Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre’s (MCEC) participation in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Impact Academy culminated in a final showcase at the end of May where students presented their impact-driven solutions to industry clients and the Academy cohort.
MCEC had joined forces with students from RMIT University in an effort to eliminate single-use plastics from their events and onsite cafes by 2025.
Using a circular economy approach, the RMIT students designed a closed loop system and developed a proposal to replace MCEC’s disposable coffee cups and drink cups with reusable and sustainable alternatives.
As part of the RMIT Impact Academy programme, six students in multi-disciplinary teams immersed themselves in the real-world task of tackling environmental challenges through a ten-week programme with MCEC’s sustainability manager, Samantha Ferrier.
“Our team at MCEC was really excited to see the solutions that the students came up with because eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic is something we’ve been working towards for some time.
“It’s important that the events industry is doing what we can to prevent waste by redesigning the system and ensuring that materials are kept in use for as long as possible.
“I always looked forward to our weekly catch ups because it was exciting to hear how the student team had progressed; it’s an area I’m very passionate about so it’s fun to bounce ideas around with others who are enthusiastic,” she said.
In an average year, MCEC welcomes 2.67m visitors, one million of these being event attendees.
The venue’s catering has already eliminated plastic straws and plastic water bottles and significantly reduced consumption of plastic takeaway containers and packaging at events by offering reusable alternatives.
Single-use items that remain a challenge to eliminate include drinking cups and coffee cups as well as plastic containers and takeaway packaging sold from cafes and retail outlets.
In line with the National Packaging Targets which will ban the sale of Single-use straws, cutlery, plates, drink-stirrers, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, and cotton bud sticks in Victoria by February 2023. MCEC has set a goal to eliminate problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.
The programme aimed to help unlock the student’s entrepreneurial talent, while they create value and have an impact on real world MCEC clients. The students provided insights, prototypes and meaningful solutions to social and environmental challenges.
Senior advisor, sustainable development RMIT University, Renzo Mori Jr said it is a mutually beneficial programme.
“Student-industry partnership is crucial to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Such partnership 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.”
“Student-industry experience plays a fundamental role in ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development,” he said.
The next step is for MCEC to delve deeper into the recommendations, develop proof of concepts and conduct trials based on the proposed models.