USQ receives funding to tackle Australia's waste problem

University of Southern Queensland

Friday, 17 September, 2021

USQ receives funding to tackle Australia's waste problem

Australia has a 74-million-tonne garbage problem and a whopping 40% ends up in landfill. At the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), a research team is developing a local solution to this $189 million problem.

Federal Minister for Education Alan Tudge has announced $2 million for the university-led ‘New Options for Waste and Saving the Environment’ (NO WASTE) precinct project, a Toowoomba- and Ipswich-based pilot to refresh recycling and upcycling processes. It will be funded through the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s $40 million Strategic University Reform Fund, designed to help universities find innovative solutions for local communities.

USQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor John Bell said the team would establish a precinct to work with local industries, governments and communities.

“This is a great opportunity to grow general waste reduction initiatives and to cement these into a strong research grouping in the region,” Prof Bell said.

“Using a regional test case, the project will help reform current methods into a more efficient industry that is scalable and transferrable to other local communities nationally and globally.”

Co-project lead Dr Polly Burey said the team would create a circular economy model to deal with waste such as mixed plastics, glass, fibre, waxed cardboard/paper and rubber (including foams).

“We’re pinpointing the best way to work together to make commercial and residential recycling and upcycling profitable, maximising returns to incentivise widespread participation,” Dr Burey said.

“Our partners represent key parts of the value chain when it comes to a circular economy — local retail entities (Grand Central Shopping Centre), manufacturing industries, technical specialists and education providers.”

Co-lead researcher Dr Tristan Shelley said the collaboration would utilise localised micro-processing capability for converting challenging waste streams into novel products.

“We aim to drive innovation in the circular economy by extending our knowledge in the field of waste materials from processing to final product engineering,” he said.

“This team is well-placed given the university’s existing expertise in advanced manufacturing, civil engineering and construction, accelerated processing of polymeric materials, sustainable energy, chemical and materials engineering, sensor technology, and entrepreneurship.”

Image caption: Researchers Dr Polly Burey and Dr Tristan Shelley with Grand Central Shopping Centre Operations Manager Simon Wilkinson.

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