Group 5: A Long-Term Education Plan for UTS

 

Our group goal: Reducing contamination of organic waste in UTS public space bins to just 2-5% through education.

This will require a shift in our key stakeholders, the tutor’s and student’s, habits and perceptions of waste and we aim to achieve this through a long-term 4 step education plan that starts small but grows as interest builds and changes become more readily accepted throughout the university. We decided on designing an education plan because it is very important that the positive waste practices spread further than just UTS. We want tutors and students to start thinking about better waste management in their homes, workplaces, sporting clubs etc. and only through education will we achieve this.

Drawing from our own immensely positive learning experiences over the short period doing this Wealth from Waste subject, students and tutors becoming more aware of the waste system at UTS and their place within that system will be able to take a step up from their current waste practices. Those who had no knowledge around their waste should start to take notice and care in how they dispose of their waste and those people who sometimes use the correct bins should become people who want to always act in the most sustainable way.

Step 1 The Ambassador – appointing an ambassador who will be the driving force behind the waste education plan. UTS:Green and Seb Crawford, Sustainability Coordinator, are very keen to push for green, sustainable implementations such as this one.

Step 2 Staff Education Day – before the educators can teach students how to correctly manage their waste they need to care and be confident in their own knowledge, for this to happen the tutors need to be made aware of the waste system. They will learn the general organic waste facts, the UTS waste system and their role within it, hear talks from other UTS staff members with experience and knowledge of waste and go on a virtual tour of the UTS organic waste system.

Step 3- Putting Waste into Student Assignments – with the tutors made aware of the importance of waste management they can begin to alter student assignments to include better waste practices and understanding. Altering assignments undertaken by students during the first semester of the first year is critical to ensure each new group of students coming through the university starts with good knowledge of positive waste practices. Assignments can be tweaked just slightly to include some emphasis on waste. Examples of small changes to existing assignments include: the composting of old natural textiles for the fashion school subject Thinking Fashion; rubbish bin way finding in public arenas for IPD’s Inside Design subject; and the collection of waste to be used in the Ways of Seeing subject’s poster design for both UTS:Insearch Design Diploma and Visual Communication students.

Step 4- Ongoing Education and Promotion – the designs and data created by students in these altered assignments can be used as further educational materials on future staff education days and around the university campus to keep the positive waste management message fresh and help ensure the continual interest in creating a greener, more sustainable UTS.

The roll out of this plan is ongoing and will be revisited every year through the tutors teaching the students classes with waste-centred assignments and continual staff education days overseen by the championing organisation UTS:Green.

 

By Caitlin, James, Yan, Laura

 

D: Student’s Trash to the Needy’s Treasure

Where food is consumed makes a difference to how waste can be managed. Post-consumer waste, like that of students at the primary and secondary schools discussed in my previous post, is managed by relying on the public to dispose of their own rubbish. The role of the everyday consumer in the management of organic waste is vital as they are the first step in its handling and disposal. (Glucksmann & Wheeler 2015)

A large contribution to this waste was the students’ behaviour in the lunchroom. Staff reported that they don’t like the food served, are fussy eaters and don’t want to eat healthy food. This is rather normal for children to have strong likes and dislikes in regards to food and it would be very difficult to change their preferences quick enough to make significant impact on the amount of food left over. What can be changed faster is the way the children are thought to handle their rejected food items.
“Waste- once produced and generated by us… must be treated as our own. It is therefore our responsibility to society and to the planet to discard of such waste… in a responsible and productive way.” (Tang 2008) Students should be more active in how they manage their waste, seeing it through from start to its final destination. By taking responsibility into their own hands and truly owning their own waste they will be thinking critically about the impact it can have, both positive and negative.

