Waste Management in the Circular Economy - image shows plastic waste in gloved hand

Tackling the global waste problem

Bringing together research expertise in geochemistry, environmental science, engineering, business and education to develop solutions for our global waste problem. Our research addresses the barriers associated with integrating wastes into the circular economy, developing and implementing cutting-edge scientific, technical, social, economic and education-based solutions.

Dirk Erler

“There is a shift around the world toward a circular economy where waste products from one process are turned into resources for another.”

Young girl recycling cans into bin


Led by Southern Cross, ReCirculator connects NSW Northern Rivers businesses in a circular economy ecosystem of cutting-edge technology

Environmental Analysis Laboratory

Specialising in quality analytical services, including testing for agricultural soil, plant, acid sulfate soil, contaminants and more

Linkage projects

Southern Cross is collaborating with industry and community to deliver a number of ARC-funded research projects

Key research projects

Transforming meat residue into agricultural soil

Red meat processing in Australia is facing significant challenges including growing volumes of organic residues that are an economic and environmental liability. This ARC Linkage project led by Associate Professor Dirk Erler aims to develop a new technology that can transform the organic residues from red meat processing into engineered hydrochars. These hydrochars will be customised to store soil nutrients, improve plant growth, and actively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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Transforming meat residue into agricultural soil - image shows dark coloured cow


As a champion of the circular economy model in the Northern Rivers, Southern Cross is partnering with local industry to reduce waste while creating jobs and driving innovation. The ReCirculator project connects NSW Northern Rivers businesses in a circular economy ecosystem of cutting-edge technology. It acts as an economic growth driver by saving costs, improving productivity, regenerating resources and creating resilient jobs.

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Two men standing in Richmond Dairies

Woodchip bioreactors reducing fertiliser pollution

To combat fertiliser pollution in waterways as a result of expanding agricultural production, Southern Cross University is working with the Coffs Harbour City Council and North Coast Local Land Services to trial new mitigation strategies. Researchers from our National Marine Science Centre have found prototype woodchip bioreactors may reduce nitrogen pollution entering nearby waterways by as much as 85% in the right conditions.

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A cucumber hothouse filled with mature plants (credit Shane White)

Waste Wise Schools

Waste Wise Schools is an action-based program that encourages schools to move toward zero waste through their curriculum and operating practices. Established in 1997, the program has been implemented in hundreds of Australian schools. It has experienced tangible success in reducing schools’ waste through its approach of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

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Young girl recycling cans into bin

Blueberry rust control on organic farms

Blueberry rust is caused by the fungus Thekopsora minima. The disease affects plant leaves reducing photosynthetic area and causing leaf drop, loss of vigour and reduced yield. Centre for Organics Research Plant Pathologist, Dr Jay Anderson is part of a collaborative research team working to expand the range of crop protectants available to organic blueberry growers for control of blueberry rust disease.

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Blueberry rust infected blueberry leaves showing yellow rust

Marine plastic research partnership

Southern Cross University is part of an international research partnership tackling marine plastic pollution. Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett's expertise in marine ecology and marine pollution is enhancing the partnership between Southern Cross University, the Pacific Islands Development Forum and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

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Marine plastic pollution

Diverting Plastics from Landfill in Red-Meat Processing

This project focuses on reducing single-use plastics waste in red meat processing. The research will provide measurable baseline data against which alternative production pathway scenarios can be assessed and evaluated to achieve sustainability goals, while maintaining or improving food safety and shelf-life standards. It contributes to achieving the Australian Meat Processor Corporation’s aspiration of the industry being recognised as global leaders in environmental stewardship and acknowledged as responsible businesses with positive economic and social impacts on their communities by 2030. The study also contributes to helping red meat processing facilities achieving the 2025 National Packaging Waste targets.

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Woman buying meat in a supermarket

Researcher profiles

Associate Professor Dirk Erler on RV Investigator vessel

Dirk Erler


Professor Dirk Erler's research strives to understand the biogeochemical functioning of natural systems, and in doing so find solutions that will enable industry to advance sustainability and embed itself within the global push towards a Circular Economy. Based in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, he is currently part of a team bringing scientific expertise and academic rigour to the ReCirculator program.

Blonde haired lady smiling with bushes in background

Amy Cutter-Mackenzie Knowles


Time was when the three Rs of education referred to "reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic". Today, three more Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – are finding necessary prominence in our schools. As massive consumption creates a rising mountain of global waste, it is so important to have educators like Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles and initiatives like Waste Wise Schools.

Professor Andrew Rose

Andrew Rose


How we deal with waste is one of the most pressing environmental challenges facing the world. For Professor Andrew Rose, the principles of the circular economy are key to better waste management and resource regeneration, with the example of Southern Cross University’s ReCirculator project a brilliant example of local initiative with global reach.

Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett

Amanda Reichelt-Brushett


Two centuries of human intervention have not been kind to the Richmond River catchment in the Northern Rivers region. In the aftermath of the 2022 Lismore floods, Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett began looking into the past for clues that might lead to new policies and practices to restore and sustain the catchment in the future. The result is a project with a strong community connection, one that is “re-visioning” the health of the Richmond River by seeking more informed approaches.

Dr Lachlan Yee outside at Lismore campus

Lachlan Yee

Senior Lecturer

When it comes to protecting the environment and the ecosystems within it, plastics and polymers are often seen as the enemy. But does it have to be this way? What if plastics could be improved to such an extent as to help the environment through sustainability and adaptation? Incongruous as it may sound, it is already happening, and Southern Cross University’s Dr Lachlan Yee is one of an international cohort of researchers working towards exciting advances in polymer science.

Researcher PhD student Mohammad Rastegari

Mohammad Rastegari

PhD student

Unlocking the secrets of toxins' fate and transport in the environment is crucial for sustainable practices. At SCU, my PhD research focuses on the dynamic interaction between Sb -a carcinogenic toxin extensively exploited worldwide- and schwertmannite, a key Sb host-phase in acid mine drainage, one of the major environmental issues. Using advanced synchrotron-based techniques, my research aims to uncover new insights into Sb-schwertmannite interactions, enhancing environmental stewardship.

PhD student Santosh Narshima Prathap Moola

Prathap Moola

PhD student

My research focuses on enhanced weathering of basalt involves applying finely ground basalt rock to agricultural land to improve soil health and promote plant growth. This process triggers mineral dissolution, releasing essential nutrients for plants. Basalt weathering also regulates soil pH, sequesters carbon, and influences soil microbial communities. Overall, it enhances soil nutrition, supports plant growth, and offers sustainable solutions for agriculture and environmental challenges.

PhD student Khamsiah Achmad

Khamsiah Achmad

PhD student

Plastics contaminate marine environments and persist, as natural processes require years to break down. The natural breakdown process often results in the formation of microplastics. Microplastic abundance threatens the health and survival of marine species, a potential risk to humans as well. My research aims to assess microplastic quantification in the shorelines and commercial seafood and to investigate community attitudes to mitigate plastic pollution.

PhD student Toribio Freije

Toribio Freije

Master of Research graduate

Waste is often overlooked. Shifting our perspective is the first step toward transforming this urgent issue into resources, energy, and jobs. Most of the time, constraints arise not from financial limitations, but from a lack of imagination and knowledge, resulting in the loss of resources and contamination of soils and water bodies. With a strong commitment to sustainability, I am passionate about working with innovative solutions that not only reduce waste but also maximize its potential.

PhD student Adhwaith Das

Adhwaith Das (AD)

PhD student

Developing an innovative concept of “Waste-convert-waste-to-energy"; an attempt to engineer waste-converted materials and apply them to improve the efficiency of the existing technologies for bioenergy generation within the circular economy loop and contributing to the sustainable development goals (UN-SDGs).