Manitoba

Coming together to beat e-waste: University students win big with community collection idea

What started out as a fun side project to keep their minds busy over the holidays ended with three Winnipeg university students $10,000 richer.

Annual e-waste collection day wins university idea competition

Team Loop came up with their winning idea after realizing nobody really knows how to handle their e-waste. (Petr Josek/Reuters)

What started out as a fun side project to keep their minds busy over the holidays ended with three Winnipeg university students $10,000 richer.

Haneen Shouman, Michael Hall and Maria Sanchez make up Team Loop, this year's winning team in the annual "idea competition" called Game Changer run by the University of Manitoba. 
The university students behind Team Loop have a plan to tackle e-waste in Winnipeg. (Submitted)

Their big idea? A yearly event collecting unwanted electronics from Winnipeggers to bring it to the proper recycling facilities as a means to curb electronic waste, or e-waste, in the city.

"At the beginning, we were going to go with another problem for solving women's wages, but then when we discussed more about the e-waste, we realized that that's more realistic, more practical to provide a solution for it," said Shouman, who is a part-time student in the Asper School of Business MBA program at the U of M.

"Everybody knows how to handle their regular waste, but nobody really knows how to handle their e-waste. Everybody has that drawer of old electronics or old phone that nobody knows what to do with it."

Engagement key, student says

Shouman said e-waste recycling facilities exist in Manitoba, but consumers don't make good use of them.

"We just need to engage people more," she said.

Every year, Game Changer challenges university students in the city to come up with ideas to solve problems in society. Problems are submitted by other students and then competitors get to take their pick for what they want to tackle.

As the grand prize winners, Shouman and her group received $10,000. She said they haven't decided how they'll spend their winnings yet.

Her team member Michael Hall is also completing his MBA at the U of M, Shouman said, and Maria Sanchez just finished the marketing management extended education program at the University of Winnipeg.

Shouman said the group put together their proposal over the schools' winter break and chose to get involved as a way to stay sharp during the holidays.

"It started kind of — we had free time during the holiday and one of my friends suggested to pick our brains about something during the holidays instead of just wasting it," Shouman said. "When we started to work on it, it was just an exercise for us, kind of a preparation for a class we'll have next year, and then we realized we're putting something good together."

Shouman said the group hasn't decided yet if they'll keep pursuing the idea to make it happen, but they've been in touch with some Winnipeg business groups to see what they can do.

"It's going to be hard to make it happen," she said. "It needs planning, for sure."

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