myUTS: All-In-One Hub application for UTS students

Organic waste management is a very complex system with numerous stakeholders and potential problems. Some of the stakeholder identified includes:

Government: (Local Councils, Department of Environment)
Business Owners: (Cafes to Printing Services to Book Stores)
Waste Contractors: (Landfill, Organic Waste Collectors (EarthPower))
Working staff: (Teaching staff to Administration to Security)
Students: (Local, International to Exchange)

With this we started to categorise and branch out to identify the problems involved:

  • Working Staff and Waste Contractors (Cleaning Department): Waste separation isn’t 100% thus there is still some manual labour to be done.
  • Business Owners and Government: There is a lack of campaigning in and at the stores but if you look at it at a larger scale, organic waste management is generally not promoted much or simply ignored.
  • Students and Working staff: Do not use the organic bins or use it wrongly out of habit or lack of knowledge.

What are their knowledge capacities on organic waste? How involved are they in organic waste management on a daily basis? Why do they do what they do and how do we help them when there is a constant rapid change of cohort?

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With these questions in mind, we propose the ‘myUTS’ smartphone application. It will serve as an all-in-one hub for all utilities for UTS students and staff by combining social media, timetable and booking system, interactive maps, integrating with an organic waste management education system that will start educating users with an implemented reward system to encourage recycling and separation at its source.

Students that are environmentally conscious would be delighted to have their knowledge recognised, with daily quizzes and rewards based on what can go into their bins, while still being a useful utility that would make their life in UTS more convenient.

On the other hand, myUTS can also target the large amount of international students that studies at UTS (in 2015 this made up of 25% of the entire cohort) by providing them with a platform to help settle in. They might not have knowledge or habits surrounding waste recycling and separation but by trickling this knowledge into their daily use of social media, this app should be able to not only change their thinking, but let them bring this culture back to their own country and educate their peers.

STEEP Framework:

  • Social: While there is current initiative in organic waste management and recycling within UTS, the knowledge isn’t widespread enough and its a bit hard for normal students to gain information unless they take the initiative to go educate themselves. There is also a need to break habits – convenience is a major driver in how people behave around recycling, as a lot of them carry the ‘out of sight out of mind’ mindset.
  • Technological: Current smartphone technology will support this intervention. There is already an existing social media culture and there is also a need for a centralised hub of UTS utilities (currently it is scattered in multiple hard to use interfaces).
  • Economical: It will benefit local business in nurturing growth through getting these students to spend on these establishments, letting a thriving local community grow.
  • Environmental: Due to it being a mainly digital intervention, it will generate minimal waste and will be easy to maintain. Also by separating waste at its source, it will allow the university to relocate their resources into other processes, saving labour cost and driving efficiency.
  • Political: International students can bring this culture back home to educate their peers, fostering international relations. Other university and councils can also take it up in their own complex ecosystem, educating the next generation in securing a better future.

 

Post D: Alternative System for Hospitals

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Hospitals is a complex and fascinating entity, housing entire ecosystem of people within, and therefore makes waste management a challenge. As an example, the Royal Adelaide Hospital has now become a model for green programming in South Australia as well as nationally after showing that sustainability is an achievable goal even in the most challenging work environments.

Some of the existing waste management program includes:

  • Separating Food waste from other recyclable waste to ensure minimal contamination
  • Tagged bins for different categories of recyclables
  • Pro-actively educating staff on the importance of responsible waste management

While these are effective ways of managing waste, there can still be better ways to improve. For example, since waste are treated off-site, it would make sense to develop on-site treatment facilities to reduce economic costs to the organisation. Flammable wastes could be burnt on site as fuel, facilitating energy use. However, this also creates the problem of emission and processing of the waste after burning, so corresponding facility must be in place to counter this.

