UC Student Flo Hinder takes on Plastic Free July challenge

Fourth-year Civil Eng student Flo is one of the UC students who is going plastic free during Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. Flo shared some of her plastic free tips with us, and why she is doing it.  

What will you try to do during July?

To cut out all waste actually, not just plastic! This means not purchasing single use items, no wastage (not even recycling!). However, I will use the organics collection bin because it’s a super system in Christchurch for making compost.

Why are you doing the challenge?

I think waste and consumerism have become two really big problems in today’s society. So many items are being created just for convenience, driven by purely short-term thinking and yet this will ruin us in the long term. I also think the University should really try cut down its waste more, with so many (food) places having only the option of single use items. By doing this challenge I want to show people that it is possible to live without creating as much waste!

What do you think is going to be hard?

I think going out for dinner, and going for drinks/social occasions will be challenging as it’s not a social norm to carry around your own container or glass to drink from! I also think being able to resists bargains when I am shopping will be hard, even when they are wrapped in single use plastic.

What are some of your favourite waste-free items?

I have a little wee cup set that I keep in my bag 24/7 just in case I want a beverage on the go, and there are only plastic cups. I am also pretty passionate about waste-free bathroom products. I have a safety razor that is not made of plastic and can be reused. The one I have cost about $13 and came in only cardboard packaging with tonnes of little refill blades and it works a treat! I also love my trusty bamboo toothbrush, just google ‘bamboo toothbrush’ and you’ll find heaps of options. Instead of bottled shampoo or soap, I use shampoo bars and soaps. I order mine locally from Ethique, which is run by a UC alumni! I recommend trying out the starter packs. I use a menstrual cup for that time of the month, the UC pharmacy stocks them or you can find them (cheaper) online, and I honestly think it was the best purchase I have ever made!

Want more info on plastic free bathroom products? Check out

How to get an eco-friendly beauty routine: http://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-get-a-sustainable-eco-friendly-beauty-routine

Zero waste bathroom essentials: https://www.youtube.com/?v= watch QMAo9O40zp0

How to have a zero waste period: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQb0HormWMc

Are you keen to take on the Plastic Free July challenge too? You don’t have to go all out! You can choose to do it for a week or the whole month and you can either refuse ALL single-use plastic or the TOP 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws. Have a look on the website for ideas on how to get started (and no, you don’t need to sign up)!

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us: sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz









You can now recycle your soft plastics!

Photo credit: Soft Plastics
Photo credit: Soft Plastic Recycling

Rice bags, chocolate bar wrappers … you can now recycle them! Have you seen these bins in your local supermarket and wondered, what can I put in it?

The Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling Programme is a new industry-led recycling programme that diverts soft plastics from landfill and turns them into new products.

New Zealanders use around 1.6 billion plastic bags every year, that means that 4.3 million are thrown away each day! These soft plastic bags are not currently collected for recycling by councils because they can contaminate the recycling process.

What plastic do the bins take? It takes all soft plastic bags including bread bags, frozen food bags, toilet paper packaging, confectionery and biscuit wraps, chip bags, pasta and rice bags, courier envelopes, shopping bags, chocolate and muesli bar wrappers, sanitary hygiene packaging . Anything made of plastic that can be scrunched into a ball. Make sure the plastic is reasonably clean and dry.

Capture 2
Photo credit: Soft Plastic Recycling

Where? You can find your closest store on the store locator. Currently the project is focused on supermarkets and retailers but this may extend to educational institutions (like UC!).

What happens after collection? The plastic is collected by Abilities Group, an organisation established to create meaningful employment for people with disabilities. The collected plastic is sent to Australia where it is transformed into robust plastic products like outdoor furniture, bollards and recycling bins.

What else can you do? Reducing plastic is still the best option. So think about:

– Shop in bulk or trash free: There is Bin Inn of course and shops like Piko Wholefoods Co-Operative and Harbour Co-op.

– Getting a string bag for your fruit and vege in addition to your cloth shopping bag. Check out these organic ones

– Reduce your food wrapping waste by getting (or making) a non-plastic one e.g. Honeywrap or Keep Leaf

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us: sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz

50K Coffee Cups Composted – What’s next?

We have been operating our coffee cups collection trial for two years now, after starting the initial trial back in 2014. Now the trial is at an end and we can report that we have diverted around 50,000 coffee cups from landfill, and sent them to be composted. This is great – but we still have a long way to go.

