Research Week tackles Australia's expanding waste line

Managing our waste streams means finding ways to capture waste for production of composts, recycling, reduction and reuse in a coordinated way.

Two compelling events held at Western Sydney University's Hawkesbury campus during Research Week brought together a diverse group of researchers, local organisations and members of the public to discuss the rising challenge of waste management and increasing tensions between people and biodiversity in our urban environments.

On Friday 26 October, the University hosted 'Embracing the value of waste' and ‘Biodiversity resilience in Sydney and Surrounds’.

Associate Professor Jeff Powell, from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment,  said the events highlighted the need for systemic and transdisciplinary approaches to address problems such as waste and biodiversity loss.

"What makes these issues so difficult to solve is the fact that there are so many interests that are poorly co-ordinated, and many stakeholders are primarily motivated by their own needs and objectives," said Associate Professor Powell, who is the University's Environment and Sustainability Research Theme Champion.

"The value of biodiversity in our cities and the usefulness of items that end up in waste streams is often not recognised. Recognising this value can lead to healthier and more resilient communities. Our goal with these events in Research Week is really to spark a coordinated approach between researchers, governments, private enterprise, policymakers and legislators, and community members together with a strategy and a shared set of interests."

Associate Professor Powell said the events highlighted that there is growing interest in understanding these complex challenges and working together to bring many disciplines together to create change better than could be solved by any individual.

Some of the proposed solutions to these issues discussed at the forums included:

  • better coordination among many responsible agencies in cities that will help to identify incentives that can recognise the value of biodiversity, as well as engagement with citizen scientists
  • more effective use of existing resources through reduced environmental extraction, more efficient reuse and recycling, and better capture of useable materials out of waste streams
  • wider input from across the disciplines about solving these problems with real innovation in systems and circular economics that puts value onto every part of the production to reuse cycle.

Waste management and sustainability are two key themes of the University's new awareness campaign, Earth IQ. Through multimedia storytelling, expert commentary and activations, Earth IQ is both a beginner’s guide to climate change, and a way of inspiring a generation to embrace more mindful and sustainable living, one carbon footprint at a time!

The university is one of only 10 universities in the region committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and one of only four universities appointed by the UN as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.

Find out more at (opens in a new window) or follow the conversation using #EarthIQ.


29 October 2018

David Thompson, Research Media and Communications Officer
Ph: 0429 951 552