Source: Te Pukenga
Otago Polytechnic has worked with a Dunedin community group to come up with an innovative solution to recycling milk bottle tops.
A milk bottle top shredder, designed and built by Otago Polytechnic electrical engineering students, with help from other learners and staff, has been donated to Connections Education Development Trust.
Connections, which provides training and employment opportunities in Dunedin for people with high-support needs, plans to install the machine later this week.
Milk bottle tops can’t be put in recycling bins because of processing difficulties. However, the machine will mean they are no longer destined for landfill. Once the bottle tops are shredded, they can be sold in bulk as mouldable thermoplastic, which can be melted and remade into range of products.
Benton Glassey, Facilitator at Connections, says his organisation has already amassed a sizable collection of bottle tops, following interest from a range of organisations and businesses, ranging from Milford Sound to South Dunedin cafes.
“The demand is high – and we haven’t even really begun letting people know about this service.
“Because people who use our centre have very high support needs, the shredder will be operated by someone in the wider community with a disability who will be supported to use it safely.”
Safety considerations have been extensive, says David Bettis, Head of Allied Trades Programmes at Otago Polytechnic.
“The shredder has been carefully designed to incorporate extra safety features.
“We had about a dozen NZ Certificate in Electrical Engineering (Level 3) learners designing electrical control circuits, and considering things like emergency stops and guard switches, as well as doing a risk assessment,” David explains.
“Many of them said the project had been a highlight of their studies. In fact, some of them have gone straight on to apprenticeships. I think real-world project experiences such as this put them in good stead to go and get employment.”
David says the project has involved more than just electrical engineering learners, and has included input from mechanical engineering (welding and fabrication) as well as Otago Polytechnic Occupational Therapy students, who worked with Connections to help identify and develop goals based around those with high needs having opportunities to meet others in the wider community.
Says Benton: “The outcomes are not just about recycling.
“The project has got a great community grassroots kind of vibe to it. This includes social connotations around collecting bottle tops, which in turn raises awareness around disability.
“There’s a lot of energy and life to all this. It’s a great example of how student-led innovation intersects with community collaboration – to the benefit of many.”