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Veena Sahajwalla | There's no such thing as waste


If we reframe what we think of as waste, we can unlock the really useful materials contained within it to create new things.

Veena Sahajwalla

Waste has a bad reputation. Rubbish, unwanted, disgusting, gross. But when we hold our noses as we scuttle past an overflowing bin in the street, we are passing by a world of recycling opportunities. In nature there is no such thing as garbage, it's a series of complex circular eco systems where everything has a purpose, and nothing is left to waste - so why should our lives be any different? According to material scientists, it doesn’t have to be. Rather than bury our trash or toss it in the bin, we should be excited by the idea of creating something entirely new - the idea of a used can, a discarded tyre or a smashed iPhone is a gateway to a brave new world of recycled products, like components for 3D printers, green ceramics and home furnishings. So, think twice next time you discard your plastic water bottle because it may actually hold the secrets to unlocking a greener type of steel.

In the time it takes to melt an aluminium can, material scientist and engineer Veena Sahajwalla explains why not everything belongs in the bin.

To learn more about the work Veena's work, head to the Centre for Sustainable Materials and Research & Technology (SMaRT@UNSW)'s website. SMaRT is the home of microrecycling science, MICROfactorie technologies, the NESP Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub and the ARC Microrecycling Research Hub. 

Veena Sahajwalla smiling at the camera

Veena Sahajwalla

As a leading expert in the field of recycling science, and founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW Sydney, Professor Veena Sahajwalla is producing a new generation of green materials, products and resources made entirely, or primarily, from waste. Veena also heads the ARC Microrecycling Research Hub – a program of cutting-edge research and development aimed to transform Australia’s waste and resource recovery industry by equipping it with advanced manufacturing capability, focusing on small-scale manufacturing of valuable materials recovered and reformed from complex battery and consumer wastes. Veena has been extensively recognised for the innovation and significance of her work, including via election to be a Fellow of the esteemed Australian Academy of Science.

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