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Is there room for zero waste?

2018-06-04

Passion for the environment is what Manon Cognard, Manuel Kulzer and Nellie Johnsson, three students with different backgrounds, have in common. Together, they started a group project for the “Co-design: design, participation and democracy” class at Malmö University. By involving people with different perspectives, the project aimed to tackles a current societal issue. They decided to focus on waste in Malmö and set out to discover if “zero waste” could be achieved. Zero waste is an approach to recycling that aims to reduce landfill waste to zero. Before they could do that, they had to figure out where to start.

Students from the co-design course

“Our goal was to explore opportunities for collaboration around waste minimisation in the city,” says Johnsson.

They began with a brainstorming session where they discussed different fields that each of them related to the concept of zero waste. Looking at waste issues in Malmö specifically, they began observing their immediate environment, Malmö University’s Niagara building and the Central Station, examining how waste was sorted in these spaces.

“We tried to discover different ways to reduce waste in Malmö in particular. In order to do so, we conducted experiments, as well as observations and interviews with various concerned stakeholders,” Kulzer explains.

Among the stakeholders contacted were: Fenix, the environmental student group at Malmö University and employees of the student housing organisation MKB.

“The most important part of the work for us was getting in contact and working with different people around the city,” says Johnsson.

Student work

After communicating with the different stakeholders, the group had a  better understanding of the waste issue in Malmö. Based on their research, which showed that people were generally not interested in dealing with waste, they realised that the biggest challenge was to communicate the issue in an interesting way.

After some consideration, they decided that the students of Malmö University would be the best group for them to connect with. Having already gained access to employees at MKB, they decided to focus on the Swop Room in Rönnen student housing, which is managed by MKB. In the Swop Room, students can swap and reuse possessions instead of throwing them away, and mend and repair their bicycles. The focus of the project then shifted towards getting students who live in Rönnen to make more use of the room.

Zero waste swop room at Rönnen

But how does the Swop Room relate to zero waste? By repairing and reusing materials, students consume less and thus create less waste, which is a small but beneficial step towards zero waste.

The project group found that international students were not using the Swop Room since they were located in a different building next to Rönnen. Despite having access to the room and an interest in waste reduction, many did not know it existed.

Zero waste sign

This led to the planning of a workshop in collaboration with MKB´s project manager for the Swop Room. The aim of the workshop was to make the room more visible. The theme for the workshop was upcycling since the group had noticed interest in this among students from previous experiments. The upcycling event got a lot of attention and sparked some new ideas for usage of the room.

By the end of their project, the group had collected many new ideas on the room from the student residents, which they passed on to MKB. In addition, they managed to create more awareness of the room, especially among foreign students who previously had little or no knowledge of it. The group is still in contact with MKB and a decision will be made on how to develop the Swop Room further.

This article was written by Þorgrímur Ingason, a student from the master's programme Media and Communication Studies: Culture, Collaborative Media, and Creative Industries at Malmö University.

Text: Thorgrimur Ingason

Last updated by Amanda Malmquist