Recycling Systems: Barriers and Enablers for Industrial Ecology in Australia

University of Queensland and Swinburne University of Technology

Project Leader: Dr Glen Corder (UQ)

Research Team: Prof Saleem Ali (UQ): Dr Daniel Franks (UQ); Dr Artem Golev (UQ); A/Prof Akbar Rhamdhani (Principal Investigator – SUT); Dr Abdul Khaliq (SUT), Prof Syed Masood (SUT); Prof Geoffrey Brooks (SUT)

The main outcomes from this research program will be the identification of the most favourable systems for recycling and industrial ecology and the articulation of barriers, enablers and policy options for deployment in Australia, with a particular emphasis on complex and high value materials. The Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM), a centre of the Sustainable Mining Institute at the University of Queensland (UQ), is leading this program and the Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences at Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) is a key research provider.

The research will focus on the analysis of regulatory, institutional and other non-technical barriers and enablers for existing and emerging recycling technologies and their associated collection systems. Through engagement with industry, government and research stakeholders, concerns and key issues will be isolated early on allowing mitigating strategies to be developed. Building on the UQ-CSIRO technology foresight work from the Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster (in which both CSRM at UQ and Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) at UTS were research providers), issues which could lead to a broad lack of societal trust or acceptance regarding new recycling technologies will be identified. The research will also focus on metals and alloys that have the potential to deliver the greatest value from recycling, informed by the foundation review and in consultation with CSIRO.  In addition, the research program will develop a business case for a pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of high value-add recycling in an Australian context.

The deliverables for the program comprise:

  • A comprehensive report on global systems for industrial ecology and recycling based on stakeholder consultation and review. The report will analyse the changing social, environmental and regulatory aspects of recycling technology and manufacturing processes. In light of the changing composition of waste streams, it will determine those that could enable greater levels of value from recycling in Australia as well as future research priorities for the sector.
  • A typology of options, characterising current and future opportunities for available recycling technology systems and their links by class of metal and product (e.g. e-waste, commercial and industrial, rare earths, gold steel, aluminium, other non-ferrous such as copper, nickel) and the role of mixed metals processing, differences between centralised or distributed processing and high priority opportunities for Australia.
  • A ‘maturity matrix’ analysis of Australia’s competitive position in the global value chain for selected metals – together with an analysis of current drivers from national product stewardship legislations to identify key opportunities for Australia and to provide guidance for overcoming barriers.
  • Targeted stakeholder workshops and consultation, leading to the development of a business case for a pilot/demonstration project for a high value option identified in the research as a post-cluster initiative.
Dr Glen Corder: 07 3346 4136;
Assoc. Prof M Akbar Rhamdhani: 03 9214 8528;