University of Calgary students reimagine the office garbage can
Three-tiered can would save you trips to the office composting bin
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One cubicle’s trash is now treasure for a trio of Calgary students.
The team of University of Calgary undergrads spent last semester re-engineering the traditional office wastebasket into a three-tiered system to separate recycling and compost from landfill waste.
And, last month, they got the news that their school project earned them the first place prize in the annual class competition at the Schulich School of Engineering.
Rebecca Dukart said that the idea came to her and her teammates, Michael Assié and Murray Bondy, during their very first group meeting.
“It seemed so obvious to us,” said Dukart. “We were definitely surprised that we won. A lot of people had these really complex ideas, and ours just seemed so simple.”
The wastebasket prototype, which they named was "The Solut1on,” has two small clip-on bins that attach to a basket found next to any office chair. The largest bin is for recycling while the other two are designated for compost and landfill garbage.
And Bondy says it was the simplicity that helped them win.
“We asked the panellist why they picked our design, and they said it was because it addressed a problem people face every day,” he continued. “It’s simple and easy to implement.”
Their class was tasked with tackling a real-world problem by engineering a solution, and they opted to head for the environmental route after the city mandated that businesses separate compost last fall.
“We don’t personally believe that having a compost in the office kitchen is going to address that problem enough,” said Bondy. “Because people in offices are busy and don’t usually get up from their desks when they eat.”
Sandy Chang, the class’s instructor, said the project helps push students to focus their ideas onto how to make the world a better place.
“The whole purpose is for them to be energized by a problem that they personally care about,” she said. “That way, they’ll be inspired to come up with a solution because they see that there’s a point to continue this beyond the class.”
With all three students graduating this year, they’re planning to bring "The Solut1on” to market.
They’ve tested it out in school, office and home environments, and hope to partner with office building management companies, the city or post-secondary institutions.
Having already met with manufacturers and Innovate Calgary, their next step is tracking down investors.
“It feels great that we won, but it also feels great to see the response that we’ve had,” said Bondy. “A lot of people seem to be interested and we want to move forward with it once we graduate.”