3R had the pleasure of hosting two American interns last month – Ben Morrison, from Quincy, Illinois and Ashley Burns, from Novi, Michigan.

Ben and Ashley The internship was part of Massey University’s National Expedition and Internship (NEI) – a six week programme for US undergraduates studying in the areas of agriculture, environment and food.  It includes a three week internship at various companies in the Hawke’s Bay.

3R were looking for two students to work on a project with Gareth Mentzer looking at alternative uses for recycled water-based paint.  With a strong environmental focus in both their studies and interests, Ben and Ashley proved to be a great fit for the project and 3R.

In addition to their research into end uses for paint, Ben and Ashely took part in a variety of 3R related activities and projects, including the Oamarunui landfill, Hastings Hospital, Biorich, Waste Management and helping us with the 3R beach clean up.
We asked Ben and Ashley a few questions about their time with 3R and in New Zealand:

What are you studying?  And what are your future work aspirations?

Ben: I’m studying Biological Systems Engineering and I’d like to work in environmental consulting and research

Ashley: I’m studying Environmental Economics and Policy and aspire to work for an environmental advocacy organisation that works to protect the natural resources within Michigan.

Any observations on your time with 3R?

Ben: This is a very creative and unique company.  There is lots of opportunity and flexibility here to come up with new ideas and projects to better the company, and progress the sustainability of the country.

Ashley:  An increased focus on product stewardship is the key to reducing the amount of post-consumer waste that needlessly ends up in the landfill rather than be recycled or repurposed.

This internship opened my eyes to the possibility of recycling common household goods, like paint, that I never thought was possible. 

Any opportunities you identify for 3R and NZ as a whole to improve environmental outcomes?

Ben: In my opinion, New Zealand already has more potential for improving environmental outcomes because kiwis have a larger intrinsic motivation and pride for preserving the environment then you’ll find in most of the USA.  As long as there’s waste going to the landfill, 3R will continuously find new waste management and recycling opportunities. 

Ashley:  It seems to me that New Zealand is lacking some national environmental regulation. More stringent regulation could prevent environmental degradation by holding industries and individuals responsible for the impact of their activities.

Did you gain any new perspectives during your stay?

Gareth, Ashley and BenBen:  I’ll definitely take home all the knowledge I’ve gained of New Zealand’s culture, agriculture, and sustainability practices.  From 3R, I believe the primary topic I’ll take away is behaviour change.  We talked a lot about social incentives, conveniences, and changing others views about the environment when improving waste management.  This idea seems to be at the core of sustainable progression, and so, a very important step towards sustainability. People in the USA have an even longer way to go until environmental stewardship is a cultural normality. 

Ashley:  I will be more mindful of what I buy based on the product’s recycling capabilities. For example I will be more careful to buy glass bottles/containers instead of plastic, as glass can be infinitely recycled.

We wish Ashley and Ben all the best with their future studies and thank them for their time and input.