On today’s FWSU STORY, students in the “Solving With Design Thinking” class at GEMS use their voice to share solutions to a common environmental waste problem.
Billions and billions of disposable coffee pods known as k-cups are tossed into garbage cans each year. This year’s Solving Problems With Design Thinking class at Georgia Elementary Middle School identified the problem and designed a solution.
Our solution was to find a way to separate the k-cups and direct each material to the best place to avoid waste.
In 3 weeks we collected nearly 400 k-cups.
- Plastic cups mostly went to the Art room sculpture center
- 8 lbs. of coffee and filter paper were composted
- A very small quantity of aluminum was recycled
- No part of these k-cups entered the garbage
For three weeks we tested our solution at GEMS, made adjustments, and created an exhibit in the C-Building Lobby to share our work. The following is an FAQ about the project in the words of students from the class.
Why are k-cups a problem at GEMS and in the world?
“They are a problem because you can’t recycle them easily so we took them apart to figure out how to use them.”
“They are just a very big waste and you can only compost some of the parts.”
“They are not environment-friendly and can’t be recycled all together, causing waste.”
“The plastic cup part is not compostable or recyclable.”
“The K-cups are not recyclable after being used so they get thrown away. This is not safe for the environment. They are wasteful.”
How did you formulate a plan to solve the problem here at GEMS?
“We had a group brainstorm and we built things to make the process go faster.”
“We brainstormed a plan on what to do with each part of the k cups, and we formulated different tools to help us do so.”
“We made a system to take a k-cup apart to be used in other ways that is not the trash.”
“As a team, we decided to make a tool that helped when cleaning the K-cup. Two to three people would work in a group that would focus on K-cups in a different way.”
Was your solution effective?
“Yes, it was effective, because we had a quite easy job cleaning the k-cups and creating different uses for them, and what we could do with each part of them. What we could not reuse was composted or recycled.”
“I think that it was very effective, and recycling the k-cups was fast and took minimal effort.”
“Yes, it was effective because we got 396 k-cups and we made a lot of crafts.”
“Yes. We came up with about 400 k cups, throughout three weeks of hard work and designing. We also made different things with them.”
Could the solution be used elsewhere? Could all k-cups be recycled?
“Yes, if we could find a place that could combine the grounds into fertilizer and we could have the plastic melted into different objects, recycle the tin foil and the filters could be composted. This could save our landfills from overflowing with k cups and would help with keeping landfills in check by recycling.”
“I think that it could definitely be used elsewhere. If enough people were willing to participate, then they could be recycled.”
“Yes, but that would mean that everyone would have to lend a hand to the project to make boxes and also to collect dissemble and clean.”
“We found a way so that each part of the k cup could be used for something in a useful way.”
What have you learned from this project in terms of problem-solving, teamwork, or k-cup waste and recycling?
“I learned that little things that we use in everyday lifestyle can have a big thing in waste problems.”
“When you work as a team, projects get done faster and more efficiently.”
“I have learned that people can solve most problems by putting their heads together and finding out a solution.”
“I learned that if we work as a team we can get many things accomplished.”
“I learned that you sometimes have to work with people you find annoying and k-cups are super wasteful.”
Today’s FWSU STORY first appeared on the GEMS Innovation Lab blog.