School of Engineering


VIPs and members of the Project Neptune team unveil recycled waste to art exhibits.

ISARP Workshop and Neptune Project Celebrate Waste as a Resource

The South African Research Cahir (SARChI) in Waste and Climate Change, Professor Cristina Trois, recently hosted a two-day workshop under the auspices of the Italian-South Africa Joint Research Programme (ISARP), during which the first pieces of art conceived through the Neptune Project were unveiled.

At a cocktail function on the first day of the Waste-Water-Energy as a Resource for a Sustainable Future workshop, Trois was honoured by the Ambassador of Italy, Paolo Cuculi, with a prestigious Order of Merit for Labour knighthood by the Italian Republic. The workshop brought together scientists and representatives of municipalities and industry to discuss the current and future direction of materials and technology innovations that address challenges relating to the global waste-water-energy nexus.

Trois and her collaborators on the Neptune Project unveiled two pieces of art at the cocktail function. The large, brightly coloured panels used plastic waste that could otherwise have polluted Durban’s coastline. They feature underwater scenes, and are part of the project’s aim to use art to draw attention to the effects of pollution on the environment.

The Neptune Project will be officially launched in November 2019 during the Waste to Resources Summer School at UKZN’s School of Engineering. The collaborative effort is bringing together artists, engineers and experts in waste management and in the creative arts to explore innovative and exciting ways to tackle waste and pollution through recycling and re-use. The project team also hopes to sensitise the public to the impact of climate change on the environment, and to creatively communicate results of UKZN’s scientific research into managing waste as a resource.

The project will include a waste-to-art gallery at UKZN, where the displays will highlight the seriousness of the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans and the value of recycling at community level, as well as convey ideas for solutions emerging from high-quality scientific research conducted under the SARChI Chair. Its installations will range from sculpture, fine art and design, to an Eco Fashion show held in collaboration with design students from the Durban University of Technology, a short video about plastic pollution in the oceans, an underwater photography exhibition and musical events.

Trois leads the initiative with a team that comprises International Waste Working Group Southern Africa Regional Branch Manager (and Neptune Project co-ordinator) Ms Gisella Reale, Durban Green Corridors, and representatives from Durban-based self-sustaining social enterprise Umcebo Design, namely Creative Director, Mr Robin Opperman; Creative Consultant, Ms Jackie Sewpersad and Project Facilitator, Ms Cristina van der Westhuyzen.

‘We aim to use art as a form of communication that goes beyond scientific language to inform people about what the science community is doing about climate change issues, such as plastic in the oceans,’ said Trois. ‘Through this project, we hope to unite the people of South Africa in the fight against plastic pollution in the ocean and in the environment, and to support scientific research.’

The Neptune Project is part of the Green UKZN Programme, a component of the Campus Master Plan that will establish a platform of expertise to activate green projects and increase student awareness through sustainability education across the five campuses, mobilising its own experts to address the issues of water, energy and waste facing the University and its surrounding communities.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Albert Hirasen