Australians must start treating waste as a resource rather than a problem, says recycling science expert Professor Veena Sahajwalla.
In a feature published today Professor Sahajwalla welcomed plans by Federal and State Governments to develop a so-called ‘circular economy’ but said Australians also need to change the way we think about waste.
The role of science to help drive a circular economy is just one of the issues that will be explored in a new initiative, Science for Australians, launched today by the Australian Academy of Science.
“Australians may be shocked to know that on average we each generate 2.7 tonnes of waste each year,” says Professor Sahajwalla, who is Director, Centre for Sustainable Materials, Research and Technology (SMART) at UNSW Sydney and Director of the NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network.
“But waste doesn’t mean rubbish! Among all that waste is an opportunity to reuse, recycle and reform the materials and products we no longer use for new applications.”
Professor Sahajwalla – who joins 200 leaders in Canberra tomorrow (Monday 2 March) for a national summit to discuss Australia’s plastic waste problem and identify new solutions to the challenge – has developed breakthrough micro-recycling technologies to reform waste into new materials and products.
Academy President Professor John Shine AC PresAA said the Science for Australians series will highlight how science benefits all Australians and how it can be used to inform policy.
“Australians are looking for trustworthy information and answers for how science can help in these challenging times we are facing as a nation. This is reflected in a record-breaking near 250,000 unique users to our website in January.”
The initiative will also include a series of features for policy makers to highlight the conditions that are needed to make science thrive in Australia.
“Globally STEM will play an increasingly important role in industry, in the economy and in the way communities shape their future. It is important that an environment is created within which we can support our scientific workforce, remain globally competitive, and ensure science and industry have the tools they need to work together and prosper,” says Professor Shine.
“As part of the initiative, the Academy will also invite discussion about issues that are important to building the capacity of science to support Australia now and into the future.”
Other topics to be explored in the Academy’s Science for Australians series include: How can science make our energy requirements more sustainable? Is gene editing food crops the only way to feed the population? How do we advance communications technologies and ensure national security is not compromised?
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