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31st March, 2020

LSBU’s cutting-edge research into cutting down on plastic waste

London South Bank University

As part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Industry-Academia Partnership Programme (IAPP), LSBU is at the heart of a research project that has the potential to positively impact the global fight against non-recyclable plastic waste

Collaborating with academics from Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) in Indonesia, and industry partners Lembaga Penerapan Teknologi Tepat (LPTT), PT Mantra Bali, CLEAR Community, and Atelier Ten, LSBU has been researching the impact of coastal pollution in Indonesia, and addressing the urgent need to improve the waste management infrastructure in coastal and rural areas. Indonesia is currently the second largest polluter of plastic to oceans, and over 80% of their waste is mismanaged.
Jennifer Hardi, the Principal Investigator for the project and Senior Lecturer and Course Director for the BSc (Hons) Architectural Technology and Architectural Engineering course, along with Dr Issa Chaer, Director of Research and Enterprise for LSBU; and Professor Andy Ford, Professor of Building Systems Engineering; have been instrumental in the latest chapter of this far-reaching industrial and academic partnership.
As key members of the Integrated Waste Management Facilities for Coastal Indonesia at Three Scales – Desa (village), Kecamatan (district) and Kabupaten (region): Technical Feasibility and Multi-disciplinary Virtual Scheme Design Collaboration project, their objectives were threefold:
  1. Bring together technical experts from the UK and Indonesia, to create a best-practice design process that is both practical and sustainable.
  1. Develop a range of innovative and sustainable engineering design and technology solutions for waste management facilities, to serve rural Indonesia at different scales.
  1. Enable teachers, researchers and students in Indonesia to practice engineering design techniques, with the aim of solving the civil engineering challenges they face, in regard to waste management.
The project team undertook a number of activities in order to achieve the objectives. These included feasibility studies, where data was compiled for waste quantities and types, and each relevant scale of facility was considered; and drone surveys, which allowed for 3D visualisation of the sites.

Following these initial studies, a Pyrolysis Steering Group was formed, in order to analyse the available pyrolysis technologies available for each scale.
Put simply, pyrolysis is a process by which non-recyclable plastics can be broken down at high temperature, and converted into other useable forms of energy such as oil and gas. Members of the steering group inputted their research findings into an options appraisal matrix, which helped to identify the most suitable available technology.

International BIM Multi-disciplinary Design Competition

Jennifer Hardi from LSBU, in collaboration with ITB, led and ran an international Building Information Modelling (BIM) multi-disciplinary design competition; where participants were tasked with designing a suitable waste recycling facility (material hub) for both regency and village scales. Around 50 students from both institutions took part in the design competition, where the use of local sustainable materials, such as bamboo, were encouraged. 

In order to brief the participants, a series of workshops and BIM training sessions were carried out, at both LSBU and ITB, in January and March 2019. The workshops brought together academics from different disciplines, and students from a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.The competition gave the participating students direct experience of industrial-scale problem solving within an international, multi-disciplinary context. And by creating a partnership that values creativity, innovation and knowledge sharing, LSBU ensured that the educational benefits of the project were widespread.

Bamboo Pavilion Workshop at LSBU 

In March 2019, Jennifer Hardi, together with Dr Andry Widyowijatnoko from ITB, led an additional hands-on bamboo pavilion workshop – to raise awareness of the use of bamboo as a suitable and sustainable material for tensegrity structures.
This workshop brought together academics from a number of faculties, and undergraduate and postgraduate students from a variety of study programmes. 

The real-world impact of the project 

The project has enabled LSBU to continue their valuable work in Indonesia; using the scheme designs and technical data to inspire and inform local communities, in creating better waste management infrastructure. It also helped change the local government perspective of plastic waste being the end point, into it being a material resource within a continuous cycle. This re-education will hopefully influence future policy-making. 

The design competition has resulted in a number of genuinely realisable design solutions and – by providing real-world visualisations of what a material hub might look like – has created an exciting vision of how a sustainable approach to waste and material management can be beautiful, functional, and economically advantageous.
From an educational perspective, the BIM training and seminars – provided by LSBU’s Jennifer Hardi – were enthusiastically received by students in Indonesia, and the industry review panel were hugely impressed by the quality and feasibility of the submissions.

Furthermore, as part of the internationalisation strategy at LSBU, the Indonesia sites have been incorporated into the current undergraduate curriculum. Over 300 students – studying courses ranging from architectural technology, architecture, building surveying, project management, construction management, and civil and building services engineering – will now have the opportunity to design a sustainable building within the Construction Practice module.

The future is now

ITB have already submitted a funding proposal to the Indonesian Ministry, to construct one of the material hubs on the Desa Margacinta site, as identified by the project. While CLEAR Community and Mantra will be sharing the inspiring competition designs, as part of their efforts to mentor and support Indonesian communities who want to take action towards better waste management.
LSBU’s members of the IAPP team will seek future funding opportunities, in order to continue their support of improved waste management for Indonesian coastal communities, and also hope to carry out capacity building activities in Malaysia.
In a perfect world, the use of non-recycled plastics the world over would be drastically reduced and ultimately eliminated, but until that happens, LSBU are proud to be at the forefront of the educational research into the emerging and promising technologies which can help combat the environmental effects of plastics pollution.

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