SMaRT tech in new docufilm

UNSW SMaRT Centre technologies and its Director, Professor Veena, feature in this new film by media company, Never too Small, funded by Screen Australia.

Veena showcases some of the many waste and recycling innovations developed by the SMaRT Centre and shines a light on how waste must be used as a resource for future manufacturing and electrification needs.

The episode, screening as part of the Wonderful Waste series by Never Too Small's You Tube channel with over 2.4 million subscribers, covers some of the innovative waste to product technologies developed by the UNSW SMaRT Centre.

Producers say:

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, affectionately known as the ‘Queen of Waste’, grew up in Mumbai experiencing the possibilities for waste, and she’s since devoted her life to devising new ways to recycle as much as possible. She got her start inventing ‘green steel’ a steelmaking process that requires no new metal, and uses waste tires to replace cola.

Now, in a basement lab in Sydney, Veena is inventing radical new ways to break e-waste down to its basic molecules and finally make circuit boards truly recyclable, and helping tackle fabric and mattress waste by giving it a new future as bathroom tile.

While you may not see her work day to day, Veena is changing the shape of recycling around the world. Supported by Screen Australia Veena Sahajwalla & UNSW -

Produced by New Mac Video Agency Directed by: Colin Chee Producer: Luke Clark Cinematographer: Simon Davies Editor: Jessica Ruasol.

Music: When You Are, Closer Kicktracks Purple, On Wave Distant Islands, Evgeny Bardyuzha Unlearning, Jonny Hughes Never enuff, 544004.beat Coves, Lake Union Hollow, Skygaze Blue Beings, Tamuz Dekel Run, Tristan Barton.


Well, actually there's no such thing as away.

This is the one planet that we have.

Veena is known as the Waste Queen.

This should not be wasted.

Reviving waste, bringing it back to life is the way of the future.

We need to be bold and brave and think big.

We have to look beyond traditional recycling.

As a kid, something I loved doing was really being

very curious about all kinds of products that we were using

around the

apartment buildings where I was a kid growing up in Mumbai.

All these small traders would come around collecting your waste newspaper

and in exchange would want to give you a little steel spoon.

And that amazed me because it was like, Oh.

So actually, all of that waste paper and waste glass

bottles was going to be useful to somebody.

It was seen as a viable business, you know, things at home

could actually also support that local economy.

I studied materials, science and engineering.

I was interested in the whole of life, the raw materials,

the making of different kinds of products.

That led to asking that question

What happens to all of these different products

when we no longer have a need for it in that form?

We have to really ask whether we're doing enough in Australia

and indeed in the world to keep our waste out of landfill.

All of these are important materials.

They've been made once to serve a purpose

and that doesn't mean that they only deserve to have one life.

What we actually want to see is the more we preserve quality of these materials

after they've had one life, they can actually come back to life


I'd like to think that

we have embarked upon something that is the world's first.

In our micro factories, we are isolating different kinds of materials,

not burning them, indeed

transforming them into valuable materials

that are ready to come back to life in a whole new form.

All the things that we have talked about and created right here,

the Smart Center is what we call micro


the demolition and the construction waste that comes off

when buildings have to be demolished and rebuilt.

That complex mixture of steel or plastics or glass.

It could well, sadly, end up in landfill. So we can put steel

and metals and aluminum and all of that in separate piles.

Why do we also have different piles of nice glass and textiles?

Because that could help us channel more and more

of these materials into remanufacturing.

You can actually allow metals and non metals

to come apart through thermal transformation.

Shoalhaven City Council have been doing an amazing

job creating recycled, crushed glass.

This crushed material combines with waste textiles

to create green ceramic tiles in our micro factories.

For this council here,

they're not just collecting that waste in our yellow bins,

but they are really converting this into a valuable resource.

An engineered green ceramic product.

Mattresses, even though it looks on surface

very simple, it's actually a complex product,

needs to have strength.

It's got metal inside.

It's obviously got a lot of nice fabric.

So what we are looking at is

basically taking some metallics and textile waste

and using that textile waste as a feedstock for our green ceramics.

You can actually set up these distributed

micro factories close to where our waste resources are located.


And you've got supplies of different kinds of raw materials that we might have

considered as waste, now suddenly becoming resources for manufacture.

Seriously save with 25% off

Our book and essential guide bundle this “Slow November”.

Our beautiful book will inspire you with detailed floor plans

And gorgeous photography

And our new Essential Guide to your living room will teach you

How to create the ‘Never Too Small look’ in your own home.

Click on the view products button on the bottom left of your screen

Or on the link in the description.

