A major rubbish-busting project by USC will seek innovative solutions to reduce and reuse plastic waste in the Himalayan mountain nation of Nepal.
About 30 USC academics and undergraduates will work directly with Nepalese organisations and communities this year to research and design plastic waste strategies and solutions.
Project leader Dr Kathy Townsend said the initiative would identify ways to adapt successful global waste management practices to suit Nepal’s limited resources and geographical, social and cultural challenges.
USC has secured a $79,200 grant through the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan Mobility program for the project which will focus on communities living in the high mountains of Rasuwa district, one of Nepal’s poorest areas.
“Waste is a significant health and environmental issue in Nepal, especially in rural communities where there is no recycling industry, limited rubbish removal and no clear rules on practices such as burning and open dumping,” Dr Townsend said.
USC’s project team includes Lecturer in Accounting Dr Ratna Paudyal, Lecturer in Education Dr David Martin and Senior Lecturer in Engineering Dr Helen Fairweather.
“By looking at the problem of plastic waste through the multidisciplinary lens of science, education, engineering and business, the USC team aims to work actively with the local community to create real change,” Dr Townsend said.
“This unique project will provide students with valuable, practical experience in dealing with a major global issue,” she said.
During field trips to Nepal, students will survey and analyse local needs around rubbish and tailor ongoing projects in collaboration with local youth and the wider community.
Engineering students will devise practical solutions for reducing and reusing plastic waste, science students will prepare scientific reports for government organisations, while Education students will create resources for local schools and the broader community.
Commerce and Business students will identify microbusiness opportunities where plastic waste can be turned into useful, sellable items.
Dr Paudyal said the project would enable USC academics and students to make a meaningful and sustainable contribution to Nepal.
“We will help grow a new generation of waste leaders in Nepal by educating and training local youth on the importance of garbage management and helping them to develop and implement ongoing waste reduction projects,” he said.
The project team expects the initiatives can be replicated in other communities and expanded into Nepal’s larger towns and cities.
The impetus for the project stemmed from visits by the USC academics to the Rasuwa district in recent years at the invitation of Dr Paudyal, who was born and raised in one of its small, impoverished villages.
Dr Paudyal and the Rotary Hervey Bay City have been conducting humanitarian missions to the region since 2015, with the aim of using the power of education to help reduce poverty and empower youth.