Every day, each person generates an average of 1.63 pounds, or 0.74 kilograms, of solid waste, according to The World Bank. That comes to nearly 4.5 trillion pounds (2.01 billion tons) of waste annually. What’s worse, global waste is expected to grow by approximately 7.5 trillion pounds (3.40 billion tons) by 2050.
Motivated to address this growing issue and advance UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, the Enactus National Champions from Utrecht University in The Netherlands got to work. The team members began by looking for ways they contribute to the problem.
In one of their favorite pastimes, these university students saw an opportunity.
“[Our project] exists out of a motivated group of students who all love to go to festivals; however, during the festivals, the amount of waste that is produced shocked us,” says Loes de Groen, team captain for Utrecht University. “We believe we need to change our ways of production and consumption to make the world a more sustainable place.”
To prevent materials from going to waste, the team collects old banners and flags from festivals and gives them new life by turning them into durable, waterproof backpacks. The project, called Bennie, has been able to thrive because of partnerships the students developed with festivals.
“We contacted over 44 festival organizations, with whom we hope to create a sustainable relationship either by collecting their waste materials or offering them our products as merchandise,” de Groen says.
The greatest challenge, she notes, was finding a manufacturer that could work with the banner material. Collaborating with local manufacturer Atelier Opnieuw, the team has designed and created a line of high-quality packs that, by their nature, are completely unique.
Despite setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utrecht University Enactus team has collected over 200 banners to date, which amounts to 673 m2 materials upcycled. Beyond this direct impact, the students hope to empower other young people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
“Our generation is a key player,” de Groens says, “because we both create the waste [at] festivals but are also the leaders of tomorrow.”
Utrecht University will represent The Netherlands at the Enactus World Cup starting 14 October 2021, where the team will present their project alongside 32 other Enactus National Champions. There, they will demonstrate their innovation in business and its impact on the world as they vie for their chance to become the Enactus World Champion for the second year in a row.
Learn more and register to attend Enactus World Cup at enactus.org/worldcup.