Melbourne Uni Waste Tour

Has anyone else ever questioned where their green waste goes when it gets picked out from our home and campus? Ever questioned what potential our autumn leaves, summer weeds and vegetable peelings could really hold? What about how Universities can lead the way in mitigating food waste on-campus?

We were lucky enough to partner with the team at Sustainable Campus to host two “Follow Your Waste” tours to try to answer some of these questions.

While our first tour focussed on the question of where our organic waste goes and how it is recycled, the other showed us more of how our food system works on-campus.

Day One:

In our first tour we travelled to the Veolia Organics Recycling Facility in Bulla where we got to see first-hand how green organics waste from multiple municipalities around Melbourne is composted on an industrial scale.

The Veolia Organics Recycling Facility in Bulla

The Veolia Organics Recycling Facility in Bulla

Learning about what Veolia does with all our organic waste and what kind of an environmental impact this has

Learning about what Veolia does with all our organic waste and what kind of an environmental impact this has

We were given a forty-minute presentation about the benefits of diverting organics waste from landfill as a way to combat climate change and environmental degradation while also making valuable compost that gets distributed to local parks and farmers. Afterwards we were taken on a bus tour through the facility to see the invessel composting method that they use and the process by which they transform tonnes of organic waste into nutrient-rich soil conditioner.

It’s fair to say that the tour group left the facility with a greater understanding of the part they play with the greater food system. I know we spent the rest of the day marvelling at how important each step in the 5 R’s is for attempting to reduce our impact and live waste-free.

Veoila in action!

Veoila in action!

Moving about the nutrient rich soil conditioner that our organic waste has been transformed in to

Moving about the nutrient rich soil conditioner that our organic waste has been transformed in to

Day Two:

Our next tour focussed on how the food system functions on-campus: from engagement strategies to waste management methods.

We started by seeing the various food digesters on campus to see the how these were actively being used to create a closed-loop circuit within the university itself. These machines operate constantly and help to divert most the food scraps within Trinity College and the Union House Student Precinct (arguably many Melbourne University student’s main food hubs) from reaching landfill. They operate much in the same way as the larger-scale containers we had seen previously, but are much small enough to fit in a shed or any other accessible area.

Judith Alcorn from the Melbourne Uni Sustainability team showed us the organic digester located underneath Union House

Judith Alcorn from the Melbourne Uni Sustainability team showed us the organic digester located underneath Union House

This technical side of the tour was complimented with a look at our Community Garden and newly-constructed Growroom, with a final stop at the University Farmer’s Market for lunch. This helped paint a greater picture of how we can all engage with food in a healthier and more sustainable fashion with an emphasis on community spaces and locally sourced produce.

Talking a walking tour through the Parkville Campus gardens

Talking a walking tour through the Parkville Campus gardens

Everybody admiring the newly launched Growroom! 

Everybody admiring the newly launched Growroom! 

What Does This Mean For The Future?

These tours helped us engage with food in and around our campus by following its journey from our hands and through our bins, it also raised questions about the challenge in transitioning towards becoming a Fair Food University.

How do we instigate a cohesive waste-management plan for the in-development new Student Precinct? What kind of infrastructure would we need to achieve a system that isn’t reliant on plastics? Where each and every scrap is utilised in a closed-loop circuit?

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