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The Circular Challenge 2023 and the stories behind each winner of the Spanish edition

By Mariana Brizi, from the Circular Movement

Facing daily classes in remote areas with limited access and dealing with a scarcity of study resources are ongoing challenges for some students from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. However, these challenges did not become overwhelming obstacles for them. As evidence of this, they were announced as the winners in the Spanish edition of the Circular Challenge 2023 at the end of November this year.

The initiative has been happening for 3 years in Brazil, and this year had the first Spanish edition, which received more than 60 projects from educational institutions in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico. The winners are the projects "ComparTEC" and “Reuse of Electronic Cigarette Batteries”, both from Mexico, and "Naturatex" from Colombia.

All these works share a unique characteristic: they turn needs into opportunities for transformation.

This is the case of the students of the La Inmaculada Concepción Educational Institution, Colombia, coordinated by teacher Gloria Amparo Ramirez Zuluaga, creators of the winning Naturatex – Plastic Wood Project

In 2022, when this idea began to take shape, the deterioration or absence of access roads to a rural area that students needed to access meant that Yuly Andrea Atehortua, Valery Gallego, Isabella Cossio Juanita García and Samuel Cardona, together with the teacher and coordinator, Gloria Amparo Ramirez Zuluaga, were to take action.

“It took us between 4 and 5 months to determine the materials and their chemical, mechanical-physical properties for the school laboratory scale project. This dream began with the fight for the human right to responsible Production and Consumption, and the concern was transformed into innovation within the natural sciences classroom”, they comment.

With the desire to be a valuable contribution to their environment, they discovered the opportunity to materialize their ideas using the principle of clean technologies and the Sustainable Development Goals. Since then they partnered with EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín), mentors and materials experts, who guided clean procedures and technologies to make our project an environmentally sustainable idea. 

From now on, this group will bring its full-scale prototype "because we need an ally to provide us with a more specialized laboratory to determine the chemical, mechanical-physical properties of our block," they comment.

Together, we are agents of transformation

Every year hundreds of students activate their power of research and innovation to create new solutions to the needs and problems that exist in their surroundings. Another of these great dreams that is beginning to come true is that of the students of the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of Monterrey, Mexico, Laura Andrea Quiroz Ortega, Andrea Ibáñez and Paulette Mosqueira, together with their professor in charge, Elizabeth Toriz, , who this year decided to reflect on the problem of generating trash in our community, and with that in mind they shaped the winning project that we have known as ComparTEC.

“Through the Circular Economy courses we reinforce awareness about the importance of sharing and reconditioning of materials. Both practices extend the useful life of materials and reduce the amount of waste produced. We felt that this was a viable solution to the problem we had identified”, explains the team. 

To this day, the students explain that their mission is “to get the TEC community involved and participate in the sharing of items. We understand that circular education is still a little-known topic. Therefore, we consider that one of the main challenges will be to educate, raise awareness and convince the community about the benefits of the circular economy and the importance of sharing items, and thus achieve greater awareness and commitment on the part of the community.

And along with these two great ideas, Desafío Circular 2023 also received another great exponent of innovation, which was the so-called “Reuse of electronic cigarette batteries”, from the Michoacana University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Mexico, coordinated by Professor Alma Arreola. Her students, Jimenez Yostin, Avalos Perez, Jose Julian, Justianiani Talavera, Karla Mendonza, Carlos Alberto Medina and Muñoz Mauricio brainstormed to analyze their immediate surroundings until they noticed that “the large consumption of vapers among close friends "It generates a considerable amount of waste (in a week or less thousands of vaping devices can be discarded and we estimate that at each youngsters party consume 20 to 50 electronic cigarettes-vaping devices)", they detail. 

This, they detected that, after use, the batteries still have useful life and can power other devices such as cell phones, headphones, speakers, among other small devices that do not take up much charging time. Today, the challenge they face is “to recondition the vape batteries so they can be reused as another emerging battery and obtain financing to develop that process”.

Each of these ideas was born from a real need and has great growth potential ahead. At Movimiento Circular we are happy to be able to follow up on them and be that little push that helps them continue making their dream of a more circular world a reality.

Let's go for it! May your successes continue and keep dreaming big!

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