And use the code “SlowNovember” at checkout

We love electronic devices,

whether it is our phone,

our computers, our TV monitors.

There's a lot of different kinds of materials, whether it is

metals or plastics.

So that's the in all kinds of electronic devices.

We do also realize that as technologies advance, we're

generating a lot of e-waste, a lot of electronic waste.

In fact, e-waste is the world's

fastest growing waste.

So what are we doing about it?

We have a long way to go in terms of harvesting

every part of our electronic waste.

We sometimes see those plastics

as rather complex and difficult.

For example, on a circuit board

you will have a polymer as well as copper.

You know, it is really hard to imagine that

mechanically you're just going to separate all of this out.

So what we are really talking about

is the micro recycling solution

where thermal transformations allow you to get the metallic

and the nonmetallic parts to literally come apart.

That means that when you think about fundamentally all kinds of complex

systems, there is a way to imagine them making the unmaking

and then remaking new products

Our solutions don't have to always go back

into remanufacturing exactly the same thing.

What we're hoping that our plastic materials from

our e-waste can be converted into plastic filaments for 3D printing.

A lot of our metals, like our copper

and tin, can go back into production of new electronic systems

by bringing that plastic waste

into our micro factories as an example, creating

plastic filaments and using those to 3D print plans.

For instance, in a construction project.

That's exciting to show that we can achieve these outcomes

and to do that in a micro factory is an absolute icing on the cake.

There is steel everywhere and steel is a material

that will always be needed.

After all, the world is using about

1.9 billion tonnes of steel every year.

So think about how much steel we all need, whether it's

to make our homes or our cars.

There's a lot of scrap metal that is available in our economy.

So imagine if you could take all that scrap metal

and we can bring that in to electric arc furnaces

to make steel.

About 250,000 tonnes

per year of steel scrap.

It's being recycled here in Newcastle.

And if we didn't do this, can you imagine all of this waste

steel would just simply be thrown away

whereas now all of this fabulous scrap is indeed being used

as a resource to recycle and reform and make new steel.

Traditionally, when we think

about making of steel, we would normally think about coal.

Of course, in metallurgical coal you have to convert that

into a hard, solid product called Coke.

The reason why we're using coal in caucus

because of the carbon that is needed in the making of steel.

But what if you could find those alternative feedstock

materials to actually harvest that carbon?

You could make green steel without the reliance

on coal and coke

waste materials like steel and tires

in a big bulky form have to be shredded down.

And when they are shredded, they can be fed into electrical arc furnaces

and converted into steel.

We want to get to the point where we can completely eliminate

the need for coal and coke.

Why should we not use waste

as valuable resources for manufacturing materials that we need?

The next challenge that we're embarking on

when we start to think about micro recycling is how do we actually take

complex plastic coming from e-waste and unpack it

not for making new plastics, but for making green steel.

The fact that that plastic is rich in

carbon can actually replace some of the traditional coke based materials

that would have been used in the production and the making of steel.

We will be able to use green steel in making all kinds of products,

whether it is for our building applications,

our industrial applications, we're making, machinery and equipment.

Of course, the list goes on and on.

The whole

reforming of materials into products is important

because we're actually creating this laterally integrated system where waste

could come from our homes and our offices, and then it becomes part of the economy.

If we can set up

pathways, multiple pathways through which we can recycle reform

and remanufacture all kinds of high quality, highly engineered products,

then it allows our communities and our societies

to use these kinds of engineered products.

These kinds of micro factories, if they are actually set up

where waste is available, we're also creating local jobs.

We're actually enabling capacity building

so we can manufacture these kinds of ceramic products.

For instance, in our communities, in our small businesses.

And that's exactly what we are doing.

It can go right back

into doing the refurb, the retrofit and the rebuild.

Imagine if in the future, when we look at our buildings,

our homes, our offices, imagine if we can see them

made from our waste textiles and our waste glass.

If we can actually sort and channel products

that are now no longer functioning to the right destinations,

we can actually do a lot in terms of working

within the system that we have in Australia.

We've got to look towards our local businesses

and if there are local businesses that are offering recycling services

or if there is a local council that is offering

that kind of services, we need to play a part.

Imagine all of us at homes,

we're actually got these mini resources and how many resources

can feed into our local council that could then feed into a micro factory

and that then becomes part of that supply chain.

I often dream of a world

where we are caring for our planet and we are caring for our people.

Everybody, no matter where they work,

is working on the safe and really sustainable operations,

making goods that are produced in a way

that they can be recycled over and over again.

Waste is a resource and should be seen as a resource.

The world actually can win

and can benefit from micro recycling and micro factories.