Professor Veena Sahajwalla, a pioneer of a new generation of ‘green’ materials and sustainable products, was one of four researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney to receive the Australian Museum’s Eureka Award last night 2022.

Professor Sahajwalla won the Celestino Eureka Award for Promoting Understanding of Science for her work in communicating sustainability science to a broad community audience.

Through her research and community and industry engagement, Prof. Sahajwalla is changing the mindset of the nation to view unwanted materials not as waste, but as a valuable resource.

“It is an incredible honor to receive the 2022 Eureka Award for Promoting the Understanding of Science. It is such a privilege to be able to share with the wider community the important role science plays in our daily lives” , she said.

“Without science, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy most of the things we now take for granted. Science has become far more mainstream than ever, and its role in finding solutions to issues like COVID-19 and our pressing waste, sustainability and climate challenges, has created a thirst for knowledge and broader optimism.

“I and the team at the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology Center (SMaRT@UNSW) are dedicated to working with community and industry to address the challenges we face to help achieve better social, environmental and economic outcomes.

Professor Sahajwalla invented the polymer injection technology known as ‘green steel’, a process for using scrap tires in steel production. In 2018, the world’s first MICROfactory, which can transform electronic waste components such as discarded smart phones and laptops into valuable materials for reuse, was launched at the SMaRT Center.

The plant was the first in a series of micro-factories to transform a variety of waste streams such as glass, plastic and wood into commercial materials and products.

Talk with Waste Management Review earlier this year, Professor Sahajwalla said recycling is not the end of the game, it’s just the beginning.

“We should say ‘is there a better way to do things?’ For me, the best way has to be in the interest of humanity,” she said.

“As I engage with many people every day, I see that these issues are generating a groundswell that we should embrace to help our society collectively address the challenges we face, to improve our environmental well-being, social and economic.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, the UNSW Kirby Institute, won the Eureka Award for Leadership in Science and Innovation; researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, part of the ‘NanoMslide’ group, comprising La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, have won the ANSTO Eureka Award for Innovative Use of technology; and The Environment Recovery Project, comprising PhD student Casey Kirchhoff, Dr Mark Ooi, Associate Professor Will Cornwell, Professor Richard Kingsford and PhD student Thomas Mesaglio, won the Eureka Prize from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources for Innovation in Citizen Science.

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