A new $1.5m network designed to drive waste innovation in NSW will be headed by an expert who is pioneering technology which will help councils convert old clothing into building materials.
The Circular Economy Innovation Network, announced on Monday by the State Government on the back of a survey finding widespread public support for waste recycling initiatives, will link industry experts with governments to explore innovative ways to tackle the waste crisis.
The network, which will be established by UNSW, will be headed by Veena Sahajwalla from the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT), who is developing technology to convert glass, clothing and electronic waste into building products and other materials.
Professor Sahajwalla was this week showcasing her pioneering waste conversion technology to regional councils, with workshops on tackling the waste crisis in the outer regions of NSW.
Regional councils like Dubbo and Orange have a key role to play in leading the way in innovative waste management, Professor Sahajwalla says, making them “well suited” to explore these innovative technologies.
“We need to start to unlock the value embedded in these discarded waste resources, which can bring new revenue sources into our economies, rather than burying our used materials after a single use. Microrecycling can achieve all this by creating ongoing value from waste products,” she said.
It’s hoped that innovative technologies like Professor Sahajwalla’s will drive down the 20 million tonnes of waste that ends up in Australian landfills each year.
The news comes after a survey from UNSW released in October found that 91.7 per cent of Australians believe it is important for the nation to invest in technology to reform common waste into reusable materials.
The survey also found that most people, across all Australian states, believe recyclables put in their council bins are going to landfill, and that 72.4 per cent of people would recycle more if the material was reliably recycled.
NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said the network, which was a recommendations of a recent NSW Innovation and Productivity Council Report, is essential to help drive innovation in waste management in NSW to curb the waste crisis.
“A circular economy looks to minimise waste while ensuring that the valuable resources contained in waste and other discarded products are kept in use for as long as possible,” he said.
“Maximising the use and value of these resources will bring major economic and environmental benefits to NSW.”
Innovation in recycling and the use of renewable resources is essential to promote a shift towards more sustainable supply chains in governments, Professor Sahajwalla says.
“The new NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network is crucial to start to bring together all of the relevant stakeholders, including small to medium enterprises, into a new supply chain that can create value from these discarded materials, rather than for them to end up in landfill or valueless somewhere,” she said.
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