University of Wollongong Halls of Residence

Waste Minimisation Strategies: Halls of Residence

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Courtesy of University of Wollongong Halls of Residence

 The University of Wollongong (UOW) has six accommodation sites - four Halls of Residence and two Colleges. Waste minimisation strategies have been introduced by the Four Halls of Residence to comply with their commitment to the aims and outcomes of the NSW Waste Minimisation and Management Act 1995 to reduce waste to landfill to 60% by the year 2000. By focusing on the kitchen waste stream, these strategies have resulted in significant financial savings and reductions in food waste and of waste going to landfill.

Background

The UOW owns and operates four Halls of Residence:
Graduate House;
Kooloobong;
Gundi;
Campus East.

All four Halls are managed from Campus East.

The University Halls of Residence operate as a self contained cost centre. Residential fees provide the bulk of the income with additional revenue coming from sponsorship and conferencing. The Halls' twelve week summer income is dependent on the number of students continuing their studies over the summer period, conference bookings and causal visitors. Over summer, the permanent resident population can be less than one third of the academic session population.

Campus East is the largest residence in the University accommodation system and is the only catered hall. It is situated at Fairy Meadow, a northern suburb of Wollongong and a ten minute drive from the University's main campus. A waste management strategy was implemented in May 1996 that focused on the residential kitchen.

Pre-existing Process

The kitchen at Campus East provides 700 meals a day including:

  • hot and cold breakfasts;
  • 12 choices for dinner at night; and
  • pre made sandwiches and prepared meals for lunch.

Meals are provided seven days a week for the forty week academic year and a reduced meal plan over the summer period. The kitchen operates 52 weeks of the year and does not close for public holidays. During the twelve week summer period, the kitchen is not open for meals on weeks ends, although for summer conferences the kitchen may be required to provide meals over the weekend.

Food services were contracted out with catering accounting for 30% of the overall budget and 40% of the waste stream.

Everyday, all kitchen waste was emptied into 55 litre bins lined with black plastic garbage bags. At the end of the shift and during, the bins would be dragged outside and physically handled into the bin. Sometimes the bags would be taken out of the bins and carried through the kitchen to the outside bin. The trade waste bin was emptied daily and taken to landfill.

OHS Issues

These work practices were physically demanding, unsafe and unhygienic. Often the bags would split or hole scattering liquid and rubbish inside and outside the kitchen areas. Staff sometimes cut themselves when placing sharp objects in the bags. Further injuries occurred when sharp objects would pierce the bag and cause injury to a leg or arm as it was being carried to the bin. With the increase in the number of contagious diseases in the international and local community, these unsafe and unhealthy work practices needed to de addressed.

Cleaner Production Initiatives

An audit was undertaken by the Halls' to discover exactly what went into the trade waste bin and to use this information as a basis for future waste management strategies. Two waste streams were identified - food waste and solid waste.

Subsequently, the three principles of avoidance, reuse and recycling were incorporated into the Halls' management strategy making waste management issues and waste management strategies part of the culture of the Halls and its day to day business operations. Strategies have been implemented to minimise the waste going to each of the streams.

Strategies for reducing waste

Improved buying practices assisted in reducing some of the packaging into the kitchen. Introducing new work practices, improving food preparation practice and more efficient menu planning also helped reduce the amount of food waste generated in the food preparation stage. Changes to the servery area and better portion control reduced the amount of food waste going to the wash up areas from the residents' plates.

Originally yoghurt was brought on site in commercial packaging. Now the yoghurt is made on site creating very little waste and a substantial saving on commercially made yoghurt.

At the same time strategies were also implemented to process the remaining food waste and solid waste coming from the kitchen into three waste streams.

Rubbish

Rubbish is almost entirely packaging and is emptied daily into two 1.5 metre bins.

Recycling

Recycling material consists of glass, cardboard, plastic and metal tins. Materials are returned to suppliers or taken to off-site recycling centres. Packaging is reused where possible for example buckets, plastic bags and resealable containers are used in the kitchen or the Housekeeping and Maintenance Departments of the organisation. Information on the kitchen's recyclable material are made available through the university community via email and the Illawara Waste Management Boards Waste Exchange Site.

Food waste

No food waste is sent to landfill. Food waste is either composted on site, fed to the worms and animals on site or taken off site to the school animal farm at Corrimal. Food waste is sorted in the kitchen, preparation and washup areas into specially labelled 140 litre carts. The carts are then wheeled into designated recycle area where the grounds staff empty the bins and prepare them for the next day's use in the kitchen.

Composting

Food waste is composted on site, a small amount above ground, and the rest is trenched. The volume of food waste is too difficult to manage above ground so a trench 15' wide x 6' deep x 12 metres long was dug and over time the trench is filled with food waste, green waste and shredded paper or wood mulch. The trench is treated with humilac (an organic starter and lime). After the trench is full it is backfilled and seeded with worms. The trench is then left to settle for a few months and then used as a garden bed.

Animals

There are 12 chickens and two rabbits on Campus East which are fed most of the leaf waste and fruit peelings. The waste from the rabbits and chickens is composted then used in the vegetable garden. Food waste not composted or given to the Campus East animals is supplied to Corrimal High School for its farm animals.

Vegetable garden

Trenches are laid side by side, allowed to settle then rotary hoed and made into garden beds. Produce for the kitchen is then grown, picked fresh and cooked for the residents. In 1998 menu's and planting were coordinated to make the most productive and efficient use of the garden space and seasonal crops. In 1999 the garden area is to be expanded so more produce can be grown for the kitchen.

A herb garden has been established at the back of the kitchen and parsley is grown along kitchen dock wall. Kitchen staff use the herbs from the kitchen gardens daily.

Currently the garden supplies approximately $30 per week in herbs and assorted produce to the kitchen. In 1999, with the new coordinated approach, it is hoped to more than double that figure.

Worm farm

A worm farm has been established to deal with some of the food waste from the kitchen. There are three large worm beds at Campus East. Worms are fed twice to three times a week (depending on the season) and the castings are used in the green house or on other parts of the garden. The worms are used to condition the soil and provide worm castings. The worms are not sold.

Greenhouse

Seeds are raised in a worm castings mix and then planted into the outside garden beds. Seeds can be raised in three days in a pure castings environment and then they are transferred to a castings mix. inside the green house or directly into the outside beds.

Fruit trees

A number of citrus trees have been planted to supplement the supply of lemons and limes to the kitchen. More fruit trees will be planted into the extended garden areas in 1999.

No-dig gardens

As there is limited access to heavy machinery a large amount of ground area on campus has been unusable up to now. In areas where the trees have been removed or where the ground is too hard, no-dig gardens have been established. No-dig gardens can be used on areas where digging is difficult or impossible, such as cement, clay or rubble. A no-dig garden is constructed from.any material which can be used as a surround. Newspaper, cardboard or carpet is placed in the bottom of the surround and soaked with water. A layer of straw or compost or mulch is added and is also soaked with water. A final layer of soil is placed on top and is used for planting seeds or seedlings. The advantage of this type of garden is its use in a large space or a small space.

Native tree planting program

Native trees are being thickly planted around the perimeter of the residence and the grounds. Two local tree lopping companies regularly drop off loads of tree mulch on site. Campus tree loppings are shredded on site and reused as mulch. No garden green waste goes to landfill. Grass clippings are used as part of the mix to make compost for the vegetable gardens.

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