D. A Lit Review

As a means of gathering information about Organic Waste solutions, our group researched other educational institutions and explored the ways in which they are tackling similar issues.

Upon investigation, the University of Illinois came to our attention. The University strives to create environmentally responsible dining within their facility via methods of sustainable sourcing and waste reduction. This can be seen in their alliance with larger environmental bodies such as the EPA, Zero Percent and Lean Path. Their attempts have been largely successful and have ultimately earned them recognition with awards such as the 2015 Governor’s Sustainability Award, and the  2015 Sustainability in Waste Management Award (The University of Illinois 2017).

One main point of interest that arose from this research was the option to donate food when it is in excess. This can be seen in their contribution to Pantry and Foodbank programs across areas including Urbana and Ranoul (The University of Illinois 2017). This discovery sparked the conversation about food sharing amongst our group and eventually informed our final concept.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages organisations to pledge support to their initiatives such as the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). The University of Illinois, amongst other institutions, have sought to take part in this challenge by rethinking their relationship with food in its’ various stages. The processes of extraction, manufacturing, distribution, use, reuse and disposal of food can display numerous points of intervention to be addressed with hope to reduce waste. The Food Recovery Hierarchy (United State Environmental Protection Agency 2016) is used as a reference to prioritise actions and prevent or divert wasted food. This system places source reduction and donations with the highest precedence and thus, further informed our decision to explore food sharing as a solution to Organic Waste.




In addition to this, Zero Percent is an organisation that aims to bridge the gap between the abundance and scarcity of food in the US. Their testimonial expresses that they “help put good surplus food to the best use” (Zero Percent n.d) which ultimately allows partnering institutions to recognise that their support is genuinely required and will make a difference to those in need.




Furthermore, as a means of decreasing food waste, the University of Illinois has invested in a system that will monitor their current levels of food waste. The technology behind ‘Lean Path’ allows businesses to accurately record the amount of produce that is being diverted to waste on a daily basis and within multiple sectors of their establishment (Lean Path 2017). This ultimately allows them to quantify and locate areas within their business that are lacking in economic design which can then be resolved. They also boast the ability to cut a businesses’ food expenses by 6% (Lean Path 2017), and thus, appeal to large institutions who are concerned with their excess food waste.



As demonstrated by The University of Illinois, Organic Waste is a Wicked Problem (Buchanan 1992) which cannot be simply solved via one solution, yet is approached from numerous directions. It is a complex issue which encompasses a profound amount of stakeholders and external relating issues. It is therefore important that institutions such as universities acknowledge these facts and attempt to address the multiple facets it entails.

Reference List:

The University of Illinois 2017, Sustainability in Dining, Illinois, viewed 17 June 2017, <http://www.housing.illinois.edu/dining/about-dining/sustainability>.

United State Environmental Protection Agency 2016, Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), viewed 17 June 2017, <https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc>.

Zero Percent n.d. Our Impact, Chicago, viewed 17 June 2017,< http://www.zeropercent.us/>.

Lean Path 2017, What is Lean Path?, Orlando, viewed 17 June 2017, <http://www.leanpath.com/how-it-works/>.

Buchanan, R. 1992, ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.’ Design Issues, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 14-15.

C. Research Methods

Research is a highly instrumental component of any task which should be completed consistently across its’ development. The understanding that “the purpose of research is to inform actions” (Unite for Sight 2015) can be observed within a multitude of circumstances. Spanning from simplistic behavioural properties, humankind has long been using primal research methods in order to develop themselves as a specie. This concept has been implemented within the realm of education whereby students re-contexualise their findings and thus, expand the implications of original data.

Research as a process must be iterative and cyclical (Unite for Sight 2015) in order for it to in turn be transformative and thorough. Varying research methods allow this to occur and ultimately dictate the perspective from which certain topics are ascertained.

Upon beginning the design brief, our group generated a list of methods from which we would draw upon as a means of gathering primary and secondary information to inform our proceeding actions. Though successful research can be considered somewhat serendipitous, (The University of Western Australia 2012) the pragmatic stigma that constitutes the highest quality of information can be accounted for by the methods chosen in relation to the desired outcome.      

Observation is a systematic data collection approach (Cohen D, Crabtree B 2006) which takes place on site and is subjective to the participants’ sensory experiences. This method initiated the data collection process for our design brief as it allowed us to obtain contextual data which would ultimately form the basis of our outcome. Observation allowed us to accurately locate the issue at hand within the constraints of UTS Housing and enabled us to locate physical points of intervention for our outcome.

