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Reducing waste 2019: Waste not …

Tuesday 26 March 2019 2:49pm

Collaborators on a new University approach to waste … (from left in orange vests) The Waste Management company’s Compliance Coordinator Trudy Hutchison, Operations/Fleet Supervisor Allen Nesbit, Account Manager Rebecca Bedwell and Otago Regional Manager Greg Nel, with University of Otago Property Services Division Director Dean Macaulay (centre left) and Waste and Recycling Manager Graham Musgrave (centre right). Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The University of Otago is reducing waste to landfill through a unique collaborative contract that is the first of its kind in Australasia for the Waste Management company.

The contract includes adding a food waste processor to the Dunedin campus, having electric collection vehicles and an annual scholarship for waste minimisation initiatives.

Head of Sustainability Dr Hilary Phipps says the University has set the ambitious target of halving its waste to landfill by 2021, compared to the 2012 baseline, so had to change the way it handles waste.

The new approach from 1 March 2019 was only possible because the University has signed a seven-year long contract, giving Waste Management the confidence to invest in the equipment and vehicles it needs.

This initiative is part of bringing to life the University’s Sustainability Strategic Framework: 2017–2021, with strong backing from Chief Operating Officer Stephen Willis.

Waste Management will be:

  • Trialling an innovative new food waste processor – one of only two in New Zealand for Waste Management
  • Offering an annual $10,000 scholarship for researching innovative projects that could help reduce waste
  • Employing a Waste Minimisation Coordinator to be based mostly on the Dunedin campus, co-located with the University’s Recycling and Waste Manager Graham Musgrave
  • Pledging to provide electric vehicles to service the contract, including a small electric van for emptying outdoor bins and an electric rearload vehicle in the first year. Waste Management’s sustainability strategy, For Future Generations, commits the company to converting 20 diesel trucks to electric by the end of 2020, adding to the electric trucks Waste Management currently has in its fleet
  • Offering more options for separating waste and recycling during student flat clean-up days, when usually only skips are provided on streets
  • Helping to drive high levels of performance and solve any issues by having senior staff on a joint Partnership Governance Board that also involves senior University staff, and meets at least quarterly

Figures show the Dunedin campus recycled 13 per cent of its general waste last year – 375 tonnes compared to the 2566 tonnes it sent to landfill, Dr Phipps says.

“Although this was a slight improvement on 2017, it highlights the scale of the challenge ahead and the importance of each of us doing what we can to minimise waste by making smart purchasing decisions, reducing, reusing and recycling.”

In 2017, the Dunedin campus recycled 11.2 per cent – 326 tonnes compared to 2559 tonnes, Dr Phipps says.

"Although this was a slight improvement on 2017, it highlights the scale of the challenge ahead and the importance of each of us doing what we can to minimise waste by making smart purchasing decisions, reducing, reusing and recycling."

Waste Management Otago Regional Manager Greg Nel says the University contract has set up a partnership approach which meant “we could jointly focus on achieving key University goals”.

As part of the new approach, his company is investing in the food processing trial, while also changing to electric powered vehicles and employing a full time Waste Minimisation Coordinator.

The innovative food processing solution removes the 90-odd per cent of water from food, leaving behind a much smaller organic residue that can be composted.

Waste Management plans to assess how much work the equipment can do and how many more food waste processors the Dunedin campus could need, along with the best options for residential colleges.

Not only will the company’s staff weigh waste and recycling skips before emptying them, but individual buildings' waste will be audited as well, Mr Nel says.

Then the company’s Waste Minimisation Coordinator can use the audit results to identify areas that could benefit from learning more about ways to minimise their waste and boost recycling – to support waste minimisation and help nurture a culture of sustainability on campus.

Property Services Division Director Dean Macaulay says the initiative started with the passion and drive of one staff member, the University’s Waste and Recycling Manager Graham Musgrave.

Now the previous multi-million dollar contract involving four companies providing services has been replaced by a contract with one company for about the same cost.

The contract incentivises the contractor to reduce the waste going to landfill so should reduce the amount the University pays in landfill charges, Mr Macaulay says.

The only waste not able to be covered by this new contract is hazardous waste and document destruction.

Waste comes under the University’s Operations Group, which has three top priorities:

Enable – the University to achieve its visions and mission
Engage – with our students, each other, our customers and externally
Experience – of our students, our customers, and externally to be outstanding