The UTS Re:bin

Our group has approached the issue of poor source separation at UTS by designing an alternative bin artefact that seeks to change the various behaviours and waste management practices of the staff and students here at the university. We have conducted research into seamless and seamful systems — the latter being particularly useful for making students and staff more conscious of a waste system — and thus — informing various behaviours and waste practices that may improve source separation on campus.

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ReBinBranding

ReBinInSitu

Please find the presentation in full below with an included reference list:
PresentationReBin

Thank you.

Post D — A speculative space

In response to my investigation in post C, I have decided to design a speculative environment that speaks to the issue of the Southern cross aged care facility producing large amounts of organic waste with relatively low recycling rates (Freeth & Hutcheon 2015).

The speculative design is an immersive environment built for the residents of the aged care facility — which gives the residents a chance to experience nature and have a more active role in the way in which their waste is managed.

The space of Southern Cross Care’s existing yard has been used to inform the placement of multiple compost bins. These bins are placed around a large circular, central garden. The compost bins run around the periphery of this central garden, feeding the garden with their nutrient-rich soil via an underground pipe network. The round form of the bins and the central garden, encourage residents and workers to move around the garden in a communal, and almost tribal fashion. The garden will offer a self sufficient means of fruit and vegetables for the kitchens of the aged care facility and also offer an effective, alternative means of waste management. My sketches of the speculative space follow:

Utopian garden
Image: Initial sketches for my speculative communal garden
future garden
Image: Digital collage of the speculative communal garden

John Ferris, Carol Norman and Joe Sempik, published a journal article in 2001 which dissected this idea of a communal garden and what that might mean for bordering community. A key insight from the research outlined that “community gardens can be positively linked to the implementation of Local Agenda and sustainability policies and at the same time used to promote environmental equity” (Ferris, Norman & Sempik 2001). This suggests that the garden has a social affordance that spans far wider than its physical diameter or provision of sustenance. The garden perhaps creates an egalitarian space for the workers and the residents —one of sharing knowledge and practice. We see a space created that allows for additional outputs of organic waste matter and also a space that educates and spreads ethics/culture.

In researching existing community gardens, I found some beautiful communal garden spaces in urban developments of Tokyo:

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Image: The communal ‘Green roof’ gardens of Tokyo (Eidt 2014)

These gardens, which soon influenced my own final design, are built into the harsh, urban landscape of Tokyo. Tokyo has introduced policies that require these green roofs to be installed upon 20% of all new public flat roof surfaces exceeding 250 square meters, and 10% of all private flat roofs exceeding 1000 square meters. The policy has resulted in the construction of around 50,00m2  green roofs annually since 2009. The communal gardens are used to promote ‘the greening of the city’ — spreading a sense of community and education through green, communal space (Eidt 2014).

References:

Eidt, J. 2015, Landscape Urbanism: Green roofs, Community farms in Japan, Wilderutopia, viewed 9 June 2016, <http://www.wilderutopia.com/sustainability/landscape-urbanism-green-roofs-community-farms-in-japan/&gt;.

Ferris, J. Norman, C. & Sempile, J. 2001, “People and Sustainability, Community Gardens and the Social Dimension of sustainable Development”, Social Policy and Administration, vol. 35, No. 5, pp. 559-568.

Freeth, J. & Hutcheon, A. 2015, SA aged care case study, Zero waste SA, <http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/upload/REAP/93171%20Zero%20Waste%20SA%20Aged%20Care%20Case%20Study%20FIN%20WEB.pdf&gt;.

Post C — Waste management systems

The amount of organic waste currently entering landfill in Australia is deplorable.

The EPA (NSW Environment Protection Authority) estimate that 50% of NSW household waste is organic (EPA 2015). According to the 2010-2011 Australian organic waste profile, about HALF of this organic matter was not recovered, but rather disposed of to landfill in NSW from 2010-2011 (Australian Govt 2011). This organic waste fills limited land space, breaks down and releases methane contributing to climate change and releases the pollutant leachate into waterways.