We will now be continuing with our coffee cup collection system, and hopefully expanding it so that there are more collection points around campus. We are also looking to shift from the current type of coffee cups to a version that is certified compostable, and we should see some advances in this area over the next 12-18 months.

The OSCAWe were very excited to see the on-site composting of food waste and coffee cups at the University of the Sunshine Coast in their OSCA – On-Site Composting Apparatus. This simple system makes it possible to produce a high-grade compost on site (imagine how this could aid the creation of an Edible Campus, for example!) and eliminate some of the forms of waste we currently struggle with at UC (especially food grade plastic packaging). Check out the OSCA here for some inspiration!

We do ask yoIMG_0734au to follow the instructions on the blue and other recycling bins on campus. We are noticing a lot of contamination in the bins (items in the wrong bins), and this means (for instance) that recycling is incorrectly and unnecessarily sent to landfill. We really need your help to reduce waste on campus!

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us: sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz


Coffee Cup Composting Trial Continuing in 2016!

IMG_0734aAfter the success of last year, our collection of disposable coffee cups (in the blue bins) for composting is continuing this year! We will assess its progress at the end of the year. Last year we diverted over 15,000 cups from landfill with this service, a massive effort. And we reckon we could divert 250,000+ from landfill if we get this right. In 2017 we hope to expand this service to other forms of compostable packaging. This would enable us to get rid of certain kinds of disposable plastics from campus!

However, this will only be possible if the outcome of the trial is successful. And for this we need your help: success means contaminant free. So please tell your mates to use the Blue Bins but NOT to throw anything else in these bins (including food waste, plastic lids, bottles, cans, or ANYTHING other than empty coffee cups!). Why don’t we want other compostable materials in these bins at present (especially food waste)? Because we are still manually sorting the bins to check for contaminants, and going through decomposing food is pretty gross.

We also have a new addition to the team, Jessica Lunsford, who will be working on this with us this year as a Waste Assistant. Jessica has a Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Management, a Certificate in Organic Horticulture and is currently studying a BSc at UC.

Thank you for your help in this!!

For more information on the blue bin trial http://wp.me/p4A3Y6-bP


15,200 coffee cups turned into compost at UC!

Single use cups going into the HotRot facility

The Sustainability Office’s blue bin trial for coffee cup collection is going well. Between May and September, approximately 15,200 cups were diverted from landfill and turned into compost!! On the back of this, the numbers of blue bins through the campus will shortly be increased from the original four to nine.

As you may know, we are currently in Phase II of a campus wide coffee composting trial, to see if we can divert more waste from landfill by composting take-away coffee cups instead (take-away coffee cups can no longer be recycled L). All the cups collected in the blue waste bins are taken off-site for composting.

Some FAQs on the cup composting trial:

Please remember, the blue bins are for empty cups only (no lids!) and not for any other items!

If the cups are being composted, why can’t I put organic waste in the blue bins? At this stage in our trial, the contents of the blue bins are all being sorted by hand by a valiant student. This is so we can ensure quality control and provide accurate reporting. Sometimes the material sits around for a while before being handled, and it is not particularly pleasant to deal with rotting food. Only cups!

Can I put other compostable packaging materials in the blue bins? Again, we are in a trial phase with this project at the moment, and we are focussing on a specific problem we have with takeaway coffee cups: that they can no longer be recycled. We need to keep the trial manageable at this stage to ensure its success.

Why not just use the green bins? The material that goes into the green bins is taken to a different composting facility that cannot handle coffee cups. Our coffee cup waste goes to the Selwyn District Council’s HotRot facility by Rolleston where they are put through a mechanical composting system with other compostable waste products and turned into compost for your garden.

What are the future plans for this project? We have implemented this blue bin in order to create the possibility of treating more of our waste as an environmental resource rather than a contaminant. We want to phase out certain kinds of packaging from campus (like plastic plates, sushi containers, plastic cups etc), but first we need to make it possible for compostable options to actually be composted. In time, compostable plates, cutlery and other food containers will all be able to be composted using the blue bins.


More exciting composting news: 20151021_100408

The UCSA has their first ever batch of compost out of “Cloey”, their automated composting unit (see the pic, it is the white box :-)). This compost has been generated out of food waste from the UCSA production kitchens, and will be reurned to the soil via the UC community gardens, and used to grow more food for students! We are so excited. Well done, guys.

