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University of Sydney Business School students seek business solutions to Sydney food waste

28 Feb 2013

University of Sydney Business School students have been asked to find a socially and environmentally acceptable way of dealing with the Sydney Opera House's food waste.

Across the State the NSW Environment Protection Authority estimates that $2.5 billion of food waste is sent to landfill each year. Sydney Opera House has investigated solutions to divert its food waste from landfill however there are limited commercial options available for recycling in Sydney.

Nearly 80 Bachelor of Commerce students are now working on a sustainable solution to Sydney's food waste issue as a 'client project' during summer school. The project forms part of the assessment for the students' 'capstone' (or penultimate) unit of study for their Degree.

The Opera House project is being facilitated by the not for profit environmental group, Greening Australia, which has also commissioned Business School students to develop a viable business plan for its bush tucker commercial seed bank and nursery in the western Sydney suburb of Oxley Park.

"These are consultancy projects that give the students an opportunity to develop business models for social enterprises in the environmental sector," said Greening Australia's Business Development Manager, Chris Andrews.

"In the case of the Opera House, we are expecting a business plan that gives commercially viable options for recycling the food waste in the City of Sydney in an environmentally sustainable way while producing a social dividend which could include ongoing employment for people from disadvantaged backgrounds," Mr Andrews said.

Working as cross disciplinary teams, the students are now looking at ways of reducing the amount of food waste generated within the Opera House precinct and the responsible collection and recycling of the remaining, unavoidable waste.

"The balance may be composted, turned into animal food or bio energy," Mr Andrews said. We hope that this work will stimulate discussion with businesses, government and the community about options for dealing with Sydney's food waste. "Students providing consultancy services to our bush tucker nursery are looking at growing the business in a way that could provide long term job opportunities for aboriginal people living in Sydney's west."

"These consultancies not only deliver benefits to businesses, the environment and to society, they also show students what it's like to work in the real world," said the Business School's Dr Barney Tan who is supervising the bush tucker social enterprise project.

"And these projects are designed to consolidate students' learning; to hone and assess the skills and knowledge of our students across various disciplines such as  finance, accounting, marketing, human resource management, and information systems," said Business School Lecturer, Sarah Beresford.

"Beyond the learning goals of the Business School, we hope these projects lead to tangible outcomes that contribute to environmental sustainability," Ms Beresford added. "They could also inculcate a greater sense of awareness and appreciation for environmental issues among our graduating students who are the business leaders of tomorrow."