Recycled Plastic Waste Bins Aim to Inspire

They are colorful, practical and easy to produce—all of which may make Africa University's new recycled plastic waste bins a hit on and off campus. However, the team behind the launch of this environmental care and sustainability project has much more than function in mind.

Ellen Tapfuma, a second year student and natural resources management major, and faculty member, Dr. Zanele Furusa, are co-leading the initiative. They see the bins as both a waste disposal facility and a means of sparking students' creativity around reusing or re-purposing waste products into useful and marketable items.

"Reusing waste bottles helps sustain the environment for future generations and it is also a fantastic and highly innovative cost-cutting measure where we make our own bins instead of having to repeatedly buy replacements," said Furusa.

"Trash to Treasure" or turning plastic and other waste into usable and often stylish products is a growing movement across Africa. This initiative involves the entire Africa University campus community, with students, faculty and staff as frontline participants in segregating recyclables from food and other waste. Africa University's environment alert unit oversees waste separation as well as the storing and processing of plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Metal bin frames are manufactured by the university's fleet and facilities unit. Then, the waste items and frames are assembled into bins, which are distributed around the campus.

For the project's initiators, the bins are a great conversation starter about what can be done with waste, other than burning or burying it in landfills. By reusing the bottles, the project presents communities with a model for addressing plastic pollution and its negative impact on waterways and wildlife health. Reuse helps to reduce plastic and aluminum waste disposal in landfills. The bins also highlight for African communities the possibilities for new businesses and income generation from upcycling or recycling plastic and aluminum waste.

Adapted from a story by Beatrice Musungo, an intern in the Office of Advancement and Public Affairs at Africa University.