Deakin University scientists are exploring the possibilities of manufacturing artificial bones and medical tissues from materials that would usually end up in landfill.
The team from the university’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) is working on a raft of projects that plan a material’s life with a circular economy in mind.
IFM’s Circular Economy Strategy lead, Catherine McMahon, said Australia is in a recycling crisis because its current generation of materials was never designed to be recycled or repurposed.
Some of the ways Deakin University scientists are aiming to stop materials going to landfill is by turning end of life textiles into bone repair systems, used silk material into artificial blood vessels, waste material into fabric powder dyes and ordinarily discarded textile waste into leather interior alternatives for cars.
By approaching the design of a material with an idea of what it will become when it’s reincarnated, McMahon believes that IFM scientists are forging a new way to manage waste.
“Circular economy should be the new mainstream benchmark, just as recycling was in the early 1970s. Beyond the scientific community, there’s still a lack of understanding about how much waste comes from the current recycling process. That’s why communal thinking needs to be underpinned with a circular approach,” McMahon said.
Part of the process of redesigning textiles for a circular economy is ensuring that the maximum worth of a material is maintained, which is critical to addressing issues of pollution and waste around industries like fast-fashion, McMahon explained.
“Commonly found poly-cotton blends in clothing can be partially recycled, but the process leads to waste and devalues the material. Our researchers are designing materials that are made to separate once they are no longer fit for purpose so that all of the product is easily reused or biodegrades,” she said.