Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Settlements Header ImageSettlements Header ImageSettlements Header Image

Environment industries archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Halls of Residence: University of Wollongong
Cleaner Production - Waste Minimisation Strategies

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.


The UOW owns and operates four Halls of Residence:
Graduate House;
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-excisting Process
The kitchen at Campus East provides 700 meals a day including:

Meals are provided seven days a week for the thirty eight 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 is almost entirely packaging and is emptied daily into two 1.5 metre bins.

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.

Food waste is composted on site, in a bank of compounds. 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.

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
 Produce for the kitchen is grown in long, no-dig gardens formally used as worm beds to which soil and composted material has been added. In 1998 the menu's and plantings were co ordinated to make the most productive and efficient use of the garden space and seasonal crops. 

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 $300 per week in herbs and assorted produce to the kitchen. 

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.

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.

Advantages of the Process

Bulk buying practices have been introduced which have led to increased savings. Better menu planning and a change in work practices provided savings and benefits to the kitchen staff making their work areas cleaner and safer. Savings have come from reduced waste pickups to landfill and from produce grown in the campus vegetable garden which uses food waste as compost.

Reduction in Kitchen Waste from Campus East
Year Kitchen Waste going to Landfill     (Cubic Metres)
1996 40 
1998 12 
1999 12
2000 12

Reduction in Food Waste from Campus East

Year No of Residents Kitchen Food Waste
1996 349 240kg per day
1998 413 130kg per day
1999 413 180kg per day
(following increase in the number of meals provided)
2000 413 180kg per day

Economic Benefits

Waste Minimisation Strategies Savings per annum
Using ice cream tins as waste paper bins. $3,600
Using waste as garden mulch $8,000
Garbage Savings $9,100

Additional Recycling Statistics (per year, as of July 1999)

Aluminum cans to charity 25 thousand
Glass to Recycling 30 tonnes
Cardboard to recycling 28 tonnes
Plastics and Metal to Recycling 7.2 tonnes
Woodchips from local landscaper stored on site and used in campus gardens 520 tonnes (Campus East and Graduate House)

Through an arrangement with a local landscaper, the 520 tonnes of woodchips are diverted from the landfill and delivered to Campus East. At Campus East the woodchips are stockpiled and then used on the gardens at Campus East and Graduate House. The resulting savings total around $29,000 a year on woodchips at $55 and more per tonne if the University had to purchase them. Additionally, the arrangement helps to keep waste out of the landfill as the landscaper no longer adds his woodchips to the waste stream.

Supplementary savings in the kitchen
As a result of the implementation of waste reduction strategies in 1997, savings are equivalent of $250 per week, produced by better buying practices, changes in work practices, along with better menu planning in conjunction with more selective vegetable growing.

All savings have been redirected back in to the kitchen and the residence providing a safer and more hygienic environment for the staff and a physically more attractive environment for the community. Most of the savings have been used to provide employment for two casuals 50 hours a week. Their job is to implement the plan and maintain the structures already in place. Savings have also been spent on building two recycle areas at Campus East and building the storage areas behind the kitchen.

The effect on OHS
Use of 140ltr food bins means no mess on the floor, no slips and no injury from punctured bags. The bins cannot be opened by cats, dogs or rats. No heavy bins are dragged from the kitchen, so strains, sprains and like injuries have been reduced.

Sorting the recycling has also reduced the risk of work related injury. Every item MUST be washed before it is placed in the recycling area. Cans that were previously partially opened leaving jagged edges are now fully opened and washed. Glass bottles previously slippery from spillage and difficult to handle are now washed reducing the risk of the bottle slipping from a staff members grasp and breaking on the floor.

Rubbish is placed into a 55 litre bin and tipped directly into the trade waste bin. This saves space in the bin and money on the previously used "black plastic bag" which are themselves a separate environmental issue. Full bags contain a lot of air and therefore a considerable amount of space is taken up with air in the bags.

