Contest seeks plastic recycling pathways

Inaugural “Make the Case” competition yields two winning student teams, both in the Philippines.

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Identifying what is working and ensuring good ideas do not get lost is a goal of the CAPP contest, says one of its backers.
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The Commitments Accelerator for Plastic Pollution (CAPP) initiative of the Hong Kong-based Ocean Recovery Alliance has announced the winners of its first “Make the Case” Asia-wide student competition, which seeks ways to boost the proper handling of discarded plastic.

CAPP describes Make the Case as the only sustainability challenge for students focused on existing solutions that hold the potential to be applied elsewhere.

“Students quickly grasp that innovation also means identifying what is working and ensuring that good ideas do not get lost,” says Dr. Justin Robertson, an associate professor at City University of Hong Kong. That institution joined CAPP and Ocean Recovery Alliance as co-organizers of the contest.

“Through research, foresight and planning, university students from a range of different disciplines proved capable of uncovering high-impact projects and setting out a vision of how they could be replicated in other parts of the region,” adds Robertson.

Teams representing 22 universities in 10 countries participated by writing a case study on an initiative that reduces plastic waste and that potentially could be scaled to another location. Teams competed for $16,500 in prize money.

The two winning teams were both from Ateneo de Manila University. The overall winning team showcased the Aling Tindera Network, a scrap-to-cash program that involves “local networks of women micro-entrepreneurs, most of whom own sari-sari stores,” described as small, home-based convenience stores found in many Filipino neighborhoods. The team suggested Thailand as the country that could best benefit from a similar program.

The other prize-winning team profiled a zero waste initiative on Apo Island in the Philippines and offered a framework to extend the Apo Island model to other coastal islands in that nation as well as in other parts of Asia.

“As a long-term resident of Hong Kong and having carried out extensive programs within East Asia, it was exciting to see the attention to detail, the depth of their answers, passion shown by the student teams, and how much they understood the situations and opportunities,” says Doug Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance. “Not only was this apparent in their case studies and presentations, but also in their essays on how the Plastic Atlas Asia could be expanded in future editions.”

Helping to sponsor the contest was the Singapore-based Pictet Group Foundation and supporting it was the not-for-profit Heinrich Böll Stiftung Hong Kong organization. Two previous Make the Case competitions took place in India.

CAPP says Make the Case-East Asia will become an annual competition and will be held again in 2023. More information on the contest can be found on this web page.

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