UNSW green steel inventor named NSW Australian of the Year

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

University of New South Wales materials scientist Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been named the New South Wales Australian of the Year in recognition of her innovative recycling and green manufacturing work. She is best known for her invention of Polymer Injection Technology, or ‘Green Steel’.

The UNSW Scientia Professor founded the university’s Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre in 2008, going on to pioneer the transformation of waste to new green materials and products.

These include green ceramics made from recycled glass and textiles, 3D printing filaments from plastics salvaged from ewaste, and acoustic panels made from coffee grounds.

UNSW Scientia Professor and SMaRT Centre director Veena Sahajwalla

“I couldn’t believe I was nominated, let alone win the title of the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year. It is such a privilege to receive this award, and to live, work and have a family in Australia,” Professor Sahajwalla said.

“This means so much to me and is a reflection on the wonderful people I’ve had around me. I am so passionate about my work and team at the UNSW SMaRT Centre, where we have been pioneering the science of microrecycling and developing new ‘waste to product’ technologies.”

Professor Sahajwalla and the SMaRT centre are finalists in the research translation category of the 2021 InnovationAus Awards.

The NSW Australian of the Year winners were announced at a ceremony on Monday night.

Islamic Women’s Welfare Association president Abla Kadous was awarded New South Wales Senior Australian of the Year and Founder of Street Side Medics, Dr Daniel Nour won New South Wales Young Australian of the Year, while Sober in the Country chief executive Shanna Whan was named New South Wales Local Hero.

State Premier Dominic Perrottet congratulated the winners.

“Each of the NSW recipients have been nominated due to their impact and making real life differences to the community in a range of fields. From instrumental roles in science and engineering, establishing not-for-profit welfare services for people in need, healthcare for the vulnerable and creating lifesaving campaigns and charities – they have all demonstrated an outstanding spirit of service to our nation.” Mr Perrottet said.

The four recipients will join other state and territory Australian of the year winners for the national awards ceremony in Canberra on 25 January 2022.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

1 Comment
  1. Nichole 2 years ago

    I wish there was some way to bring this technological invention of Green Steel over to the United States to totally transform the way we view recycling. In the area where I live, it is difficult to recycle tires, you have to pay someone to dispose of them and this prompts people to leave them discarded on the side of the road. Veena Sahajwalla has done with her knowledge and expertise that which I had dreamed but could only imagine would happen far into the future. I had long ago thought that there must be a better way to look at recycling to take it into these smaller particles though it does appear that some have criticized that these small pellets being generated from some recycled materials are themselves pollutants. I think Sahajwalla’s ideas take recycling to a whole new level because we can take something and rather than find ways of taking the original product and finding some other use for it in its original form, we can break it down into a whole new form like with her Green Steel and the other ideas that she has brought forward for building materials like floor tiles. These are the kinds of things that will reduce our landfills. We currently are trying to recycle tires in the United States by retreading them and reusing them, breaking them down and putting them in playgrounds, things like this, but I do not see any facilities popping up where these micro recycling facilities can be set up near dumping grounds and landfills so that people can go and really see the fruits of their labors, if you will. If people can see okay, if I take my tires here they can be used to make steel for buildings, this is something that will transform our environments. I am very interested in this as a business model for recycling efforts. I would love to know how to get one of these micro facilities set up in my area. We have a landfill that is almost an hour away and our environmental services provider will not pick up tires or let us drop them at one of their local sites. I see tires being dumped and just think it would be great to have one of these recycling facilities here in my area of Texas. I have tried reaching out to leaders here and most say they will pass this along but there appears to be no movement in this direction, it seems like a no brainer and a revolutionary change in the right direction. I just wish I had the skills and know how to start one of these businesses up myself.

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