In 2003, professor Veena Sahajwalla successfully recycled plastic and rubber tyres to manufacture 'green steel' in Australia.
Now, the Mumbai-born scientist would also like to see India manufacture steel from used car tyres. "Steel makers in India can use the green steel technology. In fact, the concept can be modified and applied in other areas as well," said Sahajwalla, director, Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, University of New South Wales, who met industry leaders in the city on Monday. "It benefits both environment and is also economical for the manufacturer."
Her invention has completed successful trials at the US-based EAF steel makers and complete implementation of a plant in Thailand. "Some waste products work better than the conventional material. Recycling is good for the environment because it diverts the waste from the landfill," said Sahajwalla who completed her metallurgical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology - Kanpur.
Sahajwalla, whose parents live in south Mumbai, said recycling waste is a good option in a city like Mumbai. "Space is premium in Mumbai and landfills cannot be an option for long. So it's time waste was considered a resource and doesn't end up in a landfill because we will run out of natural resources soon," said Sahajwalla, who was conferred Pravasi Bhartiya Samman, the highest honour given to a person of Indian origin living overseas, last year.
According to Sahajwalla, innovations need academia-industry partnerships. "Science and engineering are important when working with new ideas. But an institute has to team up with the right kind of industry for the innovation to transform into a commercial product," said Sahajwalla who is on a four-city tour in India this week followed by a trip to China.
Having got the idea of recycling waste from her walks past garbage while on her way to school, Sahajwalla who studied till Class 7 at Auxillium Convent School, Wadala, followed by St Anne's High School, Colaba, till Class 10 said it's important for students to explore and get their hands dirty.
"Not everyone can be a theorist. Children need to be engaged in practical projects. If you see them having fun and getting excited, there is scope for innovation."