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IFM gains cash boost to uncover new uses for recycled materials

Two Institute for Frontier Materials projects to develop new uses for recycled waste have received close to $500,000 thanks to the Victorian Government’s Circular Economy Markets Fund.

Twenty projects across Victoria took a share of the $4.9 million fund, which is being distributed by Sustainability Victoria to support research institutes, industry and business to develop and commercialise new uses for recycled materials.

IFM’s first project, which received $284,553, will produce particles from textile waste and investigate a range of applications including pigments for printing/colouring textiles, vegan leather, and art.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Rangam Rajkhowa said his team’s project had the potential to divert coloured textile waste from landfill and activate new ways to use large volumes of recycled textiles. Approximately 100 million tonnes of textiles end up in landfill around the world, of which about 800,000 tonnes are in Australia. The project will run out of the new ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres that is based at IFM.

‘This project is based on our concept which received the H&M Foundation Global Change Award in 2017,’ Assoc. Prof. Rajkhowa said.

‘What we found was the particles produced from textile waste segregated by colour can be potentially used for a range of applications. This included pigments for printing/colouring textiles, vegan leather, and also to create art.’

Assoc. Prof. Rajkhowa and his team will explore cost effective ways to engineer particles with different properties using a range of textile waste.

‘We hope to demonstrate benefit to both the economy and the environment,” he said. “This simple but powerful approach could address the huge challenges of recycling textiles due to complexities of different colours, fibres and blends.’

The second project, which will receive $202,000, will demonstrate how used polypropylene paint containers, a difficult to recycle waste stream, can be recycled into functional and economically viable products.

The project will be led by Professor of Composite Materials Russell Varley and Dr Jane Zhang, who are both based at IFM’s Carbon Nexus facility.

‘Post-consumer polypropylene paint containers are a major source of plastic waste that are difficult to recycle efficiently and economically because they are highly contaminated with residual dried paint and other inorganic ingredients,’ Prof. Varley said.

‘This project will demonstrate that this waste stream can indeed be recycled and transformed into functional and economically viable products, extending service life and imparting value into waste plastic.

‘Furthermore, this project will divert waste from landfill and waterways helping to create a cleaner environment for all Victorians.’