As environmental emergencies go, the explosion of plastic waste is right up there. With global plastic production exceeding 300 million tonnes each year, the world has generally looked at it as an unsightly menace to be removed, but Professor Thomas Maschmeyer has gone beyond that idea. His work challenges our perceptions of waste, by turning plastic into an asset that people actively seek out to recycle because it can make them money. What he created might just clean up the planet and lift people out of poverty.
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer speaks to Dr Thushara Dibley about his ground-breaking work developing catalytic technology that can recycle any kind of plastic and turn it into a valuable resource, and how he is helping Timor-Leste become the world's first plastics-neutral country.
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is Founding and Executive Chairman of Gelion Technologies (2015), Co-Founder of Licella Holdings (2007) and inventor of its Cat-HTRTM technology. He is also the Principle Technology Consultant for Cat-HTR licensee’s Mura Technologies and RenewELP. In 2001 he was one of the founding Professors of Avantium, a Dutch High-tech company. Most recently he was awarded Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation (2020) – Australia’s top prize in the field.
He concurrently holds the position of Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sydney, where he established and leads the Laboratory of Advanced Catalysis for Sustainability and served as Founding Director of the $150m University of Sydney Nano Institute (2015–2018). In 2011 he was elected youngest Foreign Member of the Academia Europea as well as Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and, in 2014, of the Royal Society of NSW. In 2019 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universities of Ca’Foscari Venice and Trieste in recognition of his scientific and societal contributions in chemistry.
He has authored 330+ publications, been cited 13,000+ times, including 24 patents. He serves on the editorial/advisory boards of ten international journals and received many awards, including the Le Févre Prize of the Australian Academy of Sciences (2007), the RACI Applied Research Award (2011), the RACI Weickhardt Medal for Economic Contributions (2012), the RACI R. K. Murphy Medal for Industrial Chemistry (2018) the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science (2018), the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies’ Contribution to Economic Development Award (2019).
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