disposable food packaging project at the University of Rhode Island 

Reuse will raise awareness of disposable food and beverage packaging, encourage its avoidance and promote the use and reuse of natural resources. The project will enrich the discourse about a sustainable campus and help the university pioneer innovative ways to promote conservation, recycling and reuse of natural resources.

This interdisciplinary and participatory project with the College of Engineering, and the Departments of Art and Art History, Film & Media, and Communication Studies is an open process where different skills and knowledge will be explored to understand the complexity of circles and to translate it into a sustainable design. Students learn problem-based approaches inside and outside the classroom. They will develop an understanding of interconnections within this interdisciplinary practice. The project has 4 steps:

Step 1
Artistic background, working methods and strategies will be introduced. Artists Martin Keil and Henrik Mayer will preview the project Reuse Disposable Food Packaging and will describe the goals of the interdisciplinary and participatory process.

Step 2
Students in Art & Art History, Engineering, Film & Media, Communication Studies and related fields will engage in problem-based learning about sustainability, strategic planning, food waste and engineering and develop a holistic understanding and critical reflection of interconnections. Aside from the artistic and engineering dimension of this process, students in the new Sustainability LLC and in Dr. Mundorf's COM315/SUS315 class will help promote and document the entire project. They will be working on relevant communication campaigns in parallel.

Step 3
Dedicated recycling bins will be placed around campus and specifically in the Memorial Union food court to collect used dinnerware, Styrofoam cups and plastic bottles. Meanwhile, students - especially those from Art and Art History - will be encouraged to create and design meaningful new shapes to recycle and re-purpose these materials. Together with students from engineering they will work on solutions to manufacture forms for 3d printing, thermic and injection molding. Students will learn to work with Processing 2.
Processing 2 is an open source programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) built for the electronic arts, new media art, and visual design communities with the purpose of teaching the fundamentals of computer programming in a visual context, and to serve as the foundation for electronic sketchbooks. With faculty and students from Mechanical Engineering the collected material (e.g. plastic cups and plates, utensils/cutlery) will be granulated for 3d printing, or molded for using thermal and injection molding. The polypropylene, a fossil fuel (oil) product will be recycled, redesigned and reproduced into various shapes. Small interdisciplinary task forces with students from Engineering and Art will be created to work on specific solutions and design under the guidance of Keil and Mayer.

Step 4
Art students and students from Engineering will present their work and models in an exhibition at the art department with promotional help from Communication Studies students. The long-term objective is to sustainably implement reusable dinnerware throughout campus and to eliminate disposable dinnerware, plastic water bottles and Styrofoam cups.
Through this participatory project URI faculty and students actively and directly experience the potential for an active, highly visible, cycle of reusable resources in everyday life at URI on location, and, thus develop a stronger environmental awareness in general. The project might also lead to continued collaboration between Art & Art History, Engineering, Film & Media, Communication Studies and other majors. For instance, students can invent a procedure to use recycled polypropylene for 3d printing. Another challenge would be to work on recycling and reusing polystyrene. The resulting project can be a model for a Design Center at URI, where interdisciplinary and problem based learning can face challenges of the 21st century by working and cooperating on site specific solutions for the community. The practical experience is crucial, as it would enable students to express their own awareness of sustainable impacts. In a wider picture it could help to develop a sustainable model for URI as a whole. We have made plans to incorporate the results in the Honors Colloquium offered by Cheryl Foster (Philosophy and Honors) and Cate Morrison (Communication Studies) in Spring 2015, which focuses on public art on the URI campus.

a project by REINIGUNGSGESELLSCHAFT in the framework of URI's Distinguished Visiting Artist initiative


Kicking off the project: meeting of engeneering and sculpture students at the Dpt. of Engeneering