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Sustainability: Teaching & Learning

By Anke Nienhuis


As part of teaching and research in the Industrial design department at AUT, we are running a student project on the reuse of waste materials. We collect waste created by the university and aim to transform it into functional, viable and feasible products, to be used by our students and staff. We have built several machines and are currently processing discarded milk bottles (HDPE) used in our offices and café’s, but we could use other types of plastic waste in the future too.


Most of our student projects have sustainability considerations and we give students knowledge and tools to design with the environment in mind. In this project specifically, the focus is not on ‘designing out waste’ but on using and reusing waste that has already been created, therefore lowering the use of virgin plastic and the creation of more waste, aiming for a circular economy within AUT. We also want to raise awareness of the waste problem and show people, and especially the students, that they can make a difference and empower them to do so.


The project is still in progress, but I show the machinery in development and a few examples of student projects; proposals on what to make out of the discarded milk bottle plastic.

Anke Nienhuis - AUT 2020 small.jpg

Anke Nienhuis

Auckland University of Technology

Anke is the Curriculum Leader of the Industrial Design Department in the School of Art & Design, at Auckland University of Technology. There she is also a lecturer and researcher in the field of industrial design and sustainability.


She values design innovation with a central focus on people and the environment. “I encourage my students to create meaningful products that make positive changes, where they are needed most”.


Before embarking on an academic career Anke gathered extensive professional experience as a product designer, working for numerous companies and in various countries, including The Netherlands, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

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