The high volume of organic waste can also be taken into account in energy production. All food waste can be fed into a biogas plant to create fuel for cooking, and the slurry can also act as fertiliser. Currently the RAH has a special vacuum system in place to filter food waste, and contracting its collection to a garden facility company to turn into compost. To facilitate 100% recycling, the RAH can process the remaining waste into a biogas plant, producing fuel for cooking within the hospital.

While education is a big part of the zero waste initiative within the RAH, and there is a system in place to ensure the right message gets across (Categorised and Tagged Bins), their current solution to educate staff by posting on notice boards might not be effective in conveying the message across to everyone. To facilitate this, we can propose incentives (monetary or otherwise) to encourage staff to correctly recycle. Monthly competitions and community activities can also be used to further create a sense of community and responsibility within the cohort.

Furthermore, RAH can set up local education programs, to convey the importance of proper waste management. The hospital’s stance as a contained ecosystem is the perfect model to showcase this, as well as showing how important individuals are to ensuring an effective waste management.

The RAH already has a good head-start in creating a zero waste environment, with the main obstacle being money. Implementing an effective system requires enough funding from sponsors and local government to contribute the initial capital, on top of normal running cost of the hospital, makes it not worth the short-term impact financially. While Zero Waste SA, a government entity, supports the efforts of RAH, the amount of space and funding available to the hospital remains restrictive on their ability to make drastic change.

It is prudent for other hospitals in the country to follow in RAH’s example, to take initiative in managing waste responsibly by educating the public and its staff and putting crucial infrastructure in place to facilitate the initiative.


Zero Waste SA Industry Program, ‘Case Study: Up Close’ <http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/upload/REAP/91392%20ZWSA%20UpClose%20RAH%20WEB.pdf> Accessed 7th June 2016

Post C: Organic Waste Management

Organic Waste Management is important as it not only has impact on the environment, but also has significant economic benefit on the individual household and government entities. The disposal of millions of tonnes of food waste creates considerable cost on the community through waste collection, waste disposal and greenhouse gas emissions associated with rotting food has significant impact on the environment as well. (D. Baker 2009)

 

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Food Waste Fast Facts – Foodwise.com.au

The Australian Institute’s research into Australian household expenditure on food, ‘What a Waste’ concludes that we are concerned about organic food waste and confess to feeling guilty when we throw out food, yet our behaviour suggests otherwise. This is a claim backed by the South Australian Foodwise initiative, which highlights that Australian discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, or an average of $1036 of food is thrown away every year. To put it into perspective, this money is enough to feed the average household for a month. (NSW EPA, 2009).

While current household has waste management protocols in place, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that just over half of Australian household had not eaten left-overs or composted kitchen or food waste. They found that the primary reason for throwing out food was insufficient of waste to warrant re-use. These lines up with my own perception of organic waste management, with reference to blog post A, on how we don’t own a compost facility even if we live in a house because even though there are organic waste produced by our household every day, we don’t have a garden big enough to facilitate such a habit.

The Australian Institute also concludes that “a majority of Australian do not perceive food waste to be a problem in their household.”

– NSW EPA ‘Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark Study’ (2009)

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is one such entity aiming to change this mindset with their ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative. Their extensive research is useful for Australian entities to understand the attitude, knowledge and behaviours of households.

UTS

UTS has also taken major steps towards maintaining a responsible and sustainable waste management system, such as using a co-mingled waste recycling system to recycle waste as well as performing audits on waste production in order to formulate sustainable solutions.(2015 UTS Waste Management Plan). Such actions taken from an education entity will allow more knowledge about effective waste management to be taught to coming generation, one approach that the EPA fully endorses in their ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative.

Royal Adelaide Hospital

 

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Tagged waste bin at RAH for recycling.

