The COVID-19 pandemic offers countries an opportunity to build recovery plans that will reverse current trends and change our consumption and production patterns towards a more sustainable future.
– United Nations

Victoria University takes care to consume responsibly, and seeks solutions to crucial issues such as energy and food-resource overuse.

We investigate key aspects of climate change and of rapidly emerging renewable technologies, as well as the policy and practice of adequate responses to these challenges.

On our campuses we put policy into practice, with an ever-evolving dedication to sustainable resource use.

12: Responsible consumption & production (infinity icon)

Research, engagement & education 2020-21

Research with impact

Our research makes practical inroads into recycling and water reuse in industry and the public space.

The scarcity of sound soils, especially in urban areas, often forces engineers to construct the pavement on problematic subgrade soils such as expansive clays. In this study, Ehsan Yaghoubi and Maurice Guerrieri from VU, with Mohammadjavad Yaghoubi from the Australian Road Research Board and Federation University, and Nithin Sudarsanan from North Carolina State University, mixed expansive clay with 10, 20, and 30% sand-size recycled glass (RG) to assess suitability as a construction base using modelling and stress-strain tests. By adding recycled glass, the associated cost involved in replacing problematic soil is avoided. The outcomes aim to promote sustainable construction materials and approaches by the use of environmentally clean recycled aggregates, such as RG, for improving subgrades with problematic soils.

Ehsan Yaghoubi undertook a similar study again with Nithin Sudarsanan from North Carolina State and Arul Arulrajah from Swinburne University of Technology to assess the viability of demolition wastes as aggregate base course for pavements. The sustainable construction approach by utilising recycled aggregates has increasingly been the focus of highway construction industries and local road authorities in recent years. The research team tested the stress-strain performance of three types of recycled construction and demolition wastes: recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), crushed brick (CB), and waste excavation rock (WR). Under the loading conditions CB and RCA performed better than conventional virgin materials, while WR was worse.

Water reclamation or wastewater reuse in the recycled paper industry has always been a momentous task. The main driving forces for the adoption of process wastewater treatment technologies are environmental regulations, costs of wastewater discharge and the high cost of freshwater. Recent developments have made it possible to recover treated water and valuable compounds such as fibres, making water recycling technologies economically viable. Ngoc Han, Jianhua Zhang, Manh Hoang and Stephen Gray from ISILC, collaborated with Zongli Xie from the CSIRO to review the process for wastewater reuse in the recycled paper industry. To provide optimal outcomes, the maintenance of the balance between process variables through water management is important for maintaining efficient water use and lowering the need for consumption of additional fresh water.

The textile industry generates a huge quantity of wastewater during manufacturing, limiting its environmental sustainability. Membrane distillation (MD), which is driven by thermal-induced vapour pressure difference, is being considered as an emerging economically viable technology to treat the textile wastewater for reuse. However, due to the presence of inducing surfactants causing membrane wetting, passing of the contaminants through the membrane, complete separation of the water by MD has not been attained. This review, by ISILC, CSIRO and Chinese university researchers, presents current progress on the MD process for textile wastewater treatment with a focus on membrane wetting, the types of membranes applied as well as the fabrication or modification of membranes for anti-wetting properties. This article aims at providing insights in membrane design to enhance the MD separation performance towards commercial application of textile wastewater treatment.

Despite the popularity of zero waste (ZW) as a concept, the plastic recycling rate in Australia is at only about 9.4% (in 2017–2018). The state of Victoria has proposed an ambitious 10-year plan to upgrade its waste and recycling system and to divert about 80% of waste from landfills by 2030. This study by researchers Anne Ng, Srenghang Ly, Nitin Muttil and Cuong Ngoc Nguyen, uses simulations to assess the feasibility of achieving 80% reduction by 2030 and zero plastic waste by 2035. The model uses six key considerations, including the rate of plastic consumption, waste to landfill, diversion rate, recycling rate, relative accumulative effort, and cost. Results confirm that Victoria’s current plan for achieving an 80% reduction by 2030 is possible; however, less likely is achieving zero plastic waste by 2035. Improvements to achieve the ZW plan by 2035 requires slight changes to the input factors, including: product recyclability, packaging polymer consumption, non-packaging polymer consumption, processing facilities’ capacity, recycling options efficiency, reuse/end-of-life proxy rate, and sorting efficiencies.

Hotels are the most common form of accommodation for tourists, but very few studies have analysed the environmental commitments of hotels in Australia. Researchers, Joanne Pyke and Michael McGrath from VU, with Ajay Khatter from William Angliss Institute and Leanne White interviewed key stakeholders on hotel environmental sustainability policy and practices (ESPP). Owners and shareholders with their financial investment are the primary influencers on ESPP. Hotels themselves and, more so, hotel chains are best placed to engage with and implement environmental sustainability policies and practices due to their organisational scale; specifically, their training and operational resources. A diversity of stakeholder perspectives and influences is required, however, as without the guidance of the stakeholders optimal outcomes and value cannot be obtained. Managing the inherent conflict between ethical and environmental responsibility, and commercial outcomes can only be achieved by all stakeholders working together.

