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Shoalhaven City Council has issued an update about its partnership with the UNSW SMaRT Centre to construct a new 'waste to product' recycling MICROfactorie facility.
The new facility will remanufacture approx. 14 tonnes of waste plastics into filament for 3D printing per year, and approx. 450 tonnes of glass and mattresses per year into green ceramic tiles and other forms of furnishings.
Shoalhaven City Mayor, Amanda Findley said, “Products like tiles, kitchen benches and tabletops will be available to be purchased and used in homes.”
“The project is considered groundbreaking because it solves an issue with previously unrecyclable broken and dirty glass fragments.”
“Whilst there are other glass processing facilities in Australia, this new facility uses a unique washing process. Once again, the Shoalhaven is leading the way with using innovative and cutting-edge technology to solve our growing waste problem,” Mayor Findley said.
Image caption: tiles made from various waste at the UNSW SMaRT Centre's MICROfactorie.
The UNSW SMaRT Centre is a leading national research centre that works in collaboration with industry to ensure new recycling science is translated into real-world environmental and economic benefits.
Council will commence the construction of the Green ceramics MICROFactorie in early 2022 and anticipates the new facility to be completed by late 2022.
For background, read our announcement story about the project and this story about a subsequent visit by Environment Minister Sussan Ley to the site where the MICROfactorie will be built.
Below is an excerpt from a Waste Management Review story:
By Waste Management Review
Shoalhaven City Council and the engineer behind MICROfactories are thinking big when it comes to the future of recycling.
Recycling needs to deliver an outcome for University of New South Wales SMaRT Centre Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla.
The newly crowned 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, widely known as the “waste queen” to colleagues, has been reshaping the way waste is managed for decades. Now she hopes her work will help transform communities.
“Recycling is not the end game, it’s only the beginning,” Veena says. “We should be saying ‘is there a better way of doing things?’ To me, the better way has to be for the purpose of humanity. We have to deliver good outcomes for people and for jobs and not just see waste as a problem that has to go away.
“I always make the point there’s no magic fairy out there. Businesses should see recycling as an opportunity; they’re going to generate something that can be utilised and offer a regional solution.
“I like to think our solutions bring in a little bit more equity about employment. That’s what’s important to me.”
Having lived the early part of her childhood in Mumbai, Veena says she knew very quickly that “being wasteful is not okay”.
She says it was in her DNA to look at waste from an environmental aspect. Over the years she recognised waste streams that can be harvested and brought back to life in a whole new form.
Twenty years ago, Veena invented polymer injection technology known as ‘green steel’, an eco-friendly process for using waste tyres in steel production.
In 2018, the world’s first MICROfactorie, which can transform the components from e-waste items such as discarded smart phones and laptops into valuable materials for re-use, was launched at the UNSW’s Sustainable Materials & Technology Centre (SMaRT Centre) headed up by Veena.
The factory was the first of a series of MICROfactories under development to turn a variety of waste streams such as glass, plastic and timber into commercial materials and products.
The modular factories are designed to operate on a site as small as 50 square metres and be located wherever waste may be stockpiled.
In November 2021, Shoalhaven City Council received a $500,000 grant from the Environment Trust to build a $1 million MICROfactorie at the West Nowra Waste and Recycling Depot, in partnership with the SMaRT Centre.
Almost 450 tonnes of glass and mattresses a year will be remanufactured into green ceramics including benchtops and tabletops.
“Shoalhaven will be the first council in the country that will take on a MICROfactorie and have it up and running,” Veena says. “It is really breaking that barrier where a lot of councils think they’re just service providers, collecting waste and sending it to someone else to process.
“If anything, councils being at the front face, are sitting at what will become a gold mine if you think about some of the undervalued resources. They don’t just collect glass and e-waste, they collect so many different waste products.”
Professor Veena Sahajwalla and Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley at Shoalhaven.
Peter Windley, Shoalhaven City Council Waste Co-ordinator, says that the new recycling facility will remanufacture 14 tonnes of plastics into various products such as filament for 3D printing and almost 450 tonnes of glass and textiles per year into tiles and other forms of furnishings.
“Products like tiles, kitchen benches and tabletops will be available to be purchased and used in homes. The products are tested by the CSIRO and are a very high quality. They will be available to not only people in Shoalhaven but everyone in Australia,” Peter says.