Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre teams up with RMIT students to replace single-use plastic

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In late May 2021, students presented their solutions for eliminating single-use plastics from the Centre’s events and on-site cafés by 2025.

The closed loop system will use a circular economy approach and replace disposable coffee and drink cups with reusable and sustainable alternatives.

RMIT’s Impact Academy Program saw six students in multidisciplinary teams – including degrees in marketing, economics, finance and information systems – immerse themselves in the real-world task of tackling environmental challenges through a 10-week program with Samantha Ferrier, sustainability manager at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) .

“It’s important that the events industry is doing what it can to prevent waste by redesigning the system and ensuring that materials are kept in use for as long as possible,” Ferrier says.

MCEC has already eliminated plastic straws and plastic water bottles and significantly reduced the consumption of plastic takeaway containers and packaging, offering reusable alternatives.

The venue welcomes 2.67 million visitors per year, a million of these being event attendees.

Renzo Mori Jr, senior adviser in sustainable development at RMIT, says the program is mutually beneficial. “Student-industry partnership is crucial to implement the [UN] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he says. “Such partnerships can put the knowledge learned in the classroom into complex real-world situations, which is critical to the innovative thinking needed to achieve the SDGs.”

National Packaging Targets will ban the sale of single-use straws, cutlery, plates, drink-stirrers, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers and cottonbud sticks in Victoria by February 2023. MCEC will now get to work evaluating the recommendations, developing proofs of concept and conducting trials implementing changes.

Image credit Earl Carter.

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