Implementation of Waste Management Strategies across the other Halls of Residence
Gundi and Kooloobong have simple recycle facilities in place. Management of the Halls is implementing a sustainable development project at Graduate House, the UOW's primary post graduate family accommodation.

Currently, Management is looking at cleaning practices and the use of chemicals in the Halls of Residence. This audit of the cleaning department involves everything from how much bleach is used to the difference between wrapped and unwrapped toilet paper. Savings in the cleaning/housekeeping departments have been in the use of reused and recycled kitchen waste. Reused ice cream containers replace buckets and towels are recycled into cleaning cloths. Staff are encouraged to bring in old shopping bags as bin liners. Organic based non-corrosive chemicals are now used which is better for both the environment and the health of staff.

All excisting projects are overseen by the Environmental Officer whose involvement with the projects and strategies is on a needs basis.

Cleaner Production Incentive

The Halls of Residence is committed to the aims and outcomes of the NSW Waste Minimisation and Management Act 1995.

As an accommodation provider owned and operated by the University of Wollongong, the focus and goals of the Halls of Residence must take into account the University's mission statement, aims, objectives. The Halls have a complementary role to play in the development of the residents' education. which extends beyond their academic pursuits.

Part of that role is to acquaint the resident with what it means to be environmentally aware. This is achieved by demonstrating positive behaviour while they are in residence and by introducing, encouraging and educating the resident in the use of positive environmental practices which are transferable to other communities. This can be achieved by:

Although the Halls of Residence shares the University's commitment to waste minimisation, the Halls' environmental plan is completely autonomous and independent of any initiatives currently underway on the main campus.


The project faced a number of difficulties in effectively reducing the kitchen's waste but through perseverance, a willingness to think laterally and try different approaches, those obstacles to the successful implementation of waste reduction strategies were soon overcome.

Flexibility was essential to ensure the proposed environmental strategies worked. Campus staff did not have a model to use as a basis for their environment plans and tended to try different approaches until they found one which worked. This was particularly true of the worm farms. The original input into how the worms farms should be operated came from commercial worm farmers who fed their worms manure (horse or cow). Campus staff were working on a shoestring and worms had to eat food waste from the kitchen. Fortunately, the worm farmer who provided the worms had fed them the Campus food waste sometime before Campus East actually took delivery. The worms settled in immediately and had none of the common food problems. Mistakes were made in determining how much food to provide to the worms but in the process, staff learned far more than they would have if they had got it right the first time.

It is necessary to ensure that the environmental projects and recycle areas are clearly visible. Stakeholders need to be constantly reminded of the benefits of cleaner production. Overtime that visibility will be come part of the culture.

Changes were supported by an extensive education programme which relied very heavily on reinforcement and reward. The programme consisted of written material explaining where and why things had to be sorted and sometimes a daily "pep" talk with staff reinforcing the need for change and how it would make their jobs easier, not more difficult. There was never any real opposition to the plan, just reluctance by some staff members to accept the changes. Once the initial apprehension was overcome and the changes implemented benefits for the organisation and the staff became obvious.

Staff employed in the kitchen now know what is expected of them. They train new staff to recycle and the new work practices created as a direct result of the environmental plan have made the kitchen more hygienic, safer and more efficient. The change in work practices and environmental approach has empowered the kitchen staff to make positive decisions about their work practices.

Critical to the success of the project was support from the CEO and the employment of a fulltime coordinator to implement and drive the project.


Robin L. Wilkes
Head of Halls
University of Wollongong
PO Box 219
Fairy Meadow NSW 2519
Ph: 61 2 4221 3351
Fax: 61 2 4285 5334
Association of Heads of Australian University Colleges and Halls, Inc
PO Box 219
Fairy Meadow NSW 2519
Date of implementation: 1995-2000.
Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
Case study initially prepared: 1999.
Date last modified: May 2001.