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AQ: Australian Quarterly - - BIG CHALLENGES, MICRO SOLUTIONS -

UNSW'S Cen­tre for Sus­tain­able Ma­te­ri­als Re­search and Tech­nol­ogy (SMART) Cen­tre is col­lab­o­rat­ing with var­i­ous busi­nesses and or­gan­i­sa­tions to help trans­late our re­cy­cling and re­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy into com­mer­cial re­al­ity.

In one ex­am­ple, we are part­ner­ing with dis­rup­tive glasses man­u­fac­turer and re­tailer Dres­den to de­sign, build and test the man­u­fac­ture of spec­ta­cles from waste plas­tic such as ny­lon from fish­ing nets, milk bot­tle lids, Lego pieces and other com­monly dis­carded items.

Dres­den, its com­mer­cial part­ners, and UNSW re­cently suc­cess­fully ap­plied for a $2.7 mil­lion grant from the Fed­eral Depart­ment of Busi­ness's Co­op­er­ate Re­search Cen­tre pro­gram to build a fully au­to­mated man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre where re­cy­cled waste plas­tics are trans­formed into high qual­ity, stylish, low-cost spec­ta­cle frames of ex­cep­tional dura­bil­ity. 11

The novel plas­tic re­cy­cling tech­nol­ogy has the po­ten­tial to be ap­plied more widely to pro­duce other high per­for­mance prod­ucts whilst re­duc­ing waste and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion. While Dres­den cur­rently uses some re­formed waste plas­tic in its frames, the chal­lenge for UNSW'S SMART as part of this pro­gram, is to de­velop a re­li­able way to use 100 per cent waste plas­tic in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process that is a sim­pli­fied and closed loop with zero waste. The project part­ners re­cently com­menced the project and aim to con­clude it by achiev­ing the aim to have de­vel­oped a full com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity.

In other ex­am­ples, SMART is separately col­lab­o­rat­ing with Planet Ark12 and Ne­spresso13 on two projects re­lated to the waste from cof­fee drink­ing. With Planet Ark, we are col­lab­o­rat­ing to find and de­velop new end uses for cof­fee waste and to trial them in po­ten­tial man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses.

And with Ne­spresso, we are look­ing at ways to cap­ture and col­lect cof­fee capsules to re­form the met­als into valu­able ma­te­ri­als for re­use. We are look­ing at a new process that does not in­volve a tra­di­tional smelt­ing pro­cesses that are ex­pen­sive, com­plex, and un­able to meet the dy­namic needs of smaller scale pro­cesses to re­form waste into high value ma­te­ri­als.

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