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Helping the next generation to be as sharp as cut glass

Celebrating National Science Week 2022.
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The schools’ theme of this year’s National Science Week (Aug 13 – 20) is ‘Glass: more than meets the eye’.

It’s a theme that circular economy modelling researcher, Dr Jessica Pahl lives every day as part of the University of Southern Queensland’s New Options for Waste And Saving The Environment (NO WASTE) pilot precinct.

NO WASTE aims to design a sustainable future with ‘no waste’, through partnered research, education and employment initiatives.

Funded by a $2m grant from the Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF), administered by the Federal Department of Education the project’s initial focus is on glass, plastics and rubber.

As part of the NO WASTE team, Dr Pahl’s focus is pathways for glass – looking at what’s currently classified as recyclable, how much goes to landfill, how much is recovered and how much could be transformed into new products.

“Queensland Government data from 2018-2019 shows that only 38% of glass products are being recycled, and that’s only counting what is actually going through state government facilities,” she said.

“The NO WASTE project is looking at ways to increase the secondary uses of products like glass, and value-add in an economically viable way.

“There’s so much that hasn’t been considered yet and as part of this project nothing is off the table – we’re exploring lots of novel things which makes it a very exciting project.”

The NO WASTE team are also engaging with school aged children between Prep and Year 10 at school throughout the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley region in an effort to get the next generation thinking about how to reduce waste and learn about different types of glass.

As part of National Science Week, NO WASTE lead researcher Associate Professor Polly Burey from the Centre for Future Materials will visit Prep students to discuss the project.

“Focusing on the theme of National Science Week, it’s really important that school students are aware that glass isn’t just used for bottles,” she said.

“There’s fibreglass, which is more than just insulation, windscreen glass, skyscraper glass – and none of it can be treated the same way when it gets to a Materials Recovery Facility, due to the different composition of these glasses.

“We’ve had some great conversations and engagement, especially around engineering applications and how to classify glass types.

“Each of these interactions with school-aged children are priceless opportunities to work on our core end goal – reducing waste and determining the potential use for Queensland’s current waste load.”

Find out more about the NO WASTE Pilot Precinct and its focus on converting Australia’s unrecovered waste into value-added products and creating employment. 

woman smiling in lab
It’s a theme that circular economy modelling researcher, Dr Jessica Pahl lives every day as part of the University of Southern Queensland’s New Options for Waste And Saving The Environment (NO WASTE) pilot precinct.