The Banksia Environmental Foundation has announced that UNSW's Professor Veena Sahajwalla has won its prestigious 2012 GE Eco Innovation Award for Individual Excellence.

The award cites Professor Sahajwalla as "one of the world's leading innovators in the field of sustainable materials use, especially as it relates to carbon".

Scientia Professor Sahajwalla, of the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering, is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology and Associate Dean (Strategic Industry Relations) of the UNSW Faculty of Science.

The Banksia Environmental Foundation, established in 1989, is a national not-for-profit organisation that promotes environmental excellence and sustainability through its Awards program and other associated events. The Banksia Environmental Awards are regarded as the most prestigious environmental awards in Australia.

Describing her as an "Eco Alchemist" the Foundation's award citation states:

"Professor Sahajwalla is one of the world's leading innovators in the field of sustainable materials use, especially as it relates to carbon.

"Not only has Professor Sahajwalla's research completely changed our understanding of the properties of carbon, but application of her work to industry has resulted in the invention of a world-first, environmentally-friendly process for recycling end-of-life plastics/rubber in steelmaking.

"Professor Sahajwalla is a prominent public figure in the push for a meaningful, holistic approach to sustainable use of materials and processes. Crucially, she does so with environmental, economic and community benefits in mind, meaning she is able to successfully bridge the space between academia, industry, government, environmental groups and the general public; an especially rare capacity that has seen her appointed to the Australian Government''s Climate Commission.

"A true alchemist of the 21st century, Professor Sahajwalla is driven to develop novel ways of transmuting environmental waste into new, high-value products."

Watch Professor Sahajwalla's TedxSydney 2011 talk here. 

Media Contact: Bob Beale, Faculty of Science media liaison, 0411 705 435