AFR story on NSW Circular pilot project and Director
The below excerpt comes from a story published today (12 Nov) in The Australian Financial Review. The full story can be found online here but it is located behind a paywall.
The science of finding treasure in trash
By Christopher Niesche
Veena Sahajwalla wants us to reconsider how we think about end-of-life products.
“It’s interesting that we refer to materials when they reach end-of-life as waste,” says Sahajwalla, director of Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at the University of New South Wales (SMaRT@UNSW). and director of NSW Circular.
“It’s actually missing out on a fantastic opportunity by simply putting it into the problem basket.”
Take a jam jar, for example. “Why are we calling it a problem just because it no longer carries our food in it?” Sahajwalla asks.
Many of these products are made of high-quality materials and we should look at possible uses for the materials that go beyond the same purpose, such as another jar or bottle.
The philosophy underpins the work by SMaRT, which is developing microfactories to transform waste materials into other products. They can operate in as little as 50 square metres of space and so can be located wherever waste is stockpiled.
One of the factories takes end-of-life glass and textile products and transforms them into tables and countertops which contain up to 80 per cent recycled materials, and which are on show at some of Mirvac’s display apartments.
Sahajwalla says that if turning end-of-life products into new products is to have a sustainable role in tackling the waste crisis, they will need to compete economically with other products in the market.
There is already some progress on this. One of the SMaRT microfactories is producing plastic filaments for 3D printing with an “absolutely competitive price”, she says.
This relies on making products the market needs. There might be little point in producing more glass jars, for example, because Australia might already have a surplus of jars, thanks to the large amount of imported manufactured food.
Read more of the AFR story here.