MSc student wins prestigious placement

Issued: Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:00:00 BST

Yao-Ting Huang is studying for an MSc in Applied Carbon Management at Glasgow University. The course was the first of its kind in the world when it started in 2007. The programme is unusual in that it includes a placement in lieu of a dissertation – hence the link with Nestlé. It’s a placement he is delighted to have secured given the competition from his peers.

Yao-Ting Huang 

“It was a popular choice,” he explains. “The project interested me from the start as I carried out a carbon audit of waste at a local primary school as part of my core course – Carbon Auditing and Management. This made me realise how serious waste problems can be and the placement was the ideal opportunity to study waste management at a
corporate level.”
Nestlé in the UK has set itself a target to achieve zero waste to landfill from its factories by 2015. Yao-Ting Huang, an MSc student from the University of Glasgow, has come on board to help out.
“Zero waste is a tough challenge,” says Neil Stephens, Managing Director of Nestlé Professional, “but we’re already making progress towards that goal. Two Nestlé UK factories have already achieved zero waste to landfill [Girvan and Dalston], and others will follow that lead.”
Yao’s role is to help Nestlé identify how – and support work that is already underway via the company’s technical experts. He’s already been digging into the waste records from the past couple of years. “Nestlé wants to reach its target efficiently, so the first step was for me to review their current waste practices, such as the waste streams they have, the destinations of that waste, and what costs are involved. After comparing this data, a best practice report will be produced.”
What’s he discovered so far? “It’s hard to help a company like Nestlé to achieve more on their waste target. Nevertheless, I have identified that one of the key factors affecting waste management is sales volume. For example, if customers want more coffee, Nestlé has to produce more coffee products, which results in increased coffee grounds being produced. This is turn increases ash production, which is another form of waste.”
With more intelligence like this it’s a win-win project. Yao gets first-hand experience of the challenges faced by one of the world’s largest food companies: “It’s a wonderful experience and I’m learning so much.” Nestlé, in return, has access to a fresh, young mind with, perhaps, new ideas on how to meet these challenges head on. “If we are going to make progress in the years and decades to come, we need to be operating more sustainably – we therefore need access to new thinking on everything from waste to biodiversity”, says Stephens.
Indeed, the students can act as a kind of short-term consultant, says Bethan Wood, programme director for the MSc in Applied Carbon Management and the BSc (Hons) in Environmental Stewardship. The student selected is carefully matched to the placement to ensure a best fit in terms of interests and career path. They will also be up to date in all things carbon.
A nine week placement it may be, but in that short time students can get a real insight into how businesses work. It’s vital that companies like Nestlé are involved. “It benefits the whole foodservice sector,” says Nestlé’s Stephens, “when the likes of Yao go back to their courses and tell them what a vibrant, challenging and rewarding sector this can be to work in.”


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