post D: organic waste management proposal

In my blog post C, I wrote about the Love Food Hate Waste movement, which is an initiative funded by the NSW government to raise awareness about the repercussions of food waste and encourage individuals to change their lifestyles to reduce such waste. For my organic waste management proposal, I wish to concentate on the issue of food waste, and focus it to an institution where I believe such an iniative will have a high impact, namely, in primary and secondary schools.

My proposal is to reduce food waste by individuals through enacting a series of measures in schools. This proposal aims to educate students about the social and environmental impacts of wasting food, and to teach them to develop sustainable practices when it comes to food waste (these learnings will also hopefully carry through to other types of waste, e.g. recycling paper, etc.)

I chosen to concentrate on schools in my proposal because I believe institutes of learning are some of the best places in which to enact new ideas. Students are constantly learning, and in an environment where all their lives they have been following rules, and are thus more likely to accept new ideas and ways of doing things. Children, especially younger children, are also quite impressionable. The same is true of adolescents (Nuwer 2012). It is quite easier to form good habits in childhood which are then naturally carried over into adulthood, than to try to improve less-than-ideal habits in adults. Therefore a campaign directed at a younger audience would likely be more efficient and effective.

A variety of methods could be used to educate students about the problems of food waste. These can be active measures, such as talks, presentations, and excursions, or more passive measures such as through posters and signage.

The practical measures made to deal with organic waste in schools would include having separate bins that are dedicated to organic waste, and having on-site worm farms or composting facilities. Dedicated bins for organic waste makes the recycling process easier and cheaper, and trains students to think of waste in a more sophisticated way (i.e. as opposed to putting everything in a bin that gets carted off to landfill). Worm farms and/or composting facilities would be a practical way to educate students about ways to repurpose organic waste, and would be beneficial to soil and gardens of school grounds (Practical Action n.d.). The presence of these measures would also help normalise the idea that organic waste should be treated differently to other types of waste, and that it should first and foremost be reused, rather than simply disposed of in landfill.

Another consideration of food wastage is the disposal of perfectly edible food. Instead of allowing students to throw away their food, collection facilities could be installed where students can donate unwanted, unopened/uneaten food. This could be a way for children to swap food with each other and/or donate to food banks for those in need. After all, it is estimated that 20% of food purchased by Australians is thrown away (GiveNow 2016). Meanwhile, those suffering from poverty go hungry.

Below is a part of an infographic illustrating the problem of food waste in Australia; click-through for the full image.

foodwaste

References

Foodwise 2016, Fast Facts on Food Waste, viewed 15 June 2016, http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/.

GiveNow 2016, Give Food, viewed 15 June 2016, https://www.givenow.com.au/otherways/food.

Love Food Hate Waste 2016, About Us, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/about-us/about-us.aspx.

Nuwer, R. 2012, Teenage Brains Are Like Soft, Impressionable Play-Doh, The Smithsonian.com, viewed 15 June 2016, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/teenage-brains-are-like-soft-impressionable-play-doh-78650963/?no-ist.

Practical Action n.d., Recycling Organic Waste, viewed 14 June 2016, https://practicalaction.org/docs/technical_information_service/recycling_organic_waste.pdf.

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Post C: organic waste management

The importance of organic waste management

When organic waste is improperly managed, it can lead to environmental problems. For example, when it is taken to landfill, lack of oxygen results in anaerobic decomposition which releases methane, which becomes a greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere (Environment Victoria 2016), as well as leachate, another potential pollutant (Department of the Environment 2013). Organic waste also has the potential to be used in beneficial ways. For example, it can be recycled for use for mulch, soil conditioning, and composting (City of Sydney 2015). When it comes to wasted food specifically, poverty and hunger problems mean that this waste has not only environmental and financial negative impacts, but also social.

Case study 1: UTS

According to the 2013-2015 UTS Waste Management Plan, the university is ‘committed to improving sustainability’. At the time of writing, UTS was developing Sustainability Action plans. The university’s official stance on waste management is to reduce disposal of waste and instead increase recycling, as simple disposal is the least sustainable option.

Organic waste disposal measures, in my experience at UTS, are not always immediately obvious. Most bins are either paper recycling or all-purpose. The latter often wear labels saying that the contents are sorted. Since adopting usage of co-mingled waste recycling in 2007, the university’s waste is sent to the Wastefree recycling facility at Seven Hills, where it is sorted according to material. Most of the organic waste is removed for bio-digestion.

The Waste Management Plan also mentions other initiatives for organic waste. A trial of organic waste collection in the UTS Union food court is mentioned, as is a suggestion to divert kitchen waste into a food waste stream spearate from other wastes. This would presumably make processing of such waste cheaper and easier.

The following is a table showing the UTS waste management journey, including steps taken to better manage organic waste.

uts-wastejourney

Case study 2: Love Food Hate Waste

Love Food Hate Waste is an initiative funded by the NSW government. It is a part of the larger Waste Less Recycle More initiative and focusses on the impacts of food waste in particular. Each year, $2.5 billion worth of food is thrown out. Meanwhile, 100,000 people go hungry. In addition to the social aspect, Love Food Hate Waste emphasises that reducing food waste reduces pollution. As well to releasing methane, organic waste in landfill can relase nutrients which pollute the surrounding environment (Love Food Hate Waste 2016).

