The UNSW Sustainability battery recycling program won the Creating Impact award at the annual Green Gown Awards in Melbourne on Thursday night.
The awards, run by Australasian Campuses towards Sustainability, recognise excellence in sustainability within the tertiary education sector in Australasia.
UNSW Sustainability Manager Arifa Sarfraz said Australians produced a concerning amount of e-waste.
“Australians generate 16,000 tonnes of battery waste per year and 97% of this goes to landfill where it can contaminate the soil with toxic chemicals and heavy metals,” she said.
"Electronic waste is increasing at a rate three times that of general household waste in Australia, so this critical issue of battery waste needs an urgent solution, and UNSW has found a community-based solution to this crisis.”The UNSW recycling program, which is managed by 60 staff and student volunteers, diverts about one tonne of batteries away from landfill each year.
Seventy to 80% of the batteries are recycled at an e-waste recycling facility and the remainder are used to conduct research into advanced battery recycling methods at the Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre.
The project was initiated after a comprehensive waste audit in 2010 revealed an alarming number of batteries in UNSW's general waste. The project started with two collection stations and received a positive response from staff and students. In 2015 the Sustainability office expanded the project, and it now includes more than 50 battery recycling stations across the Kensington campus.
Aside from reducing landfill and contributing to research, the project aims to raise awareness and create a sense of environmental responsibility in staff and students.