A group of UC students is so passionate about reducing plastic waste that they are taking on the Plastic Free July challenge. Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the problems and amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it! You can do the challenge for a day, a week or the whole month. You can try to refuse all single-use plastic or try ‘just’ the top 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.
UC students Juliet, Poppy, Florence, Maddy and Alex are gearing up to refuse all single-use plastic for a month and they’ll be vlogging and intagramming their progress. So keep an eye out for that on Insiders Guide, our Facebook and Instagram. Inspired? Why not get a friend or your flat taking on the challenge too? #ucplasticfreejuly
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.
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:
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.
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.
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THESE BINS CONTAMINANT FREE. THANKS FOR BEING SO EXCELLENT!
More exciting composting news:
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.
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.
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,
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.
The second UC Furniture Adoption Day in February began with a bang as punters sprinted to, and swarmed over, 12 containers-worth of furniture surplus to university requirements. People often piled their choices into a little furniture castle, and left somebody sitting on top of it to stop others from grabbing it whilst they went to retrieve their transport to cart it away! Most of the furniture was claimed in less than an hour.
This event ticks so many key sustainability boxes for UC. Not only does it re-purpose perfectly useful gear for a community who clearly needs appreciates it, but it also prevents a phenomenal volume of materials being sent to the landfill.
This year we are introducing a new initiative called the UC Green Team! The UC green team is the Sustainability Office volunteer pool for when we need some extra hands for campus-based sustainability events and activities.
Our next major UC based event will be Fair Trade Fortnight (May 8-22). As part of FTF, we will host tasting sessions of Fair Trade products for staff (available through the Office Max catalogue) and students. We’re keen to find out what tickles people’s taste buds so we can promote these products with enough confidence to give a certain brand of coffee a jolly good run for its money. Among other things, we need assistance with trialling a tasting session (whoop, you get to be a tasting panel), and hosting both the staff and student tasting events. Here’s a hilarious You Tube clip on how to taste coffee (don’t you just love that shirt?) – we need to adapt this for instant coffee in particular, and we would welcome your ideas on how to make it both fun and feasible.
Another project we need assistance with every month is sorting single use-coffee cups, so they can be sent to a composting plant. Whilst this may not sound particularly glamorous, this important work is part of an exciting trial which explores the potential to prevent compostable or biodegradable packaging going to landfill. We need to make sure that the coffee cups collected through this trial are free of non-biodegradable items so they can go straight into a ‘Hot Rot’ composting system.
You will get a FREE re-usable coffee cup when you give us a hand through the Green Team!