March 23, 2017 12:39 am

University of Alberta students are giving trash a second life

WATCH ABOVE: A non-profit student group at the University of Alberta is putting a dent in the amount of food waste in Edmonton by breathing new life into garbage. Sarah Kraus explains.


A group of more than 60 students at the University of Alberta are turning food waste into new hygiene products and household cleaners, all for a good cause.

The students are part of the Enactus group, which also has clubs at MacEwan University and NAIT.

They’ve developed two products made from materials that are normally thrown into the garbage.

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“We are trying to enhance awareness of sustainability issues and reduce waste here on campus,” explained the club’s president, Gabriel Nunes.

Brew Green is a product the students started working on one year ago.

“So many people in the community drink coffee. You can imagine how much waste is produced every day in coffee shops and there’s actually not a really good output for those coffee grounds,” said vice-president Cristiana Ion.

Their research led students to discover alternate uses for the grounds.

“They’re a great exfoliator, they’re really rejuvenating as well,” Ion said.

That’s when the light bulb went off.

“Basically, we’ve partnered up with some coffee shops around campus and we repurpose these coffee grounds into a cosmetic line we’re working with right now – which is all natural.”

The students are now hard at work, developing recipes for bar soaps and body scrubs made from coffee grounds that would otherwise end up in a dumpster.

“They’re taken from coffee shops daily, then we dry them so they stay fresh and we pair them up with coconut oil, sugar and a bunch of natural products,” Ion said.

“We have the labelling done, all the packaging and we’re in contact with a store on campus to sell it at the store itself.”

In the fall of 2018, they’ve worked out a deal to sell the products through Mother Earth Essentials, with proceeds going to iHuman to help at-risk youth in Edmonton.

“We create projects that aim to improve the standard of living and quality of life for people in need,” Nunes explained.

The other product the students are working on is called ReCytrus.

“ReCytrus is a project where we take orange peels or citrus peels and turn them into 100 per cent all natural cleaners,” said project lead Jit Patel. “You can use them on any surface from wood to walls. It does a pretty good job, it kills all the bacteria.”

The students got local restaurants and juice bars on board to provide them with citrus peels.

Those peels are mixed with other natural ingredients, like vinegar and baking soda, to create a household cleaner.

“We’re planning to sell it in residences where students can use it instead of buying harmful products to clean their dorms,” Patel said.

ReCytrus is further along in the process than Brew Green, and the students hope to be selling the cleaner by the end of April.

With ReCytrus, profits will be donated to organizations that provide meals for people in need, like the Campus Food Bank or the Mustard Seed.

“This kind of adds a community and social aspect to business, which I think we’re moving towards as a community, rather than just being about profit,” Ion said.

The group’s dream is to have universities across Canada selling the product to students in residence and reduce the amount of peels going into landfills.

“Even a little thing like orange peels can make a huge impact in reducing food waste around the world,” Patel said. “It really goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to throw everything out. There’s a bigger role for every little, small thing you can find around your house.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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