I propose donation to food relief organisations alongside education about food insecurity and the function of such food relief charities within their local community as the school’s alternative to sending their food waste to landfill. While lacking a palette for all the food groups, children are certainly not without empathy. Through the use of posters on prominent display in the lunchroom, clear signage on bins, messages in the school newsletter, talks from visiting organisations and classroom discussion, students may be taught to think about what their rejects will mean to another.
Once finished with their food trays the children would normally go directly to the rubbish bin to dispose of what they have left over in either the recycling or normal waste bins. Instead, remembering the class talks and seeing the notices displayed around the lunchroom, the students will use a third location to drop off any untouched, packaged food items such as sandwiches, dessert cups and bags of fruit, to be collected at the end of the day by a representative of a food charity organisation and then distributed to other people in the community experiencing food insecurity.

There are many food relief charities operating in the UK who would only benefit from extra donations. FoodCycle operates by going out and picking up their food donations from places such as grocery stores and businesses on each occasion. (FoodCycle 2016) If the local schools were added to their list of collection locations the food waste would be kept out of landfill, put to far better use by feeding those in need and students made aware of the organic food waste problem and it’s possible solutions from a young age.

 

FoodCycle 2016, FoodCycle: building communitites through food, video recording, Vimeo, Viewed 11 June 2016, <https://vimeo.com/164229949&gt;

Glucksmann, M. & Wheeler, K. 2015, Household Recycling and Consumption Work, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, UK

Tang, K. 2008, ‘Addressing the global problem of waste’, in K. Tang & J. Yeoh (eds.), WASTEnomics, Middlesex University Press, London, pp. 3-15

C: Food Waste is Wasting People

The disparity between what is needed and what is wasted is a global problem as tonnes of edible food gets sent to landfill while many people are left starving. To help both the health of the people and that of the Earth our organic food waste needs to be made an important issue.

Vandana Shiva, the Director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India, shares her views on the importance of waste management in Transforming Food Waste into a Resource. She writes that organic waste is being made in huge amounts and is “… wasting food, wasting people and wasting the Earth.” (2012) The Earth suffers due to pollution, nutritious food is wasted due to rigid standards in uniformity and lives are wasted as people’s basic right to nourishing and adequate food is compromised with many around the world starving. Shiva laments that in India “one million children dying annually for lack of food is a wasted future.” (et al.) Though Shiva writes with more driving passion than concrete data, her strong opinions are certainly not without truth. What she describes as the process of ‘wasted people’ is indeed a big problem associated with organic food waste and alternatives need to be implemented both locally and internationally to help improve this. (et al.)

In the UK, the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s 2011 study on food waste in schools found that over the 40 week school year period 80,382 tonnes of food waste was generated. That is 72 grams per student a day for primary schools and 42 grams a student per day in secondary schools. Vegetables and fruit were found to make up the majority of this waste and sadly, 77% from secondary schools and 78% of this from primary schools were found to have been still nutritious meaning huge amounts of avoidable waste gets sent straight to landfill from schools every year. (WRAP 2011)

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 12.44.53 PM
(WRAP 2011)
Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 12.45.06 PM
(WRAP 2011)

When it is estimated around 4 million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet with fresh fruit and vegetables nor even two meals a day this imbalance between need and excess becomes all too clear. (Gaiani & Segre 2012)

Foodbank is Australia’s leading non-profit organisation in providing second-hand food to community groups and other charities to distribute among the hungry across all of Australia. They report that “1 in 6 Australians report having experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months” (Foodbank 2016) Each month over 644,000 people receive help from food relief charities but still 43,000 more are turned away with empty stomachs due to a lack of resources to meet the great demand.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 5.05.54 PM
(Foodbank 2016)
Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 5.05.14 PM
(Foodbank 2016)

The total amount of food distributed in NSW is enough for 29,500 meals per day and yet Foodbank reports that it still needs 29% more food to meet demands. Among the most needed are cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables. (et al.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 1.44.47 PM
(Foodbank 2016)

While the findings of this report are focused on a small selection of Foodbank’s clients, the figures only aid in emphasising the importance of organic waste management and the need to divert still edible food from landfill in Australia and indeed, across the whole world.