Literature reviews inherently consider the stance of others on a particular topic, from which, readers would deduct their own perspectives and apply this newfound knowledge to their individual projects. This method therefore effectively informed us about organic waste and the psycho-analytic use of technology as we were able to use statistics and facts to support our arguments.

Mapping the existing Organic Waste systems in place at UTS was a highly effective research method for this task as it enabled us to identify influencing factors such as infrastructure and stakeholders. It also allowed us to visualise the acquisition and disposal processes used by students living in UTS housing in order for us to determine points of intervention.



In addition to this, surveying students allowed us to generate “real world observations” (Kelley et al. 2003) from a predetermined set of students. This was especially helpful as we were able to gain insights from our target users in order to adequately tailor our design solution to their needs. Furthermore, when completed correctly, surveying allows researchers to obtain data from a “representative sample” (Kelley et al. 2003) which can be generalised to a greater population in order to increase efficiency in workflow and expand the breadth from which information is obtained.


In summary, research is a crucial stage in any design process. Varying research methods also affect the type of data that is collected and how it can be used. This knowledge was highly useful to our group as we were able to identify research methods that would be most beneficial to our process, desired outcome and targeted users.

Reference List:

Unite for Sight 2015, Module 6: The Importance of Research, Connecticut, viewed 13 June 2017, <http://www.uniteforsight.org/research-methodology/module6>.

The University of Western Australia 2012, The importance of academic research, Perth, viewed 13 June 2017, <http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201203194542/vice-chancellor/importance-academic-research>.

Cohen D, Crabtree B 2006, Qualitative Research Guidelines Project: Observation, New Jersey, viewed 13 June, <http://www.qualres.org/HomeObse-3594.html>.

Kelley, K., Clark, B., Brown, V. & Sitzia, J. 2003, ‘Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research’, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 261-6.

B. Working Interdisciplinary

The interdisciplinary nature of this subject allows designers with varying skills and interests to unite and utilise their specialised skills towards a common goal. This applies to the literal sense of designing, whereby physical skills are broadened within the group and designed outcomes can be more collaborative and extensive in order to “uncover a newer, more powerful solution (Pagés 2013). This may, however, also be seen as a detriment to the group dynamic, as students often have contrasting opinions upon approaching a brief, as a result of their individual experiences within other disciplines.

The caddie design project challenged our group significantly as it forced us to look beyond the foundational elements of design and consider strategy as a designed element. It also, however, presented opportunities to tailor an outcome which would play to the strengths of the group. Visual Communications students were able to apply knowledge of layout and visual hierarchy as well as technical skills within design programs, whilst product designers were able to apply their methods of prototyping and product testing to our caddie design.

This task ultimately allowed us to observe the role of designers within the wider community such as within organic waste systems. Our processes consider numerous influencing factors such as varying audiences, environments and visual desires, as well as practical skills such as aesthetics, production and promotion. Designers are highly skilled individuals with interest beyond the expanse of aesthetics. We are often highly concerned about the needs of consumers and use this knowledge in the conceptual stages of the design process. As a result, designers are highly useful in approaching “wicked problems” (Buchanan 1992) such as the management of waste, as we understand that the needs of such issues go beyond a simple solution.

System design must consider a multitude of influencing factors ranging from user demographics to financial constraints within production. For this reason, design can be seen as an instrumental elements to the formation of systems as we are required to respond to the actions of consumers and consider the process of using such product or system. This ultimately results in a “systematic and rigorous approach to design” that is “user-centred.” (Dubberly 2006)

Establishing a group charter is of high importance as it “clarifies team direction” (Life Cycle Engineering 2015) whilst beginning to educate members about the interests, strengths, weaknesses and experiences of their collaborators. This was no exception to our own group as we were able to recognise each others’ capabilities whilst establishing foundational beliefs for the group and our goals within the subject. The charter ultimately acts as a reminder for members to collaborate effectively in order to succeed.


Life Cycle Engineering 2015, Team Charters: What are they and what’s their purpose?, Charleston SC, viewed 7 May 2017, <https://www.lce.com/Team-Charters-What-are-they-and-whats-their-purpose-1219.html>.

