Landfill waste crisis the focus of new research hub

Thursday, 02 July, 2020

Landfill waste crisis the focus of new research hub

A new research hub designed to address Australia’s overflowing landfill waste is now being developed.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced the $18 million collaboration, which will see the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Hub focus on reducing landfill waste — as well as transforming reclaimed waste into new materials for use in construction and other manufacturing sectors.

Australia’s landfill space is expected to reach capacity by 2025, with roughly 67 million tonnes of waste generated every year and 30% of that waste going to landfill.

The ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transformation of Reclaimed Waste Resources to Engineered Materials and Solutions for a Circular Economy (TREMS) will address the urgent waste crisis in Australia.

The new research hub will involve leading scientists, researchers and industrial experts from nine Australian universities and 36 state, industry and international partners, and will be led by RMIT University.

The hub will draw from expertise across multiple disciplines, including civil, chemical, materials and construction engineering, artificial intelligence, behavioural sciences, environmental procurements, and policies and standards.

RMIT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation and Vice-President, Professor Calum Drummond, said the hub would deliver novel solutions for reclaiming Australia’s waste resources and position Australia as a leader in research contributing to a circular economy.

“At RMIT we work closely with industry and other partners to tackle complex environmental, economic and social issues,” he said.

“We are proud to be leading such a globally significant research hub that will help transformation towards a circular economy and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”

Minister Tehan said the research hub will undertake research with applications in the real world.

“Our government is investing in research that will foster strategic partnerships between university-based researchers and industry organisations, to find practical solutions to challenges facing Australian industry,” he said.

RMIT Professor Sujeeva Setunge, TREMS research hub lead, said the multisector collaboration would focus on holistic solutions to address the waste crisis, co-designed in partnership with stakeholders.

“Our investigations will include changing behaviours, smart designs to minimise waste, optimum processing of waste and converting waste to energy, developing novel materials using recycling and upcycling technologies, and metrics and tools to encourage uptake of new materials and solutions,” she said.

“There is currently a material shortage for Australia’s $14 billion heavy construction industry, so this research to reclaim waste and transform it into new materials will deliver benefits both economically and environmentally.”

Partnering closely with the Deputy Director of the TREMS hub, University of Melbourne Professor Priyan Mendis, Professor Setunge said she is looking forward to working with local, national and international partners and acknowledged existing long-term collaborations with the Cities of Brimbank, Kingston and Hobsons Bay, as well as the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The new hub will focus on 10 challenging waste streams: textile waste, biomass, tyres, glass, paper and cardboard, construction and demolition waste, fly ash, plastics, biochar and timber.

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