Innovation and Technology (Newcrest Mining Ltd)
Circular Economy in Textiles Industry

Are you eligible for Breaking Barriers Category:

SUMMARY

Globally, 53 million tonnes of fibres are consumed annually, which makes clothing production to be responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of wastewater. 

Australia is the second-highest consumer of textiles in the world with a discarding rate of 15 tonnes every 10 minutes with an annual textile and clothing waste volume of 800,000 tonnes. Each Australian consumes an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing and disposes an average of 23 kilograms of clothing to landfills each year, or 93% of the textile waste we generate, while the recycling rate in Australia is as low as 7% according to the most recent National Waste Report. 

This research offers an eco-friendly, inexpensive scalable solution to recover natural and synthetic fibres with the same quality as virgin materials from a wide range of discarded textiles and closes the reusing cycle by bringing the fibres back into textile manufacturing.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

As Queensland’s population grows and textiles consumption increases, there is an ongoing need for effective, fit-for-purpose textiles recycling technologies and resources recovery pathways and solutions. 

Moreover, most of the current recycling technologies are not environmentally friendly methods or they downcycle the textile waste which decreases the value of fibres. these technologies are short term solutions, and the products or by-products of such methods will eventually end up in landfills. 

At the moment, there are not enough commercially scalable recycling technologies available in Queensland to recover resources and answer this high recycling demand.  Resources recovery from textiles waste will reduce the amount of waste, recover valuable raw materials, produce high-value ready to use products and generate economic benefits for Queensland. 

The energy consumption of fibres recovery from textile wastes such as cotton and polyester, which are the most common forms of textiles, is about 50 times lower than the reproduction of such materials from the original sources which reduces the raw material price for textile manufacturers in Queensland.  

Preserving water resources in Queensland is also another benefit of textile fibres recovery. About 40% of cotton farms in Australia are in Queensland and cotton is currently the major agricultural crop grown in many rural and remote regions of this state. Cotton is known as one of the thirstiest crops to grow. It takes an average of 20,000 litres of water to cultivate just one kilogram of raw cotton, this amount of cotton is only enough for one t-shirt and a pair of jeans!  Therefore, high-quality cotton fibre recovery from waste textiles is highly beneficial to saving water resources in Queensland.

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)

As a woman who works as a minority in the engineering field, I believe role models matter especially for women and it will significantly increase the positive impact of expectations of success on STEM choices. I consider myself a strong role model for girls and women aspiring to work in STEM because firstly, I have overcome various social and political barriers in my home country to pursue an education in STEM. Secondly, I have thrived towards high educational attainment in this field in order to be provided with opportunities to build my dream career in STEM.

I have high moral values and I always try to practice what I preach, which requires honesty and ethical behaviour. I am positive, confident, and committed to my desired goals and my passion to succeed inspires young girls to follow through and reach the goals they set for themselves. 

I would like to send this message to girls and women that it is possible to achieve your greatest goals beyond any limitations including gender, race, and socioeconomic status. I believe it is empowering for young girls especially, to have women role models in fields/work roles which have been stereotyped as a gender-specific fields such as engineering. Another step toward building an equal community is for females to have a good understanding of their rights and opportunities and practice taking responsibilities while they’re pursuing their rights.

ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

I chose a career in STEM because I always had a passion for science and maths in school. My chemistry and mathematics teachers were all women who I looked up to which influenced me whether I knew it or not. When I was in my last year of high school and applying for universities, my family, didn’t support the idea of me applying for male-dominated majors like engineering, but despite all the concerns, I chose my favourite major i.e., chemical engineering, for my future career, and I believe this is where my STEM journey truly began. 

What drove me to the ultimate choice for my future field of research, i.e. Environmental Engineering was my bachelor's research project, for which I carried out a feasibility study on the removal of environmentally toxic materials. Exploring different aspects of the subject made me firm on my decision, to the point that I chose to study for my master’s in the same field. Master admission with honours in my favourite major (Chemical/Environmental Engineering) motivated me to work even harder in this stage. After graduation, in 2014, I started working as a chemical engineer and practised my engineering skills in a branch of an international company (SGS) which helped me to have a better understanding of industrial applications. 

During my working life as an engineer at both an academic and industry level, gender discrimination has been common and has had harmful psychological effects on me and other women in STEM. However, with the continuous effort and support from my family and supervisors, I didn’t give up and I worked even harder to achieve my dreams including pursuing my educational goals. 

In 2017, I received Postgraduate Research Award (QUTPRA) from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia to start my PhD studies in “waste management”. During my PhD, I worked with several industries to find sustainable and clever solutions to manage the generated waste and also preserve natural resources, which was beneficial for both industry and academia. Fruitful findings from this project led to a CRC grant for the development of SmartCrete concrete in collaboration with several companies including Zeolite Australia and Boral. Having presented a part of my PhD findings at a conference, held by Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) -University of Queensland, I received the People’s Choice Award for best presentation. I also achieved the Industry’s Choice Award (sponsored by Newcrest Mining Ltd.).

I achieved my doctorate in the field of chemical-material engineering at QUT in 2020. Soon after graduation, I joined Newcrest Mining Ltd as an R&D engineer to develop and apply clever solutions to address the mining and minerals industry problems with sustainable solutions. Working with the Innovation & Technology team of one of the biggest gold mining companies in Australia, I am engaged in several commercial-scale projects from each I am learning numerous valuable lessons.

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