If the amount of organic waste disposed in Australia is estimated at 7.5 million tonnes, surely some of the food we throw out could be put to much better uses and help close that gap between supply and demand for the hungry. (Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011) As Shiva passionately writes, we need to turn our organic waste into a resource in order to better “…honour the Earth and it’s people.” (2012)

 

Foodbank 2016, Foodbank Hunger Report 2016, company report, viewed 7 June 2016, <http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Foodbank-Hunger-Report-2016.pdf>

Gaiani, S & Segre, A. 2012, Transforming Food into a Resource, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK

Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, National Food Waste Assessment, final report, viewed 7 June 2016, <https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/publications/national-food-waste-assessment-final-report>

Shiva, V. 2012, ‘Foreword: Wasting Food, Wasting People, Wasting the Earth’, in Gaiani, S & Segre, A. 2012, Transforming Food into a Resource, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, pp. v-vii.

WRAP 2011, Food Waste in Schools, summary report, viewed 7 June 2016, <http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food%20Waste%20in%20Schools%20Summary%20Report.pdf>

 

B: Observing People in their Natural Habitat

The collecting of primary and secondary research as well as qualitative and quantitative data has been instrumental in driving my past problem-based design projects. As waste starts and ends with people and their habits need to be assessed in depth through the most appropriate research methods in order to make good design decisions.

Interviews have been useful sources of primary research, allowing me to understand new issues previously not thought of. It opened up new ideas through allowing the subject to talk about their experiences, in some cases shifting the focus and direction of the designs. However, I have often felt that subjects will say what they think I want to hear and may also not want to reveal anything that may reflect poorly on themselves, which results in inaccurate data. (Sanger 1996)

The format of a survey has been useful for gathering large amounts of quantitative data. Surveys also give participants the opportunity to remain anonymous, which may help in them being more truthful. This research method is heavily reliant on trusting people taking the time to complete the survey and filling it out correctly. Survey responses can be lost due to being invalid and are open to inaccuracies due to sampling errors and respondents misinterpreting questions. (Foodbank 2016)

Observation is a method that takes many forms, but ultimately relies on all the senses to understand the behaviours of the subject. The moment we know someone is looking our actions may be altered but observation, especially nonparticipant observation, allows the researcher to see how subjects act in a normal setting. (Sanger 1996) Using observation to understand how UTS’s post-consumer organic waste is handled at its very first step would involve spending time in the space surrounding campus bins and food outlets, answering such questions as who uses them, what is put inside, whether signs are being followed and how frequently they are emptied.

 

lead_large
(Poon 2015)

A research team from MIT have used observation to understand how pedestrians interact with the urban space. They are using high tech sensors to track pedestrian movements, looking at whether they move quickly or linger tells a lot about what the public believes are the more pleasant areas of the city. City-planning consultant Toderian says, “…it’s about empathy and putting yourself as a designer in the place of the people.” (Poon 1015) The results from this technology aided observational research will assist city planners in designing better public spaces. I cannot be aided by such technologies but successful observation can still be carried out “the old-fashioned way”. (et al.)

Unlike previous research design tasks, in this instance I am not an impartial observer as I too dispose of waste at this institution and this may work against me as going into observation with expectations may lead to blindness of something that should be obvious. As Sanger writes in his field guide to observation, “a major difference between seeing and observing is that the observer takes steps to counteract the in-built biases we all possess”. (Sanger 1996) Proper interpretation of qualitative observation results is key to good data.

Of course, all data research methods have their strengths and weaknesses. It is best to combine multiple methods of primary and secondary research, both qualitative and quantitative data to better triangulate the results and arrive at a well informed outcome.

