Working with University of Sydney to invent the future of waste management

Recently three of Cleanaway NSW’s recycling and education experts attended a session at University of Sydney to present on the waste industry as part of the ‘Inventing the Future’ program, for the best and brightest Masters and PhD students from the faculties of Business, Science, Engineering and Design.


Waste has proven a highly engaging topic for the students and has drawn the most teams from the issues available to investigate. Michael McNamara, Regional Recycling Manager, Michelle Mandl-Keating, NSW Education Manager and Alex Hatherly, Sydney C&I Regional Manager delivered a presentation to students covering two problem areas for waste – blood contaminated soft plastics that result due to meat manufacturing processes and the down-cycling of food grade glass.


Blood contaminated soft plastics have proven a challenging waste to deal with at any manufacturing site due to the health and hygiene requirements of food manufacturing locations. Food grade glass, such as bottles and jars are difficult to deal with for the purposes of recycling due to mixing of colours and breakage of glass into pieces too small to be optically sorted. As a result sorting glass by colour and ensuring the material is contamination free is very difficult. As a result, this glass will likely be ‘down-cycled’ instead of recycled and used as an alternate substance in road manufacture.


Students were provided details about these issues and were able to engage with Cleanaway’s experts in a lengthy Q&A session. Michael McNamara, as Cleanaway’s senior national leader in resource recovery and recycling brought over 36 years’ experience and knowledge to the discussion that assisted the students comprehend the depth of the issues they are now going to investigate.


As an industry partner keen to provide the students with motivation to innovate and create a solution, Cleanaway‘s Environment Fund will offer a $5,000 award to the group that can prototype a solution that creates a significant carbon mitigation opportunity if developed.


Students will now work in their teams until November to develop a solution that really ‘invents the future’ and potentially changes the way we create and deal with waste not just in Australia, but internationally.


The semester-long program looks to industry partnerships to provide students with real world problems to solve. Students are then placed into interdisciplinary teams of 3-4 students to ‘invent the future’ and solve the problem.