By Matt Morris – UC Sustainability Office

For more info on the composting trial, check out our earlier blogs about it: http://wp.me/p4A3Y6-8G or http://wp.me/p4A3Y6-6K


“Turn around your toner” campaign successful!

UC ‘s “Turn around your toner” campaign has produced some fantastic results! Since the 2011 earthquakes, many printer toners became “decoupled” (yes, like Gwyneth and Chris :-)) from the appropriate machine due to devices being shifted around. In other instances, too many toners were delivered for the same machine. This resulted in inefficient use of resources and high costs – full toners cost between $100 – $800 each! The campaign not only cleared out precious cupboard space but also promoted the responsible use of resources at UC. ITS in conjunction with Ricoh coordinated the project.  Toner 1

A staggering 96 toners were netted (55 Ricoh and 41 non Ricoh), resulting in an eye-popping savings of $8650. The Ricoh toners will be reallocated to UC printers on as-needed basis, and the non-Ricoh toners will be disposed off responsibly. Kathleen Hill, Major Accounts Manager for Ricoh was delighted – “the results were well worth the exercise and Ricoh hopes to continue this joint approach to achieve further success for both UC and Ricoh sustainability initiatives.  This has been a great win for both parties!” Mark Andrews from UC ITS said “we’d especially like to thank Catherine Woods and Dallas Geddes from Admin Plus, who supported this campaign by emailing their members to remind them to look for, and return any surplus toners.”

The ‘Turn around your toner’ campaign is not a one-off event. Administrators now have the ability to return any surplus toners on an ongoing basis which will help to avoid a repeat of surplus of toners on UC campus, ITS have set up a link in their service portal. To return a toner,

  1. Go to http://assist.canterbury.ac.nz
  2. Log in
  3. Select “Log a Request”
  4. Select IT Services
  5. Go to Print and Copy Services
  6. Select “Unused Toner Return”

Blue Bins and Worm Farms

Look out for these posters, which are placed near blue bins around campus.
Look out for these posters, which are placed near blue bins around campus.

As Semester Two starts you’ll notice more Blue Bins for take-away cups around campus! These bins are part of our initiative to reduce waste going to landfill. All take-away cups collected in the Blue Bins are taken off-site for composting. This will be Phase II of a trial to test the system and this trial will end in December 2016.

It is extremely important that only cups are placed in these bins. No pie wrappers, or bottles or any other contaminant. While we do sort the cups before we send them away, we need that process to be very fast and efficient in order for our trial to receive funding. Please help us keep this project going by telling your mates about it and not to contaminate the bins!

What happens to the cups in the Blue Bins? These cups are sorted on site to make sure there is no contamination in them. So far contamination is minimal, which is great. Then they are taken out to the Selwyn District Council’s HotRot facility by Rolleston where they are put through a mechanical composting system with other compostable waste products and turned into compost for your garden.

Why can’t we just put them in the green bins? Coffee cups must not go in the green organics bins. The contents of green bins go to a composting plant that cannot process takeaway cups (even if they say they are ‘compostable’). Coffee cups in the blue hooded bins are sent to a different composting facility that is able to compost them.

So why don’t we send all our organics waste to the composter that can do it all? Because of our contractual arrangements with our waste services provider, it is not economically efficient to do this. We are working together to find a solution that will work for everyone.

What about composting them on-site? We have been exploring options to do this for a number of years. We are currently looking into large scale worm composting. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to use the compost in the community gardens, for example? Or use it to grow salad greens and herbs to make student lunches? We think so too. But we need to get a back end system in place first that works (hence our trial), we need more physical space than is currently available (due to remediation works) and we may require some capital (which will not be available for a couple of years).

What difference does it make? We estimate that the UC community produces more than five tonnes of waste from coffee cups alone every year. So in the first instance, that’s five tonnes we can keep out of Kate Valley Landfill. However, the beauty of this initiative is that it means we may be able to shift from using plastic plates, sushi containers, trays, burger clams etc, etc, etc to compostable alternatives, that could then all be put into the Blue Bins. We are setting up a system to help us deal with a much bigger waste issue than many people realise.

So, thank you again for helping us to make this work. It’s a step towards closing our waste loop and leaving the world better than how we found it.

By Matt Morris – UC Sustainability Office