Liam finalist in Green Gown Awards

Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga “compost master” Liam Hoffman has been named a finalist in the prestigious 2023 Green Gown Awards Australasia.

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Liam is a finalist in the “Sustainability Champion – Staff” category, one of 10 sections within the awards, for which there are a total of 36 finalists from 22 institutions.

From advancing renewable energy and carbon reduction strategies to promoting biodiversity conservation and social justice, the finalists embody the spirit of sustainability, creativity, and collaboration.

Liam (whose official job title is Resource Recovery Assistant) manages Pōpopo, a large-scale composting hub on Union St East, Dunedin.

“Pōpopo is the only large-scale composting hub in the New Zealand tertiary sector which recycles all of the food waste produced by our on-campus facilities. This include our culinary school, student residences, staff common rooms, cafes, and campus organics bins,” Liam explains.

“This food waste is combined with our compostable packaging and gardening waste to produce nutrient-rich compost and vermicompost (worm castings), which is used to feed the various food gardens and permaculture beds we have on campus. These in turn produce free organic foodstuffs for any staff and students that want or need fresh, locally grown produce.”

Data shows the benefits of Liam’s efforts and expertise. In 2023:

  • 4574kg of food waste was diverted from landfill
  • 32kg of plastic contaminants was removed and recycled
  • 1713kg of off-site food waste was diverted from landfill
  • 18.7cu m of compost was produced
  • 44.8kg of vermicompost was produced
  • 77 people participated in workshops and tours

“The most important thing to note is the figures above are part of a larger integrative system that aims to close the loop on organic waste and convert landfill into nutritious inputs for the many gardens and food production areas that we have on our Dunedin Campus,” Liam says.

“They are all part of a circular economy that saves considerable amounts of money in reducing landfill charges, the costs of offsetting our emissions, and the expense of buying commercial compost from outside sources.”

Ross McDonald, Director Sustainability Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga, says Liam’s recognition as a Green Gown Awards finalist is thoroughly deserved.

“Recycling our organic waste means that we avoid emitting tonnes of highly potent methane. Liam’s work is the equivalent of taking at least 10 internal combustion vehicles off the roads on an annual basis.

“His efforts sit at the unglamorous end of sustainability. He literally is elbow-deep in the food scraps that our cafes, staff and students produce.”

The Green Gown Award winners, including Sustainability Institution of the Year, will be announced on 2 November.

Published on 19 Sep 2023