Invited Speaker Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia 2021

Aligning recycling and manufacturing: SMaRT technologies and MICROfactories® creating sustainable materials and products from waste resources   (#9)

Veena Sahajwalla 1
  1. University of NSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia

We need to look at waste, recycling and manufacturing in a new way by acknowledging the valuable materials contained in waste. Virgin resources are finite and rather than sending waste to landfill or other unsustainable disposal methods, we need to recycle and reform the valuable materials contained in waste to help supply the new products and materials needed by societies in the future.


And with the growth in electric vehicles, wind turbines, domestic solar systems, and so many batteries needed for power storage and the huge range of electronic devices such as phones and computers, a new challenge for the UNSW SMaRT Centre is researching and demonstrating how we can reform materials embedded in various waste batteries, such as cobalt and nickel, and how we can recycle and reform many of the materials contained in electronic waste that contain copper, manganese, zinc, gold and various rare earth elements.


Therefore waste itself can, and should, be seen as a resource if we want to electrify the world and be more sustainable in managing our materials and waste impacts. Using pioneering microrecycling-based techniques and innovations like UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre’s MICROfactorie® technologies to reform waste into value added materials, means we can also accelerate the ‘advancing’ of our sovereign manufacturing capability in a COVID-19, supply chain-constrained era. By aligning manufacturing and recycling in this way, communities can become more resilient, sustainable and prosperous by generating revenue from waste.


This presentation explores and provides examples of how we can take so called “end of life” waste products and reform them into materials for remanufacturing, including technologies which can transform waste such as glass and textiles into ‘green ceramics’ for the built environment, and plastics from e-waste and other waste sources into filament as a resource for manufacturers and other users for 3D printing.