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
NSW Circular has partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to help Central Coast businesses map and identify opportunities to reduce waste, enhance sustainability and boost industry.
The event, held 7 August, will bring stakeholders together from across governments, industry, universities and not-for-profit groups to discuss transitioning to a circular economy.
University of New South Wales Professor and NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network Director Veena Sahajwalla will present the keynote address.
“We are aiming to facilitate market-based solutions to the opportunities and challenges faced in efficiently managing our materials, supplies and waste, and will be looking for pilot projects to create new pathways and outcomes,” Ms Sahajwalla said.
Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre National Director of Industry Michael Sharpe will facilitate a discussion to identify new local circular economy solutions.
“Hunter and Central Coast businesses are already some of the most innovative in Australia, and with this event we hope to share some of those examples to develop more circular economy solutions,” Mr Sharpe said.
“The manufacturing sector plays a critical role in this area, which is resulting in more efficient business operations and economic growth.”
Mr Sharpe said attendees will learn how a circular approach can be incorporated into local supply chains and deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla – NSW Circular Director
Ashley Brinson – NSW Circular Co-director
Debbie Hambly – Milk Bottle Collective Project Manager
Ian Hudson – Industry Capability Network Deputy Director
Tim Askew – Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils Regional Project Manager
Marta Fernandes – Nespresso Technical and Quality Manager
Brooke Donnelly – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO
Paul Klymenko – Planet Ark CEO
Nishi Vissamraju – Downer Group National Environmental Sustainability Advisor Transport and Infrastructure
Jodi Boylan – The War of Waste Executive Producer
Researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney have developed a new microfactory to transform fashion into useful building products.
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.”