Laurier students make it easier to recycle e-waste, light bulbs and batteries on campus

A pair of students at Wilfrid Laurier University are behind a new initiative on campus that makes it more convenient for students to properly dispose of electronics, light bulbs and batteries without leaving campus.

The students came up with the idea in 1st year, hope to expand to other schools

Nathan Lam, left, and Reena Sakran, right, wear masks as they stand beside a new e-waste bin on the Wilfrid Laurier University campus. The third-year students want to help their peers properly dispose of items — like electronics — that can't go in the trash or recycling. (Submitted by Reena Sakran )

A pair of students at Wilfrid Laurier University are behind a new initiative on campus that makes it more convenient for students to properly dispose of electronics, light bulbs and batteries.

The Convenience Bin, also known as an e-waste bin, is divided into three compartments: light bulbs, batteries and electronics (such as cell phones or audio devices).

The idea for the bin came to friends Nathan Lam and Reena Sakran while working on a first-year class project on sustainability. The now third-year students, were able to turn their idea into a reality through the help of the school's Sustainable Hawk Fund.

"We thought that the university was lacking ways to recycle products such as small electronics and batteries. So we thought it would be a good idea to base our whole project around implementing a bin that could recycle those products," said Lam. "We just really want to fill a gap."

Contents are taken by university staff to be properly recycled at the region's waste management site and places like Best Buy take in electronics.

"Basically, just creating convenience and allowing students to be more sustainable in an easier way," said Sakran.

The e-waste bin called the Convenience Bin is divided into three compartments: Lightbulbs, batteries and electronics including old cell phones or audio devices. (Submitted by Reena Sakran )

In 2015, the school dedicated up to $30,000 annually through the Sustainable Hawk Fund to help establish sustainability initiatives on campus. Sakran and Lam got $1,000, which covered all of their costs.

Other initiatives launched in the same year as the e-waste bin include a microplastic awareness campaign and a food justice garden.

Future expansion

The bin was installed on the Waterloo campus in November and even with fewer students on campus because of remote learning, it's already half-full. The students say it will be emptied regularly when in-person learning resumes after Jan. 31.

Lam and Sakran plan to monitor the success of the project over the coming months. After that, they hope to get more installed on their campus and others. They also plan to reach out to other Canadian universities with their idea.

"I think we just want to get as much outreach as possible to try to get people to recycle these products because I think ... people just don't know that these are recyclable or there wasn't an easy way for people to recycle these products," said Lam.

"We kind of really want to emphasize promoting sustainability within the community and … we're trying to get everybody more knowledgeable about what you can recycle conventionally and what you can't," said Sakran.

The pair hopes other students will take on the management of the project once they graduate.


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