We are wasting our waste, particularly our industrial waste, University of Sydney chemical engineering experts say.
According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the nation’s waste generation almost doubled in the decade 1997 to 2007.
The bulk of the waste is coming from the commercial and industrial sectors and from construction and demolition, according to Professor Dianne Wiley, head of the University of Sydney’s School of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering.
“We need to boost efforts to unlock the value of the underused resources going to landfill, converting them into safe, high-value chemicals and products for use in industry and our homes, ” she said.
Director of the university’s laboratory for multiscale systems Associate Professor Ali Abbas said new technologies were needed for the sustainable processing of industrial waste or by-products.
The professor is working with Delta Electricity on solutions to increase the recycling of fly ash – a by-product of coal combustion.
“We could be recycling fly ash en masse using it as a supplement in concrete mix and its manufacture,” Prof Abbas said.
“Delta currently recycles 25 per cent of the fly ash produced into the cementitious product market. The development of new concrete mix materials creates an opportunity to increase this reuse.
“Concrete containing fly ash can be crushed and reused in a range of civil and structural applications.
“How many of us now routinely purchase a petrol blend at the pump that contains 10 percent ethanol as a more sustainable and renewable alternative? The concept of using a concrete blend containing 10 percent reused fly ash could become something industry can easily adopt.”
Professor Abbas said Australia’s construction, demolition and power sectors accounted for more than a third of the country’s waste and industry could not continue to rely on landfill as the primary means of waste disposal.
The School of Chemical Engineering aims to establish a national waste transformation research hub.