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30 August 2022 3 min read

Dr Naomi Boxall conducts research in mining, waste treatment and resource recovery. She's helping us become a leader in waste innovation and the circular economy[Link will open in a new window].

Naomi believes we're in a great position to help Australia move from a linear economy, to a recycling economy and towards a circular economy. That's the goal.

We caught up with Naomi to hear about some of the solutions she's working on.

What is your role at CSIRO?

I'm a research scientist with more than 10 years’ experience in mining, waste treatment and resource recovery. I have a particular focus on how biotechnology (technology based on biology) can help waste treatment and resource recovery from electronic, mining and industrial wastes.

I am also co-leading our plans in waste innovation and circular economy. Australia has a growing waste crisis. So we need to recover resources, remanufacture and move towards a circular economy. So, I'm helping build the knowledge and data we need to minimise the risks of reusing waste materials in new products.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently spending my time between the lab and my desk. I’ve been spending a lot of time developing a strategic research agenda for waste, resource recovery and circular economy. This includes things like helping to identify national hazardous wastes research priorities and de-risk the reuse of waste.

My time in the lab is dedicated to the development of biotechnology for the treatment of battery processing and mine wastes. I'm also researching how we can recover value from strategic wastes such as e-waste and battery waste.

What drove you to become a research scientist in waste innovation?

Research in waste, resource recovery and the circular economy in Australia has historically been a bit disjointed. In my postdoctoral fellowship, I found there was a real gap in understanding how technology development and implementation at-scale was impacted by other factors like policy and regulation, society behaviours and, of course, the economy.

To address some of these factors, I developed a report outlining the gaps and opportunities for developing a lithium-ion battery recycling industry in Australia. This helped map out a better way forward for the development of the industry.

Since then, Australia’s waste crisis has deepened with the disruption of our international waste management supply chains. This has been through events like the introduction of the China National Sword policy and our own domestic resource recovery targets and export bans. All these factors have combined to provide an opportunity to consolidate our research base in waste and circular economy. It's also an opportunity for us to be a transition leader as Australia moves from being a linear economy, to a recycling economy and towards circularity.

What do you love about working here?

We’re a national and multidisciplinary organisation, which gives the research and the projects we do an extra special something. This is especially important for some of the national challenges we face, and circular economy and waste fits the bill. We can link in with capabilities in different fields to make sure we can deliver on complex challenges. For example, I am a microbiologist, working in fields that require extensive experience in mineral sciences, chemistry and socioeconomics. I can connect with people who can better deliver on those research objectives and learn from them.

I no longer consider myself ‘just a microbiologist’ either. The career and skills development puts you way outside a single box. It truly is a unique organisation.

What's something you do outside of work that helps the circular economy?

In my spare time (ha! I have twin toddlers), I am a crochet nut. So, I make my own clothes, and clothes and toys for the girls. I also try to think about ways that I can minimise my own consumerism by having a me-made wardrobe and toy box for the girls.

I am also trying to use more sustainable materials (avoiding acrylic yarn for example) for my crochet and recovering yarn from donated clothes to make new things and extend the life of those materials.

©  Nata TT

As a scientist or researcher, you have the opportunity to make the impossible, possible – leading to scientific achievements that have a positive impact. Think you could help us to solve the world’s greatest challenges like waste innovation? Sign up for job notifications on our careers portal[Link will open in a new window].

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