100 Women of Influence winner
As Louise Upton writes for Ruby Connections, Veena Sahajwalla was fascinated by the entrepreneurial vision for re-use and recycling she saw growing up in India and that inspiration has underpinned an extraordinary career reinventing waste.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla grew up in India. She remembers walking with her mother through the streets of her home city, Mumbai, and being endlessly fascinated by people’s entrepreneurial verve and their ability to re-use and recycle.
“It was the inventiveness of the people I saw as a child in Mumbai that really inspired me in my career. I studied at university but innovation comes down to determining what the available elements are and using your creativity to do something with that knowledge.
“In my work, understanding what is available at a molecular level, and its value, can be used to explore how those same molecules might be used in a completely different way. Things get very exciting when you see how to transform them into a new product. Of course, you have to consider how useful the new products will be to society,” says Veena, who is director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology.