Student on mission to reduce organic waste

Student Finn Boyle runs his hands through some soil at the Otago Polytechnic yesterday. Photo:...
Student Finn Boyle runs his hands through some soil at the Otago Polytechnic yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
A Polytechnic student with a green bent has been travelling around the country researching solutions to help Otago Polytechnic drastically reduce the amount of organic waste it produces.

The polytechnic sent 117 tonnes of waste  to landfill in 2017, and 57 tonnes to off-site recycling. This year it recycled about 25kg of organic waste, most of it from its Food Design Institute, every day internally through composting. The institution was aiming for a reduction of 40% in total waste generated by 2021, including recycling, and a reduction of 80% of waste to landfill. Third-year bachelor of culinary arts student Finn Boyle said he started travelling around the country in June, speaking to restaurants, leaders of large community projects, and businesses, including large-scale commercial operations, about what they did with their waste.

"I was travelling for about two weeks. I saw a really wide mix of things."

People he approached were "very open and welcoming", he said.  Mr Boyle said the two ideas that jumped out at him the most were an "industrial scale" worm farm set up by company Mynoke, and an "extreme zero waste" system set up in Raglan.

It was an "amazing hot composting" facility, he said.

The Mynoke worm farm was on a huge scale, and was the sort of system that could deal with the contents of entire sewage ponds, Mr Boyle said. However, space was the main constraint when it came to building a worm farm big enough to handle all  the polytechnic’s organic waste. He estimated it would take about half an acre (about 2020sq m). At the moment the polytechnic had a small worm farm, used anaerobic composting and traditional hot-composting piles. 

Mr Boyle said he was putting his findings together in a report for the polytechnic’s sustainability staff, to help them develop options. After he graduated he hoped to continue working with the polytechnic, helping it become more sustainable, as it would not be a quick fix, he said. Sustainable practice adviser Ray O’Brien said Mr Boyle’s work was "fantastic" and would be considered by the executive team. 

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