Apartment made from waste glass and textiles showcases “green” ceramics

Image credit: UNSW

An industry-first apartment made using waste materials has been revealed by the UNSW SMaRT Centre and industry partner Mirvac.

At the unveiling of the revolutionary Pavilions apartment at Sydney Olympic Park, attended by NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, industry leaders had a glimpse into the future – flooring, wall tiles, kitchen and lighting features, and furniture and artworks, made from waste glass and textiles.

The ‘green ceramics’, used for the first time as a construction material, are the result of a collaboration that began in 2019 between Mirvac and the UNSW Centre of Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT), led by UNSW Professor Veena Sahajwalla, a global pioneer in waste technology.

The first collaboration was a successful pilot project involving the NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network (NSW Circular), an initiative of the NSW government Office of Chief Scientist & Engineer and hosted by UNSW Sydney. The pilot demonstration site was at Marrick & Co, a state of the art Mirvac community living and apartment complex in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville. Display apartment furnishings were made from SMaRT Centre’s green ceramics MICROfactorie technology. This next collaboration with Mirvac is part of the green ceramics commercialisation journey which is supported by funding from the NSW government’s Physical Sciences Fund.

The Mirvac CEO and managing director, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, told the gathering of property, construction, design and sustainability leaders that it was time for the industry to find a more sustainable way to build.

“Every year, an estimated 11 billion tonnes of waste are sent to landfill globally. Ninety-two billion tonnes of materials are extracted, with buildings responsible for around 50 per cent of global materials used,” Lloyd-Hurwitz said.

“In Australia, the building industry is responsible for around 60 per cent of the waste we generate. At Pavilions, we have been able to demonstrate a better way to build, using reformed waste, which not only helps our industry but provides a valuable second life for the mountains of glass and clothing, much of which would otherwise find its way to landfill.

“The ‘take, make waste’ approach is no longer acceptable, and we are working hard to find a better, more sustainable way to provide Australians with homes and office buildings that are kinder to the planet.

“Our collaboration with Professor Sahajwalla’s team at the SMaRT Centre makes a valuable contribution to our Planet Positive strategy to send zero waste to landfill by 2030.

“Just as important, we are demonstrating to the broader industry that there are viable commercial and sustainable alternatives that can lead to a more sustainable future, where we consider the whole life cycle of the resources and materials we use in housing and construction.”

Sahajwalla, who is the Director of the SMaRT Centre, said she was delighted that Mirvac was so committed to sustainability and she was impressed the company was prepared to take risks to find new purposes for materials that can end up in landfill.

“Mirvac is a true industry leader and I commend Sue and her team for being part of the journey to help society create a materials revolution where we start to think of, and treat and reform, waste as a renewable resource,” Sahajwalla said.