From Trash to Treasures

Nearly 3.5 million tons of trash per day are generated around the world, a figure expected to jump to 6 million by 2025. As the world runs out of places to put its trash, scientists and nations, are scrambling to figure out what to do with it.

Enter Professor Veena Sahajwalla, the founding director of the Center for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Known as “The Queen of Waste,” her ideas about trash are revolutionizing recycling science and changing the way the world looks at garbage. She has a working strategy to put recycle-able trash, right back into the economy.

Sahajwalla has developed one process called Polymer Injection Technology, where steel is created from recycled tires. Known as “green steel” the invention won the Eureka Prize for scientific innovation in Australia and was later licensed to steel makers worldwide, saving millions of tires from landfills.

But she didn’t stop there. Sahajwalla went on to create a unique micro-factory model, to process waste at its source, with a series of small machines and devices that can be set up on site, turning trash into new and usable materials anywhere in the world.

Her first micro-factory was launched to convert electronic waste such as old laptops, cell phones, and circuit boards, into new products. The devices are broken down and scanned by a robotic module to identify usable parts. Metals are then extracted, while plastics are converted into filaments for 3D printing.

She launched a second micro-factory to transform waste materials
such as glass and textiles into industrial ceramic panels and tiles for use in building products and furniture.

Working in conjunction with industry, she intends to build these micro-factories across Australia, and then the world – to build a more sustainable future from
trash to treasures world-wide.