Transforming waste into eco-friendly gold

9 June 2023

The winning team
The winning team, (left to right) Bridey Tashkoff, Yasir Chaudhry, Connor Gyde, Jack Prestidge-King and Stellan Dobbe

A 300-litre compost bin using plywood offcuts from vehicle manufacturing has won a sustainable design competition for a group of students at the University of Waikato.

As part of their Work-Integrated Learning paper, 40 students have spent the past three months working in small groups to design a commercially viable product using excess plywood, which could then be sold.

The initiative is part of The Impact Lab, a cross-disciplinary third-year paper that provides students from all disciplines an opportunity to develop solutions for a sustainability problem posed by a local organisation.

Last month the students presented their ideas to Hamilton-based company, Action Manufacturing.

The winning team, named ‘2 Good 2 Waste’, devised a compost bin using 19 treated melamine-coated plywood offcuts.

The bin can hold 300 litres of compost and is designed for use in homes, schools, urban gardens, or community organisations. The team also calculated labour and production costs and estimated a significant profit margin for Action Manufacturing - offsetting the current waste disposal costs.

The team was made up of Jack Prestidge-King (Ngāti Raukawa), a Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance student, Connor Gyde (Ngāpuhi), a Computer Science student,  Stellan Dobbe, a Bachelor of Science student, Bridey Tashkoff, a Bachelor of Arts student and Yasir Chaudhry, a Bachelor of Health student.

The final design
The final design, a 300-litre compost bin using plywood offcuts.

Connor says the group wanted to create an environmentally beneficial product that fulfilled the project brief.

“The nailless design uses natural wood joinery and only uses plywood, avoiding the use of additional materials,” he says. “It offers a dedicated space for food scraps, serving as an alternative to regular waste bins.”

Jack, the project manager, emphasised the importance of composting, an often overlooked environmental issue.

“If we can make something that is affordable, easy to assemble, and different from what people are doing already, it could contribute to sustainable practices, thereby reducing logging costs and building a more sustainable environment.”

The group will continue working with Action Manufacturing to create a prototype. If deemed commercially viable, the product will be sold. They also won blackwater rafting tickets at Waitomo Caves.

Sustainability Lead at Action Manufacturing, Katie Glasgow-Palmer, says 2 Good 2 Waste was chosen as the winning team due to the simple design, clever slotting mechanisms and its potential to divert a large portion of plywood offcuts from landfill.

“It has been great to work with The Impact Lab students from so many academic backgrounds. Sustainability is multidisciplinary and requires all hands on deck, no matter your field of expertise,” Katie says.

Forty students worked with Action Manufacturing to design a product using excess plywood as part of The Impact Lab.

University of Waikato Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Professor Robyn Longhurst, says the students have benefited immensely from working with Action Manufacturing.

“By working in multidisciplinary teams, they’ve been given a window into each other’s worlds. The experience will give them something valuable to talk about with prospective employers. We look forward to welcoming other companies on board in the future.”

Reflecting on the project, Jack admitted it initially posed a challenge.

“We were out of our comfort zones; it wasn’t sport-oriented so I questioned why I had to do it,” Jack says. “But meeting people from across the University, we came together and created a product that is both profitable for the company and beneficial to the environment.”

Stellan made good friendships along the way too.

“We’d catch up weekly or fortnightly on campus, spend the first half of the meeting talking about our idea, but then we’d get to know each other. It was awesome.”

The second-place idea involved an indoor vertical planter box, while the third-place concept showcased a recycled wheelchair access ramp. Both teams received gift cards for GoEco as recognition for their innovative ideas.

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