Students help Vancouver reach zero waste goalsJun 15, 2012
Students at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business are using their sustainability-in-business acumen to help the City of Vancouver and other B.C. jurisdictions reach their zero waste goals.
Annually, SFU’s MBA students undertake real-world sustainability projects for clients across Canada. This year, they are working with the Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) and the city in a project that is also being supported by the packaging division of Walmart Canada.
Both RCBC and the city have mandated zero-waste goals, at a time when the province is moving towards “extended producer responsibility” — which puts the onus of waste disposal on product manufacturers and retailers.
Students in the MBA sustainability class and the undergraduate course Managing for Sustainability (Bus 489), both taught by Stephanie Bertels, a Beedie School assistant professor, are designing companies or processes that close existing gaps in the consumer recycling landscape – from discarded computers and electronics to take-out food packaging.
“We are trying to break the linear take-make-waste model that is predominant in terms of how goods are handled,” says Bertels. “These initiatives will create tighter cycles that use less energy and resources in order the increase the efficiency of how materials are handled in our economy.”
Students will tackle 13 different materials that pose recycling challenges: styrofoam meat trays, produce netting, stickers on fruit, block styrofoam, small quantities of household toxic waste (like paint thinner), shopping bags, tetra packs, clam shell packaging, imported beer bottles, shipping palates, foil bags (such as chip bags and coffee bags), coffee cups, and take-out food containers.
“The challenge for students is to find a way to close the loop on these materials so that they don’t end up in the waste stream, or to replace them with products or services that can be readily reused or recycled yet serve the same fundamental core-user need,” Bertels says.
Both classes have partnered with City Studio and its zero waste division, which, along with RCBC, will make classroom visits.
Previous SFU projects put before City Studio have gone on to be piloted by the City of Vancouver. Bertels expects strong interest in the students’ proposals.
Students can also leverage these projects to compete in Walmart Canada’s annual Green Challenge. Other projects will be featured in SFU’s recently launched Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator (SEA).
Walmart Canada’s sustainable packaging division is also supporting the course through their extended network of contacts in the sustainable packaging realm – and their connections as part of the Sustainability Consortium.
“The students are busily understanding the user needs that underpin why these materials exist in the first place, and why these materials are difficult to recycle,” adds Bertels. “The next phase is for them to understand whether they can find a way to make them more recyclable or substitute a different material or process to meet the same user need.”
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