A new process that could potentially divert tens of millions of tonnes of glass waste away from landfill has been discovered by a team of researchers of the University of Queensland.
The new method extracts liquid silicate from glass waste, which can then be used to create a myriad of products, ranging from concrete sealers to toothpaste.
“We estimate the process is more than 50 per cent cheaper than conventional ways of producing silicate,” UQ PhD candidate Rhys Pirie said.
“It requires less energy, raw materials and capital, and that’s before you consider the reduced social and economic costs compared to landfilling material.”
UQ’s method also leaves behind little waste, with nearly all of the glass being turned into saleable products.
Co-funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporationand Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, UQ’s method leaves behind little waste, with nearly all of the glass being turned into saleable products.
Pirie began exploring the possibilities of glass recycling after speaking with Professor Batstone, a specialist in converting waste into high-value products, from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre.
“The transition towards circular economies is a movement which is gaining momentum and something I’ve always been interested in. My PhD has highlighted how we need to make use of both the raw materials in ‘waste’ streams and the energy embodied in them during manufacture,” Pirie said.
For the remainder of his PhD, Pirie is looking at ways in which waste glass could also be used to create a low-cost silicon-based additive to increase fertiliser efficiency.
UniQuest, UQ’s commercialisation company, has filed a patent covering the process and is now seeking commercial partners.