The initiative’s website offers advice on how to plan meals, save money, and reduce food waste. It also provides information about the impact of food waste, and how to engage one’s community or workplace. The initiative is active on a local, individual level, concentrating informing and changing the habits of individuals, which is just as important as larger-scale actions.

References

Department of the Environment 2013, National organic waste profile, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/nwp/reporting/organic-waste.

Environment Victoria 2016., Organic waste, viewed 13 March 2016, http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/organic-waste.

Love Food Hate Waste 2016, Food waste facts and stats, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/about-food-waste/facts-and-stats.aspx.

Love Food Hate Waste 2016., Get involved, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/about-food-waste/facts-and-stats.aspx.

University of Technology Sydney n.d., 2013-2015 Waste Management Plan, viewed 14 June 2016, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/WASTE_MANAGEMENT_PLAN.140301.pdf.

Post B: data and research methods

library

In this blog post I will reflect on a variety of data methods that I have investigated.

Secondary sources

Gathering data through secondary sources involves consuming research that has already been done by others. This can include, for example, reading books, journal articles, blog posts, and the like. I have found that a study of secondary sources is particularly useful for gathering preliminary knowledge and information about a subject, to familiarise oneself with the context and the current state of research. Use of secondary sources does present some limitations: for example, there may be gaps in the literature where there is a lack of information about a particular subject.

Observation

Observation as a data method involves passively observing people in the particular context that one is studying. This method is advantageous because it features people behaving candidly; one gets an honest and accurate result about how people behave when they are not necessarily aware that they are being observed – e.g. observing spectators at a sports game as part of an investigation into how sports intersect with national culture/identity. However, as this involves observation of others, this method presents some ethical quandaries as participants in a research study must typically give informed consent. One must tread carefully and not cross any ethical lines in observing (and then writing about) others.

Interview

As well as offering valuable first-hand data, interview is a very flexible data collection method. A researcher can choose any topic they wish to discuss and explore with others, and so long as there are willing participants, information can be gathered on practically any subject. However, it can be hard to find willing participants who are willing to give up their time; incentives may need to be offered. Furthermore, just as in any research involving other people, informed consent is an important issue and care must be taken that interviewees are sufficiently informed of the nature of the research and how their responses and identities will be used and portrayed (Butterfield 2009).

Survey

The pros and cons of surveys are similar to those of interviews. Researchers can craft their ideal set of questions and receive first-hand direct responses. The advantages of these direct-engagement methods of data collection are summed up by Ross (1974), who claims ‘If you want to know something, find someone who can tell you about it.’ Surveys are additionally often more time- and money-efficient than interviews, as they can be easily conducted en masse, particularly due to the advent of computer technology (Hult 1996).

User testing

This data collection method is suited to testing out designs at the prototype stage, before committing to a final choice. In a Visual Communication subject this semester, I conducted user testing using a paper prototype of a web interface I had designed, to test its functionality and ease of use. The tests revealed some problem areas (e.g. instructions were hard to find, some icons were confusing) which I could then rectify in my final design. User testing is a valuable real-world test of a design and essential before committing to any large-scale decisions that will have a broad reach and consequences.

References

Butterfield, L. D. 2009, ‘The Impact of a Qualitative Researh Interview on Workers’ Views of their Situation’, Canadian Journal of Counselling, vol. 43, no. 2, p. 120.

Ross, R. 1974, ‘Obtaining Original Evidence’, in Research: An Introduction, Barnes & Noble, New York, pp. 57-82.

Hult, C. R. 1996, ‘Primary Rsearch Methods: Writing a Research Report’, in Researching and Writing in the Social Sciences, Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, pp. 61-66.

Library-shelves-bibliographies-Graz 2003, photographed by M. Gossler, viewed 14 June 2016, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library-shelves-bibliographies-Graz.jpg.

Post A: waste audit

Introduction

In this blog post I will outline the waste I produced in a typical day. Despite this subject’s focus on organic waste, I have also included other forms of material waste that was generated. This is because I lead a rather unhealthy student life largely devoid of fresh fruit and vegetables, and this audit would be very empty of content were it restricted solely to organic waste.

What is organic waste?

According to Environment Victoria, a not-for-profit environmental group consisting of scientists, naturalists, and residents, organic waste refers to waste derived from living matter – for example, food waste (such as fruit peels) or garden waste (such as lawn clippings). It can also be used to describe waste which may not normally be thought of as organic, but which is comprised of biodegradable, once-living matter. Examples of this include scrap paper and cardboard (Environment Victoria n.d.).

One day’s waste

blogpostA

The life cycle of a mandarin peel

A-lifecycle

Better ways to use waste

The anaerobic decomposition that organic waste goes through when disposed of in landfill creates methane, a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. There are many alternatives which are less wasteful and damaging, and are beneficial instead:

  1. The waste could be processed in a confined space, allowing the methane to be recaptured and repurposed. It could be used for example for use as a natural gas used in homes, to generate electricity, etc.
  2. The waste could be used as material for compost, which is beneficial to soil as it improves its capacity to hold water, and provides nutrients (Sustainable Living Guide, 2016).
  3. The waste could be treated in an aerobic (i.e. with oxygen) process, which does not produce methane. However, some types of aerobic treatment such as open window or tunnel composting results in odour problems (Environment Victoria n.d.).

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