This offers space for improvement — pressing the need for research into alternative waste management methods. In 2005 Sven Lundie and Gregory Peters from the University of NSW, Sydney, assessed the current means of alternative organic waste management in households across the Sydney region. The waste alternatives that they considered were; the In-sink-erator food waste processor system, home composting, landfilling food waste with municipal waste (‘codisposal) and centralised composting of food and garden waste. To assess these systems, Lundie and Peters adopted a life cycle assessment method (LCA) — similar to the methods explored in post A — where waste systems were mapped in terms of their inputs and outputs. These inputs and outputs were considered against an array of environmental indicators and impact categories such as; energy usage, climate change contributers, water usage, human toxicity and aquatic and terrestrial eco-toxicity potential, acidification and eutrophication potential (Lundie & Peters 2005). Below is one such map from the assessment — detailing the current organic waste management systems of households in Waverley, Sydney:

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Image: Lundie and Peters’ LCA map (Lundie&Peters 2005)

A key finding from the assessment suggests that home composting has the least environmental impact in all impact categories. This is also the simplest system — which connects the kitchen with the garden, via a standard polyethylene compost bin (5kg), requiring no transportation nor electricity (Lundie & Peters 2005).

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Image: Camden Community Gardens’s home compost system

So if home compost systems are so efficient, then why are they so often deferred by Australian homes and businesses? Clearly a repositioning of current waste management systems is needed.

Waverley council (my local council), has taken an active role in repositioning current waste management systems in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. The council collated data from a waste audit conducted in 2008 (APC Environmental) of the neighboring areas of Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra to determine a means of reducing organic waste outputs. A small selection of the data follows:

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Image: Waverley Council’s audit data (Michener 2009)

The data from audit offered that food waste in these areas was slightly higher that the NSW state average of 38% in 2009 (Michener 2009).

In response to these data sets, the council called for members of the public to take part in the ‘Compost revolution’ — offering free workshops and support, as well as a kitchen bin, compost bins, worm farms and herbs. Workshops for the campaign were run locally by experienced facilitators, at a variety of locations — providing education on home composting and its benefits. Household compost bins were taken home by locals on the completion of such workshops. Here we see a community based initiative implemented by a local governing body, to drive education and culture — and so, reposition current waste management methods (Michener 2009).

The Compost revolution campaign is perhaps limited to only targeting the public at home or places at their of residence. But what about work and industry? Is it more difficult to inject such ethics and culture into a work/business context?

The ‘Zero waste SA’ initiative of South Australia, is a great, state government initiative which enables businesses to improve their recycling and waste avoidance practices at work through collaboration, advocacy, financial incentives and education (Zero waste SA 2012). One such company that has collaborated with the Zero waste initiative, is Southern Cross care — an aged care facility in South Australia. Aged care has particular relevance in the conversation of Wealth for Waste — as the facilities are a place of work and residence, and contribute very substantial organic waste outputs. It is estimated that the sector has one of the lowest rates for recycling, at about 20%. Which is well below the South Australian strategic target of 75% for commercial and industrial waste.

John Freeth, the director of waste management consultancy Directed Resources, was commissioned by Zero Waste SA to conduct the audits. The reviews found that “because wet waste was not being separated, waste going to landfill ranged form from a high 74% to 85%. In all cases the review demonstrated that this could be easily be reduced to about 40%” (Freeth & Hutcheon 2015, p. 3). Through a collaboration with Freeth, Southern cross care was able to properly separate their waste and to stimulate a culture of recycling and composting of organic waste — and so, reduce waste to landfill:

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Image: Freeth and Hutcheon’s waste data sets for Southern Cross Care

Exterior businesses such as ‘Zero waste SA’, seem to allow a businesses a means of re-evaluating internal processes . Perhaps all businesses with high organic waste outputs should be coupled with external companies for waste management by law? There is certainly incentives for businesses to do so — both in terms of the environment and savings. The coupling of these businesses also allows for an injection of education and culture into the workforce, which is perhaps a less considered context for sustainable practices.

