Better wheels and bottle covers are among the innovations put forward by Memorial University students in a competition to improve standard shopping carts.
Memorial’s Students in Free Enterprise team hosted the Cart Modification Challenge on Tuesday evening, part of the team’s Project Bottlepreneur. Jon King, vice-president of the team, said the project started about eight months ago.
“We decided that we’d look into helping the people who push carts and collect recyclables around our city, so we really had to find out what their needs were, what their issues were, how they actually went about collecting recyclables, all that kind of stuff,” said King. “So we went to our local recycling depots, kind of got a connection with a few of these guys, and learned that mainly what they did to earn income, to get the recyclables, was things like jumping in dumpsters, going through any sort of garbage can on the side of the road, that kind of thing, and trying to pick recyclables out of there.”
The team hoped they might be able to convince people to put out their glass bottles — not currently accepted by the St. John’s recycling program — along the routes people walk to collect bottles.
“What we did was strategically section the routes into different zones, and then we went to households in those zones and asked them to get involved by putting their recyclables to the curb on a given day,” he said. “And as these guys walk by on their daily route, they can grab the bag and keep on going, and that way they can earn more money, get more recyclables and really help out the community at large by offering a recycling service that is very, very comprehensive to accept a wider variety of stuff so we can actually improve our environment here in town.”
The Cart Modification Challenge grew from the fact that the collection vehicle of choice — the shopping cart — isn’t built for outdoor use, or bottle collection at all, said King. The team — largely business students — approached Memorial’s engineering faculty for cart improvement ideas, and made it into a major term project in an engineering course, which turned into a competition with prize money donated from Nalcor: $500 for the winner, and $250 for the runner-up.
The winning design increased bottle capacity and made the cart more weather-resistant to handle a St. John’s winter, said King. Nalcor’s sponsorship will also include the creation of a prototype that incorporates several of the best ideas, and will eventually see working models on the streets.
“Everything ranging from special tires to making bike systems to make it work, going with special tarps to make sure you keep all your recyclables dry,” he said.