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MATS204 Treasure or Trash: Sustainability of Materials

Broad and complex challenges associated with sustainability of materials. Aspects of product lifecycle related to material selection and use (processing, production, design, end-of-life).

Ever wondered what makes a material sustainable, how plastics end up in the ocean or why metals should be recycled? MATS 204 takes you on a journey through the lifecycle of everyday objects and the materials they are made of; from the impacts of extracting raw materials to what happens at the end of their life and all the bits in between. Learn what to treasure about materials and how not to trash them! Be proactive about sustainability and study over the summer without having to be on campus.

Feedback from previous years:

"It is nice to learn about something that is completely different to my degree."

"So interesting and refreshingly different to the kind of learning I am used to at university!"

"It has definitely been my favourite paper that I have taken through my university studies."

"Really enjoying the subject and classes… and have learnt so much."

"I absolutely loved the course and how it made me think differently as a consumer."

Paper title Treasure or Trash: Sustainability of Materials
Paper code MATS204
Subject Materials Science and Technology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Summer School (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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54 points
Schedule C
Commerce, Science

Students who meet the prerequisite are welcome to enrol in this paper.

The paper is available as a distance paper through Summer School. This paper is relevant to students from a wide range of disciplines.

Teaching staff
Associate Professor Sarah Wakes
Dr Linda Dunn
Paper Structure

This paper is structured around a lifecycle and will address the following issues:

  1. National and international principles of sustainability: principles of sustainability, legislation, certification models and assessment tools
  2. Resources (extraction and production): extraction of raw materials waste, pollution, energy use
  3. Strategies for design and manufacturing: materials and methods of manufacturing
  4. Consumer role and ethical considerations: the role of the consumer in use of a product and ethical considerations for sustainability
Teaching Arrangements

This Distance Learning offering of this paper is taught remotely.

All seminar content (videos, presentation slides) and assignment information is provided online from the beginning of the paper. A timeline and roadmap will assist students in navigating the content.

The information is structured around the life cycle of materials with a roadmap provided to guide you. Students complete and submit all assignments online.

The teaching of this paper is supplemented with a number of guest speakers from within the University of Otago, other organisations, and from sustainable businesses.

Resource videos provide information on how to connect online, do assignments and generally manage the online learning process.

Teaching staff are available via email, phone and face-to-face meetings.

Reading list provided
Course outline

View the course outline for MATS 204

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Environmental literacy.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  1. Communicate and apply principles and complexities of sustainability relating to materials and the role of the consumer
  2. Evaluate aspects of design, material selection and manufacture to improve the sustainability of a product
  3. Identify and evaluate relevant literature
  4. Communicate ideas clearly in written and oral forms

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Summer School

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system