How Design 2013, The Interdisciplinary Design Approach, Florida, viewed 7 May 2017, <http://www.howdesign.com/design-firm/the-interdisciplinary-design-approach/>.

Dubberly Design Office 2006, What is Systems Design, San Francisco, viewed 8 May 2017, <http://www.dubberly.com/articles/what-is-systems-design.html>.

Buchanan, R. 1992, ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.’ Design Issues, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 14-15.

A. The Audit

Waste Audit
• Conduct and draw a 1 day organic waste audit of all the ‘organic waste’ you produce over a 24 hour period

Step 1: Record Info:
– Container from leftover food
– Mac & Cheese Wrapper
– Hungry Jacks Bag
– Corn Kernels Tin
– Tuna Can
– Tea Bags x2
– Pizza Boxes x2
– Beer Bottle
– Empty Tissue Box
– Apple Core x2
– Banana peels
– Carrot Peel
– Wilted Lettuce
– Empty Water Bottle
– Tissues/ Paper Towels
– Used Baking Paper

Step 2: Organise Findings

General Waste Recyclables Organic Waste
Container from leftover food hungry jacks bag tea bags
mac & cheese wrapper corn kernels tin apple core
pizza boxes tuna can banana peels
tissues/ paper towel beer bottle carrot peels
used baking paper empty tissue box wilted lettuce
empty water bottle

Step 3: Review Results

After collecting this data, I thought it would be best to categorise my findings into sub-groups bases on their environmental compatibility. I chose the titles: General Waste, Recyclables and Organic Waste. I then made various google searches in order to validate my separation of items into each category:
Are Tea Bags organic waste?
Can pizza boxes be recycled?
Do Tin cans have to be washed before recycled?

Here’s what I found:
Tea Bags are classified as organic waste
Pizza boxes can only be recalled if they have not be soiled by oil from its’ contents
Tin cans, containers and other recycling material doesn’t have to be washed but it’s best to give it a quick rinse prior to recycling.

Step 4: Reflect

Within a standard 24-hour weekday period, a maximum of 2 meals would have been shared at home. Typically a home cooked dinner prepared by my mum – anything from a hearty bowl of soup, pasta, meat or fish with sides. Considering our Italian heritage, pasta makes a consistent appearance on our menu, complimented by meats and home-grown tomato salads. The day on which this data was collected, however, was a quiet one at home. My parents are overseas for a month and therefore, there has been a substantial increase of take-away and microwave meals. My family consists of Father, Mother, Two brothers and myself. 3 uni students juggling work, assignments, sports and social lives leaves little to no time at home. For this reason, very little organic waste was collected on this day.

Canapé Food Audit

On Wednesday the 22nd of March, Ali’s Lab B ‘Wealth From Waste’ Class was invited to attend the 20th Anniversary and Book Launch celebrations for the Institute of Sustainable Futures. We were asked to audit the catering services of the event, including the bar and canapé provisions. Upon entrance, we noticed that staff members were carrying trays of food and drinks around the event. Food was also placed on 3 tall bar tables located in the centre of the function room. Each table contained a big bowl of hummus, olive tapenade and mini vegetables made to look like a garden bed, as well as a menu and serviettes. From this point, we were able to notice the staff members entering the room from a back entrance where we suspected food was being stored. We also noticed that the bowls were being taken off the tables once most of the vegetables were taken, despite the copious amount of hummus left in the bottom. At the bar, drinks were being poured in advanced and left to be taken by the wait staff. Glass and plastic bottles were being put into recycling bins located behind the bar.



Government of South Australia, GREEN ORGANICS BIN – Some simple tips on how to Recycle Right, South Australia, viewed 1st April 2017, < http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/upload/facts-sheets/recycleright-factsheet.pdf>.

Stanford University, Frequently Asked Questions: Contamination, Palo Alto CA, viewed 1st April 2017, <https://lbre.stanford.edu/pssistanford-recycling/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-contamination>.

Government of Victoria, Frequently Asked Questions, Victoria, viewed 3rd April 2017, <http://www.getitrightbinnight.vic.gov.au/how-to-get-it-right/faq/>.

Environment Australia 1999, Organics Market Development Strategy, Canberra, viewed 3rd April 2017, <http://www.environment.gov.au/archive/settlements/publications/waste/organics/strategy/>.

Waste Net 2016, Organic Waste, Western Australia, viewed 3rd April 2017, <http://www.wastenet.net.au/organic-waste.aspx>.