Pioneering recycling scientist named Parramatta Aus Day Ambassador

Pioneering scientist and sustainability crusader Professor Veena Sahajwalla will talk to new and current citizens in Parramatta about her passion for micro-recycling as the City’s Australia Day Ambassador.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla (supplied image)

Professor Sahajwalla, who developed revolutionary processes for transforming recycled waste into a new generation of green materials, will deliver a speech at ceremonies marking the National Day on Thursday and Friday.

Mumbai-born Professor Sahajwalla studied in the US and later relocated to Australia, where she went on to establish the Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre at UNSW.

In 2018, she launched the world’s first e-waste microfactory and in 2019 followed up with a plastics and Green Ceramics microfactory.

The technology recycles materials like glass, textiles, steel and even facemasks at a micro-level to create ceramic tiles that are already being used in buildings within the Parramatta LGA.

“I’ve always treasured that waste is a valuable resource that’s just waiting to find a purpose,” she told Government News.

“Local council representatives love ideas around recycling and technology and what it means for local government, and the notion that you can actually create useful products at a micro level.”

She says local government government faces significant challenges around waste and recycling, but her work proves that local solutions, using local resources, can be deployed at a local level.

I’ve always treasured that waste is a valuable resource that’s just waiting to find a purpose.

Professor Veena SSahajwalla

“Imagine a local rebuild, whether it’s a small refurb or retrofit, that could be using locally available recycled products. And even better if its waste that came out of your local area,” she says.

“For me it’s exciting to think about what circular economy means in an Australian context but you can also take it right down at the local LGA level.

“We always think everything’s got to be about megascale, what about if we could do it in a micro factory?What if your local market was right there in your back yard?”

As well as promoting local-level recycling, Professor Sahajwalla says she hopes to inspire younger people to pursue a career in STEM.

“Not only as a way of earning income but also as meaningful work,” she says.

“If you care for people you care for planet, and as a young person you can feel inspired.”

Professor Sahajwalla was appointed inaugural Director of the Circular Economy Innovation Network in 2019.

She is also director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for ‘microrecycling’, which works in collaboration with industry to ensure new recycling science is translated into real world environmental and economic benefits, and hub leader of the national NESP Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub.

Professor Sahajwalla was last year’s Australia Day Ambassador for Georges River Council.

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