University to share in $40 million to combat plastic waste

13 December 2023
Sydney, Griffith, and Licella to collaborate
A new, government-funded co-operative research centre will transform how plastic is designed, used, and recycled to help address one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time.

L-R: Professor Ian Dagley, Griffith University, Minister for Industry and Science The Hon. Ed Husic, Dr Alex Yuen, University of Sydney, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston, University of Sydney.

The University of Sydney will share in $40 million granted by the Australian Government to combat the plastic waste crisis and create a circular economy that gives financial value to end-of-life plastics.

The Solving Plastic Waste Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) will involve Professor Thomas Maschmeyer and Dr Alex Yuen from the Faculty of Science, commercial partner Licella Holdings and will be led by Griffith University.

The funding will enable the transformation of how plastics are designed, manufactured, used and recycled, and will work to develop a solution to remove microplastic pollution in soil.

The University of Sydney’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Emma Johnston, said: “Tackling the plastic waste crisis is a key environmental challenge of our time. I am delighted that, thanks to generous funding from the Australian government, the University’s expertise will be leveraged to heed this pressing concern.”

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer from the School of Chemistry, Licella co-founder and member of the University of Sydney Nano Institute said: “The University of Sydney and its partner Licella Holdings have been engaged since 2007 to develop and commercialise the revolutionary Cat-HTR process, which allows the conversion of any plastic, including mixed end-of-life consumer plastic, into oils that can be returned to the petrochemical value chain creating new plastics, enabling true circularity.”

“They were joined in 2015 by its global licence holder (outside ANZ) and Joint Venture Partner MURA Technology who is currently deploying 5 scale projects outside ANZ. This CRC will help significantly to further improve and deploy the process, based on the fundamental scientific studies it enables, and strongly support Licella's local commercial efforts around two plants,” he said.

Dr Alex Yuen, Professor Maschmeyer's co-Chief Investigator from the University of Sydney said: "Advanced chemical recycling is a transformative technology by which we can truly keep plastics in the circular economy of the future, without compromising on materials’ performance or sustainability”.  

The announcement comes as part of a broader $127 government investment into tackling methane emissions and plastic pollution. The CRCs align with the National Reconstruction Fund’s priorities areas, as well as the Government’s broader ambitions to achieve net zero by 2050 and tackle plastic waste.

Minister for Industry and Science, The Hon. Ed Husic said: “The CRC Program is about transforming Australian know-how into practical outcomes for Australian businesses, and delivering economic, environmental, and social outcomes for Australia.”

“There are very few challenges more crucial than achieving net zero emissions and tackling plastic pollution. I wish these two new CRCs every success in achieving the important objectives they have set.”

Hero image: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston and Dr Alex Yuen with Minister for Industry and Science The Hon. Ed Husic, Professor Ian Dagley, Griffith University, and Dr William Rowlands and Andrea Polson, Licella Holdings.

Low Luisa

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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