References:

Australian Government Department of the Environment 2013, Australian national waste reporting 2013cat. no. 6227.0, ABS, Canberra, viewed 9 June 2016, <http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0a517ed7-74cb-418b-9319-7624491e4921/files/overview-organics_0.pdf&gt;

Freeth, J. & Hutcheon, A. 2015, SA aged care case study, Zero waste SA, <http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/upload/REAP/93171%20Zero%20Waste%20SA%20Aged%20Care%20Case%20Study%20FIN%20WEB.pdf&gt;.

NSW Environmental Protection Authority 2015, Data: local council waste and resource recovery, Sydney, viewed 9 June 2016, <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/waste/organic-waste.htm&gt;.

Lundie, S. & Peters, G. 2005, “Life cycle assessment of food waste management options”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 275-286.

Michener, L. 2009, The Compost Revolution in Sydney, Environmental Services Division, Waverly Council Australia <http://www.ewmce.com/Resources/Documents/Lauren_Michener_-_Compost_Revolution_in_Sydney.pdf&gt;.

Zero waste SA 2012, At work: business recycling methods, viewed 9 June 2016,<http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au/at-work/business-recycling-resources>.

Post B — Interpreting data sets

Hello again.

A key method for my own waste audit in part A, was the collection of data from a range of sources. In collecting waste data from a range of sources, I was able to create a standard, or mean waste stream, that was representative of an age group or particular demographic. I have imagined this method of aggregating data being conducted on a national scale — where entire communities and regions are analysed and compared in terms of their waste disposal movements. This could give governing bodies a greater understanding of the way in which individuals and communities are approaching waste, and thus drive strategy and state/national reform. 

One such collection of data, at a state level, is conducted by the The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which coordinates annual council surveys on the waste and recyclables collected from households. The resulting reports, outline the domestic waste generation and recycling performance of local council kerbside, drop-off and clean-up services across NSW. The EPA uses data provided by councils who sort through the waste, to calculate overall waste generation and resource recovery rates for each local government area (NSW EPA 2015).

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Image: Pittwater waste collection bins audited by the EPA

Some key findings from the  2012-2013 report found that:

The average NSW household generated 23.6 kg of waste a week, consisting of 5.1 kg of recyclables, 5.3 kg of food and garden organics and 11.7 kg of landfill waste.
– The average person in NSW generated 9.2 kg of waste a week, down from 9.4 kg the previous year
– NSW households generated a total of 3.47 million tonnes of waste, sending 2.02 million tonnes to landfill and recycling the remaining 1.45 million tonnes.
– The overall recycling rate for household waste dropped slightly to 46.5 percent, compared to 47 per cent in 2011/12.


One could certainly see how these data sets may prove useful from a pro-environment agenda — such as the Wealth for Waste initiative. Within the Wealth for Waste initiative, we are  approaching the issue of organic matter by separating waste on site at UTS. This is one approach — and a good one. The aggregated data could also raise other questions however — such as; what if the organic matter was already separated? Perhaps students and staff could become more active in their own waste disposal methods? And in a residential context — what if the organic matter instead entered household compost systems as a result of a change in the behaviour of home owners across NSW?

Linda Steg and Charles Vlek of the University of Groningen, Netherlands, offer that environmental issues are rooted in human behaviour, and “thus can be managed by changing the relevant behaviour so as to reduce its environmental impacts”
(Steg & Vlek 2009 p. 2). This only amplifies the role of the design community. Instead of approaching waste at its ends — designerly strategies must be implemented in order to shape the social condition of organic waste. The designer finds him/herself central to education, to art, and to culture — all means of shaping understandings and behaviours of the public — and in turn — their waste habits.

