The Futures of Waste - Keynote Address

Photo credit: Brett Cole - Scrap leather waiting to be burned in furnaces in the  East Kolkata Wetlands, near the rural town of Bantala, Kolkata, India

With Professor Veena Sahajwalla, SMaRT Centre, UNSW


Thursday 8 September

6.00 - 7.15pm

Podcast available HERE

The role of sustainability and materials in the new innovation economy: Green Materials from Waste Resources

Waste materials are a growing concern for societies all around the world. The traditional method of recycling waste into similar items of a lesser value needs to be re-imagined. Far greater environmental and economic impacts can be achieved by “greening” the industrial processes that deliver the materials, components and products that our mass, global markets demand; thereby potentially reducing the environmental footprint of everything around us.

This can be achieved by rethinking the energy, raw materials, resources and inputs we use in manufacturing. What if we could derive many of the same resources from waste? Instead of viewing waste as a growing global burden, we could consider the significant financial and environmental savings to be had by ‘mining’ the world’s landfills. The world’s waste mountains are packed with useful elements like carbon, hydrogen, silica, titania and metals that we would otherwise source from virgin raw materials. By redirecting waste, as a valuable resource, back into our industrial processes we can transform it in the production of previously unimaginable value-added materials and products, simultaneously delivering both new economic value and environmental benefits.

This Keynote is part of a suite of events examining the topic: 'Futures of Waste', which you may also be interested in attending. Please see below for more information.

Veena is an ARC Laureate Fellow and founding Director of the Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT) Centre at the University of New South Wales, Australia. As one of the world's leading innovators in the field of sustainable materials and an international award-winning scientist and engineer, she is passionate about transforming waste produced by modern society into value added green materials.

Her research in partnership with industry partners, including OneSteel – has resulted in a world-first, patented, environmentally-friendly process called Polymer Injection Technology.   

This technology is for recycling end-of-life plastics/rubber in electric arc furnace steelmaking, resulting in the production of ‘Green Steel’. This work is making a contribution towards creating innovative, green manufacturing, science and technology for the building and construction sectors as well as consumer products. Her leadership of the SMaRT Centre is resulting in developing a global change in sustainable materials and the how we value and reduce waste in the future.

Among a number of national and international awards Veena: has been recognised as one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers by Engineers Australia (2016); was awarded Innovation Winner of the Australian Financial Review (2015); and acknowledged at Westpac's 100 Women of Influence awards. In 2012 she was named Overall Winner of the Australian Innovation Challenge, and was presented with a Banksia Award and the GE Eco Innovation Award for Individual Excellence. While already well-known and highly respected within her own sphere, Veena became one of Australia’s best-known scientists and inventors through her regular appearances as a judge on the long-running ABC TV series The New Inventors. As well as having a strong publication record, she has delivered a high number of keynotes, invited speeches and guest lectures at some of the most prestigious research gatherings and conferences across the world. 

She became a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) in 2007 and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, in 2005. In 2015 she was selected as an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Engineers, Australia.

'Futures of Waste' Events

Futures of Waste - public seminar
Thursday 8 September

12.00-5.30pm, Bradley Forum, level 5 Hawke Building

The Seminar will address both the problem and potential solutions to our current waste crisis. There will also be a special roundtable on the ‘Circular Economy’ with a guest appearance (by video) of Walter Stahel, pioneer thinker in this growing field. The seminar will precede and complement the exhibition and will include:

  • A relaunch of China Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development (12.30pm)
  • A Program of Presentations on new approaches to the waste problem (1-3.30pm)
  • A recorded interview with Walter Stahel, founder of the Circular Econonmy (4.00-4.30pm)
  • An expert panel Roundtable on the Circular Economy (4.30-5.30pm)

'Futures of Waste: Photographic Perspectives' exhibition
Exhibition dates: Wednesday 7 September - Friday 7 October
Exhibition launch: Thursday 8 September, 7.15pm

Exhibiting works from international and award-winning photographic artists, photo-journalists and scientists reflecting the scale and impacts of the global waste crisis.

The launch will include an address by Vaughan Levitzke, PSM, CE, Green Industries SA (incorporating Zero Waste SA). 

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Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and supported by Green Industries SA, and UniSA's China Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development and the Divisions of Education, Arts and Social Sciences and Information Technology, Engineering and Environment.


While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangement.


While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.