Textile Recyclers Australia joins ARC Microrecycling Research Hub

Image: TRA co-founders  Maureen Taylor and Ben Kaminsky.

An important new partner has joined the ARC Research Hub for Microrecycling of Battery and Consumer Wastes.

Textile Recyclers Australia (TRA) Pty Ltd joins the Hub - hosted and directed by the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre and its Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla - as a formal partner to help develop and commercialise innovative solutions to waste challenges.

Veena said: “Led by co-founders Ben Kaminsky and Maureen Taylor, TRA looks for circular solutions for unwanted textiles to keep them out of landfill.

“With TRA joining the Hub, the program will broaden and continue developing work on technologies and processes to reform hard to recycle wastes, like textiles, into new materials and products.”

Ben said: “TRA processes unwanted garments into recycled yarn for ‘new’ apparel, but we know through SMaRT and the work of others that waste textiles are a resource that can be reformed into new things and materials for other products.

“The textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world. This requires multiple solutions for such a huge problem, and the ARC Microrecycling Hub is looking to advance SMaRT’s work in developing new solutions and we are excited to be part of that journey.”

The Microrecycling Hub is a five-year national program of cutting-edge research and development to boost resource recovery capability by creating new advanced and scalable manufacturing technologies, based on SMaRT’s  MICROfactorieTM concept.

The Hub is a collaboration with numerous industry partners and researchers from six other universities around Australia: University of Technology, Sydney; University of Sydney; Monash University; University of Wollongong; Queensland University of Technology; and Deakin University.


Figures from the federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (Clothing textiles - DCCEEW) show:

  • Australia is the second highest consumer of textiles per person in the world, after the United States of America.
  • Each Australian consumes an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing per year and disposes an average 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill each year, or 93 per cent of the textile waste we generate.
  • Second-hand clothing shops help reduce textiles waste to landfill.
  • Australia has 3,000 charity and social enterprise retailers that support 5,000 jobs, 33,000 volunteers, and 10,000 charity collection bins.
  • But more is needed to reduce clothing waste to landfill and the impacts of fast fashion.

In total, approximately 800,000 tonnes of textiles are sent to Australian landfills each year (and more has been historically sent overseas).

According to the World Economic Forum's recent report "Net-Zero Challenge: The supply chain opportunity", textiles and fashion supply chains are the third largest polluter globally and generate emissions which surpass those of the shipping and aviation industries combined.

In terms of battery waste, it is estimated that 18,600 tonnes of batteries – all of which are hazardous to some degrees – are discarded to landfill in Australia annually. Yet batteries are essential as the world transitions to renewable energy and Australia aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The federal National Battery Strategy released in February 2023 found that battery firming capacity is needed for the National Electricity Market to increase its use of renewables to 82 per cent by 2030. It says demand for batteries is forecast to accelerate by as much as tenfold over the next decade, which is more than solar photovoltaics grew over the past decade.

Prof. Sahajwalla said the Hub is developing microrecycling science to develop innovative solutions to obtain from waste batteries and consumer waste the valuable materials they contain so that the Hub’s end user partners can use these materials for different applications.

The Hub is making significant progress on its research and development program, with many scientific papers published in leading journals so far, helping to build a knowledge base for the goal of using wastes as a sustainable resource for future manufacturing needs.

The latest research coming out of SMaRT: https://www.smart.unsw.edu.au/publications.

Here is a recent Hub sponsored scientific paper: Recovery of rare earth metals from Ni-MH batteries: A comprehensive review', Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,178, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2023.113248

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