Bakti Sedayu, Marlene Cran and Stephen Bigger investigate how to improve the properties of eco-friendly plastics derived from biomaterials, particularly for food-packaging applications in Improving the moisture barrier and mechanical properties of semi-refined carrageenan films and Reinforcement of Refined and Semi-Refined Carrageenan Film with Nanocellulose.

Impact of smart logistics on smart city sustainable performance by Himanshu Kumar Shee , Shah Miah and Tharaka De Vass concludes that smart logistic functionalities are likely to have a positive impact on smart city sustainability, and that future research is necessary to consider a wider pool of technologies in improving sustainability of logistics operations.

Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) risk disclosure is of rising importance with Australian Securities Exchange listed companies required to comply with disclosure rules. A study co-authored by Chitra de Silva Lokuwaduge examined ESG disclosure practices of the extractive sector companies for which ESG disclosure is of increasing importance.


Working in collaboration with local and State government, we aim to minimise waste through community initiatives and industry change.

Converting food waste into energy and reducing gas use is a win-win for the planet and for saving public and household money. Of all the world’s millions of tonnes of food waste produced annually, it is estimated that 95 per cent goes to landfill where it becomes the major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as well as a polluter of groundwater. Dr Meris Zheng from VU and in collaboration with three Councils, carried out a survey of residents across the Melbourne metropolitan area to find out the nature and the quantity of the food waste generated as well as residents' attitudes towards disposal and treatment. Dr Zheng’s ultimate goal is the development of an on-site, small-scale appliance that would convert food waste to biogas for household use. The residue would be used as compost, with zero waste, eliminating the economic and environmental costs of waste management.

The scale of humanity's throw-away culture makes for terrifying reading. Despite the rising awareness of petroleum-based plastics and their impact on the environment, the global packaging industry continues to boom and is worth more than $900 billion. The Australian Government has a target that all packaging be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. However, this may not be achievable unless Australia commits to further recycled plastic processing onshore. Professor Vincent RouillardDr Matthew Lamb and Dr Marlene Cran are working to develop sustainable packaging materials from pea starch, an agricultural by-product. Working with a local industry partner that provides the waste material, Dr Cran has already successfully converted it into a film as part of a prototype study. Based on study results, the Victorian Government has added significant funding to develop the packaging concept further and explore other materials that can be produced from agricultural waste.

“Beyond developing our pea starch film, we’re also exploring other areas like breaking down existing plastics with microbes into more friendly molecules, and also analysing the distribution network so that we can quantify the amount of packaging needed in the first place,” said Professor Rouillard.

Eco-Bricks and Panels From Coffee Cups and Plastics is a project to develop environmentally sustainable building materials, including bricks and panels. The VU researchers Zora Vrcelj, Yanni Bouras, Malindu Sandanayake, Rudi VanStaden, Paul Joseph are collaborating on the project with ClosedLoop, Wyndham City Council and RMIT.

Recycling agricultural waste into packaging was funded by VU’s 2020 planetary health research grants to create new bio-packaging from agricultural and by-products; and to develop practical strategies to reduce supply-chain hazards that drive protective packaging demand. The project is being undertaken in conjunction with industry partner Velisha Farms.

Professor Terry DeLacy was appointed to the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Sustainable Tourism that has the goal to transform the industry to be more sustainable, inclusive and resilient, focused on three themes: sustainable destinations; the blue/green economy; and nett zero. Professor DeLacy is leading Council development for two of the ten principles to underpin sustainable tourism: ‘Science based targets’; and ‘Resilience building’. Professor Todor Vasiljevic’s Innovation Connections project with Brooklite (Peerless Foods) recommended investment into a new food waste management technology.


In our courses and our international programs, we aim to address environmental and social issues.

The Master of Research Practice recognises honours qualifications for students to complete a research masters in one year. Guidance is provided by the Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities research group to address important contemporary issues such as:

  • climate change
  • cultural diversity, arts and social justice
  • technology in future industries, education and policy
  • urban planning.

New Colombo Plan scholarships gives undergraduate students the opportunity to live, work and study in the Indo-Pacific region. The program is an Australian Government initiative that provides Australian students with funding to study and undertake language training, an internship or a mentorship in one of 40 participating Indo-Pacific locations. VU nominates students for the program based on academic excellence, contribution to Colombo Plan objectives, and leadership and engagement in the community.

Maurice Guerrieri fire research facilities

Maurice Guerrieri from VU was part of a research collaboration that assessed the suitability of adding recycled glass to improve subgrade soils.

Sustainability on campus

VU is committed to eliminating single-use plastics and to promoting recycling on campus through our sustainability initiatives.

Research groups addressing Goal 12