 

Hospitals are one of the most complex entities in waste production, with a plethora of different waste streams requiring extensive sorting, filtering and processing. Royal Adelaide Hospital, in partnership with Zero Waste SA Industry Program, has suitable infrastructure in place to separate and sort waste streams, and the most important thing is they have the initiative to educate staff and patient on the importance of recycling.
“This was all part of the education process and meant we could brief staff of their mistakes in a very visual way, information was put on the staff noticeboard to remind them of the correct procedure.”
– Pat Rossi, ‘Bin Detective’
As an unique example, all recycle bins are tagged in the hospital, and waste contractor will alert the hospital if there was any contamination, which then will be photographed and the section manager informed. This allows the hospital to educate staff before waste is even entered into the system, reducing cost, energy and time for waste processing.
Food is also removed from the general waste stream, with the material left over used for burning as an alternative fuel source.
With the above examples in mind, we can see how important organic waste management is, not only in individual households but also large government entity – not only does this reduce impact and pollution to the environment, it also decreases economic impact on all entities involved, allowing for a even more efficient society.

NSW EPA, 2009, ‘Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark Study’ <http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/partners/resources-for-partners/campaign-materials/resources/fact-sheets.aspx> Accessed 6th June, 2016

D. Baker, J. Fear and R. Denniss, 2009, ‘What a Waste: An Analysis of Household Expenditure on Food’ <http://www.tai.org.au/sites/defualt/files/PB%206%20What%20a%20waste%20final_7.pdf> Accessed 6th June, 2016

Foodwise.com.au, ‘Food Waste Fast Facts’ <http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/> Accessed 6th June 2016

UTS, ‘Waste Management Plan 2013-2015’,
<https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/WASTE_MANAGEMENT_PLAN.140301.pdf> Accessed 7th June 2016

Adelaide Royal Hospital, ‘Case Study: Upclose’
<http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/upload/REAP/91392%20ZWSA%20UpClose%20RAH%20WEB.pdf> Accessed 7th June 2016

Post A: One Day Waste Audit

We don’t seem to realise how much waste we produce until we have to record the quantity and categorise them.  My one day waste audit consisted of noting down all organic waste that I produce on a normal day.

My day started with two shots of coffee topped with foamy milk, and breakfast consists of egg sunny-side up on toast (with crust cut off), bacon (with fat cut off) and a banana. Just from a 15 minute meal there is already a plethora of waste produced: Coffee Grounds, Egg Shells, Bacon Fat, Bread Crust and Banana peel. We do not have a compost heap so all of this waste goes into the bin.

From then on, I had a cup of tea with lunch, which produced more waste such as chicken bones, more egg shells, as well as cabbage stalks, which also went into the bin. Afternoon Tea created more coffee grounds, and dinner led to more bones, as well as skins and peels from carrots, onions and other vegetables – which all went into the bin.

Between four coffee addicts in the household, we have to empty our coffee grind container almost once a day, which led us to clear the kitchen bin once a day. While organic wastes mostly gets thrown into the red bin, we do put our eggshells outside into the veggie patch as fertilizer, and all aluminium and plastic bottles are put into the recycling bin for collection.

Looking at our pile of waste, I realised that the coffee ground might have an interesting life cycle – where did it come from, and where can it go? According to the Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report by Planet Ark, Australians consume 6 billion cups of coffee every year, producing 3000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds, where 93% end up in landfill and only 7% end up in worm farm or gardens. Coffee grounds sent to landfill can produce methane and Carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming, as well as creating financial cost on tax payers for running and maintaining landfills in Australia.

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Circular Life Cycle of Coffee (and Coffee Ground).

Coffee ground is a valuable and a relatively unique organic waste, as cafes and shops collect their spent grounds separately to other waste, with little to no contamination, their brewing process using high temperature also means that a relatively clean waste is produced. This can create a circular economy, where waste from one process can be used as an input by another, thereby minimising waste generation.

Interestingly, coffee grounds can also be used as growth medium for mushrooms, also boasting the same nutrient quality as mushrooms cultivated on other mediums, and can satisfy the high demand for locally grown and sustainable mushrooms in Australia.

