Scenes of UKZN’s Professor Cristina Trois being awarded her knighthood and attendant title of Cavaliere del lavoro by His Excellency, Paolo Cuculi, Ambassador of Italy to South Africa.

Professor Cristina Trois, UKZN based South African Research Chair (SARCHi) in Waste and Climate Change, has been awarded a knighthood and attendant title of Cavaliere del lavoro from the Italian Republic – the highest honour that an Italian citizen can receive from their country.

The honour was conferred on Trois last night (Wednesday, 7 August 2019) in Durban by His Excellency, Paolo Cuculi, Ambassador of Italy to South Africa, during a cocktail dinner on the occasion of the Italy-South Africa joint Research Programme workshop on Waste-Water-Energy as a Resource for a Sustainable Future.

Founded in 1923 by King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy, the national chivalric Order of Merit for Labour (Ordine al Merito del Lavoro) recognises citizens who have been “singularly meritorious” in agriculture, industry and commerce, crafts, lending and insurance. Awarded in the single degree of Knight, the order is open to all Italians living at home and abroad. 

With over 20 years at UKZN, Trois has – in South Africa – made considerable contributions to research and teaching in her field of Environmental Engineering. Her expertise has also led to innovations around waste management and wastewater engineering and treatment in the eThekwini Municipality and to initiatives that encourage the participation of women and girls in Science and Engineering.

Trois has spearheaded initiatives like Engineering is a Girl Thing to encourage young women to pursue Science and Engineering, and was a first runner-up in the 2016 Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Women in Science Awards (WISA). She developed the innovative “cellular method” of landfilling adopted in Durban’s landfill sites as part of her work in waste science, resource recovery and energy from waste; and contributed to the first leachate treatment plant in South Africa and to the first African, World Bank-funded “landfill-gas-to-electricity project” through which the city of Durban produces 10MW of electricity from waste. She is also working on the multi-national research endeavour: the Hub for the African City of the Future.

A C2 National Research Foundation-rated researcher, Trois established the multidisciplinary Centre for Research in Environmental, Coastal and Hydrological Engineering (CRECHE) in 2001 together with two colleagues. She also established a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory for Environmental Engineering research.

Trois develops academic coursework and also currently supervises 20 postgraduate students and researchers, and has graduated 45 postgraduate students. She participates in groups including engineering councils, royal societies, waste management institutes and the United Nations, and is an editor and reviewer for numerous journals and institutions. She has international collaborators in Italy, the UK, India, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Trois is part of the International Waste Working Group (IWWG)-Southern Africa Regional Branch, a sub-regional Secretariat for southern Africa of the International Partnership for Expanding Waste Management Services of Local Authorities, co-ordinated by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development. Working with IWWG’s Developing Countries Task Group, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa and UKZN, the secretariat promotes best practice in waste management and builds the capacity of local authorities and the private sector in Africa and developing countries.

Author: Christine Cuénod 
Photographer: Albert Hirasen