One such design movement that strives to bring about changes in behaviours through design and education, is the the ‘Green Resource Efficiency Program’ (REP) of Harvard University in Massachusetts. The program consists of 19 students of Harvard, who aim to bring about change by educating their peers on such issues as energy, waste, water and food. The group do so through a range of community-building, on-campus events and campaigns (Harvard 2015). Please enjoy this short video that showcases some of the great design work by REP. 

References:

Harvard University 2015, Environmental awareness grows from peer to peer, Massachusetts, viewed 8 June 2016, <http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/environmental-awareness-grows-from-peer-to-peer/>.

NSW Environmental Protection Authority 2015, Data: local council waste and resource recovery, Sydney, viewed 6 June 2016, <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/warrlocal/data.htm>.

Steg, L. & Vlek, C. 2009, “Encouraging pro-environmental behaviour: An integrative review and research agenda”, Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 309-317.

Post A — A waste audit

I have just overturned my kitchen bin. What a sight. I did so to conduct an audit of my daily waste.

So a little about the bin; this bin fills up once a day, needing emptying in the late evening. The bin is located in the kitchen, to which all members of the house have access. Given its location, the bin is used by all 4 members of the household — all of which are in their early 20s, with similar lifestyles, interests, and daily routines to my own. I have also included a milk crate that the household uses for recyclables within the audit. It has been considered that by auditing a small group of people of a similar age group and demographic, I am able achieve some sort of a standard, or mean, that perhaps allows a broader scope than monitoring only my own, personal waste. Below are some images of the overturned bin and the milk crate of recyclables investigated:

Waste Audit
Image: General waste collected within my household
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Image: Crate of recyclables collected within my household

In overturning the bin, I found that much of the waste was organic matter — at least 50%. Much of the waste within the general waste bin was also recyclable — which was quite disturbing — with a number of plastic containers, tins and cardboards that could have been easily rinsed and recycled.

I found quite a number of eggshells within the waste — which I thought could have quite an interesting lifecycle. I found the mapping techniques used by Lucas Ihlein in his project titled ‘Environmental audit’, particularly useful for investigating this life cycle of the eggshells. Some of these mind-mapping techniques are offered on the Environmental audit website and also in the book from the Museum of Contemporary art titled ‘In the balance: Art for a changing world’ (Kent 2010).

I began using these mapping techniques adopted by Ihlein in my own work, allowing for a visual representation of an eggshell’s life cycle:

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Image: Organic eggshells found in the general waste of my household
Mapping audit
Image: My visual life cycle assessment of the eggshells found in personal waste

I was able to dissect the visual map and separate the eggshells’s life cycle into inputs and outpts/outcomes — that is, I was able to determine what is required to create and facilitate for the eggs — and then, what the outcomes or end results of that egg are. This was particularly useful for identifying ways in which the organic matter locates itself physically, socially, economically and even temporally. This sort of scope could certainly allow a platform for implementing change.

As I figured that most of my own eggshells were destined for landfill, I decided to do some brief research on eggshells in soil. I soon found that when added to composts, eggshells increase the calcium content of the soil. This calcium-rich soil promotes plant growth.  JF Loneragan and K Snowball published a journal article in 1969 which tested the yield of a range of plant matter in relation to soil calcium content. One such section of their findings states that “Increasing solution calcium concentrations from 0.3 to 2.5um increased the yield (plant matter growth) greatly” (Loneragan & Snowball 1969). 

This is certainly relevant for the Wealth for waste initiative, as it suggests that we are able to facilitate additional outcomes or products of organic materials by seeking alternative disposal methods. The lifeline and mapping techniques explored, offer a means of identifying and targeting specific areas for action.

References:

Ihlien, L. 2010 – Environmental audit, Sydney, viewed 6 June 2016,  <http://www.environmental-audit.net/page/2/&gt;.

Kent, R. 2010, In the balance: Art for a changing world, Museum of Contemporary Art.

Loneragan, J. & Snowball, K. 1969, “Calcium requirements of plants”, Crop and Pasture Science, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 465-478.