A Cameron & S O’Malley, 2016, Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report by Planet Ark, <http://planetark.org/documents/doc-1397-summary-report-of-feasibility-study-april-2016.pdf> Accessed 6th June 2016

Post B: Data Research Method

The organic waste audit in Blog Post A was an effective way to categorise and identify organic waste stream on a day to day basis. By putting quantitative data onto a page, we can start to formulate solutions to our problems, allowing us to highlight problem areas that might otherwise be overlooked. While the audit was done on a one day, on a personal basis, large companies can also use such methods to conduct research on interested areas.

Apart from having a quantitative set of data results, when combined with other data methods such as surveys, allows them to gauge level of interest for public to participate in prospective programs, economic advantage and disadvantages and the current process in which waste is processed and disposed of.

On a larger scale, an audit becomes a time consuming affair – One example is Planet Ark’s Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report, wherein they used six-months of data gathering, laboratory testing and surveys in order to create the study, allowing them to propose prospective solutions but at this point implementing would be a different process altogether.

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Photo: Thomas Guignard

In a similar vein, the explosion in single serve coffee pod’s popularity also poses an environmental challenge, as Planet Ark finds that the aluminium used in Nespresso pods are easy to recycle, but material recovery facilities are not equipped to cope with items that small.

“The recycling system is designed to deal with bottles and cans, and things like that – if anyone puts a pod in their home recycling bin, it will just fall through the [filtering] screen and become a contaminant in the recycling system,”

– Brad Gray, Planet Ark, ‘Should you recycle your coffee pods?’

With this information in mind, sustainability driven entities are able to formulate solutions. For example, the German city of Hamburg has banned Coffee pods as part of an environmental drive to reduce waste. Nespresso, the pioneer in single serve coffee pods, has their own coffee pod recycling initiative, with 14,000 capsule collection points worldwide with the capacity to recycle over 80% of all used capsules. (Nicholson, 2016)

While measures exist, it is still not enough to decrease the environmental impact due to the energy intensive nature of aluminium production. (Gunther, 2015) While traditional pods can take more than 500 year to decompose and requires them to be emptied of coffee grounds, some cheaper supermarket alternative uses a plastic layer inside that means they cannot be recycled.

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Honest Coffee Company’s Jayden Klinac (left) and Josh Cole.

To tackle the problem at its root, two young entrepreneurs from Auckland, Jayden Klinac and Josh Cole developed bio degradable single serve coffee pods that does not even need to be put through the recycle process. These pods are made from plant fibres and can be composted in 180 days, along with the nutritious coffee grind residue inside. They looked at the problem at hand, and the waste stream where these thousands upon thousands of coffee pods are ending up, and designed  a solution that addresses the issue at its core.

By using results garnered from waste audit, and looking at where the organic wastes comes from and where it goes in its life cycle, we will be able to formulate solutions that not only solves the outcomes, but can tackle the issue before it even becomes a problem.


Morgan Tait, 31th July 2014, ‘Eco-friendly coffee capsule gives young Kiwis shot at big time’, NZ Herald, <http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11301675> Accessed 6th June 2016

A Cameron & S O’Malley, 2016, Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report by Planet Ark, <http://planetark.org/documents/doc-1397-summary-report-of-feasibility-study-april-2016.pdf> Accessed 6th June 2016

Esme Nicholson, 1st March 2016, ‘Why This German City Has Banned Coffee Pods In Government Buildings’ <http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/03/01/468631065/why-this-german-city-has-banned-coffee-pods-in-government-buildings> Accessed 6th June 2016

Signe Dean, 2nd Feb 2016, ‘Should you recycle your coffee pods?’ <http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/earth/article/2016/02/02/should-you-recycle-your-coffee-pods> Accessed 6th June 2016

Marc Gunther, 28th May 2015, ‘The good, the bad and the ugly: sustainability at Nespresso’ <http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/27/nespresso-sustainability-transparency-recycling-coffee-pods-values-aluminum>Accessed 6th June 2016