New Research Hub to tackle global waste crisis

RMIT’s Professor Sujeeva Setunge will lead the TREMS research hub.

A major new Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Hub will focus on reducing landfill waste and transforming reclaimed waste into new materials for use in construction and other manufacturing sectors.

Australia’s landfill space is expected to reach capacity by 2025, with roughly 67 million tonnes of waste generated every year, and 30% of that waste going to landfill.

The ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transformation of Reclaimed Waste Resources to Engineered Materials and Solutions for a Circular Economy (TREMS) will address the urgent waste crisis in Australia.

Minister for Education, the Honourable Dan Tehan announced the $18 million collaboration today.

The new research hub will involve leading scientists, researchers and industrial experts from nine Australian universities and 36 state, industry and international partners and will be led by RMIT University.

The hub will draw from expertise across multiple disciplines including civil, chemical, materials and construction engineering, artificial intelligence, behavioural sciences, environmental procurements and policies and standards.

RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation and Vice-President Professor Calum Drummond said the hub would deliver novel solutions for reclaiming Australia’s waste resources and position Australia as a leader in research contributing to a circular economy.

“At RMIT we work closely with industry and other partners to tackle complex environmental, economic and social issues,” he said.

“We are proud to be leading such a globally significant research hub that will help transformation towards a circular economy and contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

RMIT’s Professor Sujeeva Setunge will lead the TREMS research hub.

Minister Tehan said the research hub will undertake research with applications in the real world.

“Our Government is investing in research that will foster strategic partnerships between university-based researchers and industry organisations, to find practical solutions to challenges facing Australian industry,” Mr Tehan said.

TREMS research hub lead, RMIT Professor Sujeeva Setunge said the multi-sector collaboration would focus on holistic solutions to address the waste crisis, co-designed in partnership with stakeholders.

“Our investigations will include changing behaviours, smart designs to minimise waste, optimum processing of waste and converting waste to energy, developing novel materials using recycling and upcycling technologies, and metrics and tools to encourage uptake of new materials and solutions,” she said.

“There is currently a material shortage for Australia’s $14 billion heavy construction industry, so this research to reclaim waste and transform it into new materials will deliver benefits both economically and environmentally.”

Partnering closely with Deputy Director of the TREMS Hub, University of Melbourne Professor Priyan Mendis, Setunge said she is looking forward to working with local, national and international partners and acknowledged existing long-term collaborations with the Cities of Brimbank, Kingston and Hobsons Bay, as well as the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The new hub will focus on 10 challenging waste streams: textile waste; biomass; tyres; glass; paper and cardboard; construction and demolition waste; fly ash; plastics; biochar and timber.

Australian university partners:

University of Melbourne, Deakin University, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales, Western Sydney University, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland.

International university partners:

Lulea University of Technology; University of Huddersfield, UK; University of Texas, Arlington; Hokkaido University, Japan.

State partners:

Brimbank City Council, Kingston City Council, Hobsons Bay City Council, Department of Treasury and Finance, Geelong Manufacturing Council, Department of Environment and Science, Sustainability Victoria, Tweed Shire Council, Environment Protection Authority Victoria, Geelong Manufacturing Council, Municipal Association of Victoria.

Industry partners:

AGL Energy Limited; ARRB Group Ltd; ARUP PTY Limited; Ash Development Association of Australia; Australasian Circular Textile Association; Bioelektra Australia Pty Ltd; Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia; Composite Reinforcement Solutions (CRS) Pty Ltd; Downer EDI Works Pty Ltd; Future Innovative Technology; Halok Pty Ltd; Inconmat Australia; Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia QLD Division Inc; Lichenergy Pty Ltd; Macdonald Lucas Pty Ltd; Ouroborus Pty Ltd; Rocket C Pty Ltd; Sebastian Property Services Pty Ltd; Shenzhen Yuezhong Green Building Sc-Tech Development Co Ltd; Tyre Stewardship Australia Ltd; Universal Vortex Industries Pty Ltd; Wuhan Geoyuan Geotechnical Engineering Co Ltd.

Media requests: +61 439 704 077 or news@rmit.edu.au

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