 

Foodbank 2016, Foodbank Hunger Report 2016, company report, viewed 7 June 2016, <http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Foodbank-Hunger-Report-2016.pdf>

Poon, L. 2015, ‘MIT Puts Pedestrians at the Centre of Urban Design’, CityLab, 17 August, viewed 9 June 2016,, <http://www.citylab.com/tech/2015/08/mit-puts-pedestrians-at-the-center-of-urban-design/401285/>

Sanger, J. 1996, The Complete Observer? A field research guide to observation, The Falmer Press, London, UK

 

A: Extending the Life of Textile Waste

In relation to biology, ‘organic’ means to be derived from living matter and ‘waste’ is defined as the consumption or using up of materials. (Oxford Dictionary 2016a, Oxford Dictionary 2016b) Therefore, the term ‘organic waste’ refers to all natural materials such as food, paper and natural fabrics that are discarded through use and consumption.

In just one day at home I produced a total 762g of organic waste. 414g of cotton fabric scraps, 228g of vegetable peels and 120g of paper waste. In terms of approximate volume the textile waste took up the most at around 2000cm3, but at just 500cm3 the vegetable peels occupied half the space of the paper waste’s 1000cm3 despite being almost double the weight.

The largest portion of organic waste I produced was that of the calico fabric. This calico from India is a cheap, plain woven, unbleached, 100% cotton fabric most often used in the fashion industry as test garments before final fabrics and designs are decided. It is used in very large quantities, as the same piece of clothing will be tested first in calico repeatedly.

The final resting place for textiles discarded in with the usual rubbish items is landfill, just as it is for the majority of waste produced in Australia. Not only does it take up valuable space- landfill decomposing releases dangerous methane gas, which contributes to global warming, and the dirty liquid that seeps from landfill called leachate, which can contaminate ground water sources. Textile waste makes up an estimated 4% of all landfill in Australia, specifically contributing to the creation of methane and highly toxic ammonia, which is released by natural fibres decomposing. Synthetic fibres increase environmental damage through leachate and methane gas, as they remain degrading in landfill for a very long time. (Caulfield 2009)

DSCN7561
My pile of calico test garments created over the course of one subject this semester. There are 13 garments here weighing a total 2kg.

The calico thrown out on this occasion was mostly scraps, but even the larger test garments I made with it are destined for the bin and eventually landfill once I have finished with them. What if my textile waste’s life could be extended to be more beneficial? There are a few alternatives to throwing fabric away, in Australia charities such as St Vincent De Paul, The Smith Family and The Salvation Army are well known to collect  second-hand clothing in good condition to sell on or give to those in need. In 2012 charitable recyclers received an estimate 300,000 tonnes of donations, 48% was reused, 12% recycled, 40% was unable to be used and disposed to waste. (NACRO 2013) Although a large percentage of donations became landfill, 60% being put to more environmentally friendly uses makes charities a good means of making unwanted textiles useful.

But the calico fabric I discarded on this occasion were only scraps, how might they become useful? Consulting the City of Sydney’s Garbage Guru taught me through email that textiles can be disposed of in the compost bin. As long as the fabric is composed of 100% natural fibres it can be cut up into small pieces to aid decomposition and thrown into the compost among other kitchen scraps. It will take longer to break down than food scraps, but every little bit out of landfill goes a long way to reducing Australia’s organic waste problem. (Garbage Guru 2016, pers. comm., 1 June)

Caulfield, K. 2009, Sources of Textile Waste in Australia, viewed 1 June 2016, <http://www.nacro.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/TEXTILE-WASTE-PAPER-March-2009-final.pdf>

National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) 2013, viewed 2 June 2016, <http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0a517ed7-74cb-418b-9319-7624491e4921/files/factsheet-charitable-recycling-organisations.pdf>

Oxford English Dictionary 2016a, organic adj. and n.: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, UK, viewed 1 June 2016, <http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/view/Entry/132431?redirectedFrom=organic+#eid>

Oxford English Dictionary 2016b, waste n.: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, UK, viewed 1 June 2016, <http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/view/Entry/226027?rskey=2OhUhh&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid>