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UNSW Sydney has been recognised by the state government for its leadership in materials science and technology research and industry partnerships with $1.5 million to drive innovation in waste management and recycling.

In announcing that UNSW would establish and lead the new NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network, NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said the Network would better link industry with government, local councils and researchers to stimulate new ways of tackling the challenges of the circular economy.

“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.”

Founding Director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT), Professor Veena Sahajwalla, has been appointed Executive Director of the new Network, which will bring together stakeholders across industry, universities and local and state governments to develop sustainability in waste and recycling in NSW.

Professor Sahajwalla said: “We need to rethink attitudes to all of the materials we discard and start to see them as renewable resources if we want to live more sustainably. 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.”

Professor Sahajwalla is the pioneer of scientifically developed technology at UNSW that enables waste items such as glass and clothing to be reformed into building products and converts electronic waste such as phones into valuable metals alloys and plastic filament, and this week is promoting the new manufacturing capability at forums in major centres in central NSW.