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Brenau grad students build a brighter future
Project creates recycling bin out of old soda cans
Brenau University graduate students from left: Houya Chen, 29, Jessie Li, 26, and Apple Liu, 27, work Saturday to construct recycling bins from recyclable materials such as soda cans and plastic bottles. The bins will be placed around the Brenau campus, though the group hopes to spread the bins around the community in order to raise awareness about recycling. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Brenau University graduate students are sending out a reminder that it is important to recycle.

Approximately 18 graduate students showed middle and high school students an alternative way to recycle at a Saturday event called "build your own recycling bin" held at the Jacobs building of Brenau University.

While being involved in an eight-week course, six of the international graduate students came up with a project in which they created a bin from recycled materials by binding soda cans into a colorful box-shape. While the initial idea came from Jung Fong Lu, the overall creation was a collaborative effort of Lu, Hou Yu Chen, Chun Chieh Muang, Xin Wen Bian, Zhang Tinj Zhao and Ying Wang.

The students' unique recycling bin was presented to a university panel on Friday with the aim of finding a solution to real world problems and inspiring people to live sustainably.

Saturday's goal was to spread the word and engage people from the Gainesville community on how to create the recycling bins. Students from various schools in Hall County were invited along with boys from Think, an after-school initiative with a focus on mentoring and coaching for at-risk youths ages 11 to 17.

Tory Buffington, the activities coordinator at Think, said he believes that the more exposure youths get to character-building activities, the better chance they have to build their own character.

"The whole goal for recycling is to save the planet, right?" he asked. "If you are going to save the planet, hopefully that will create more ideas to help save your community and save yourself. You have to bring others into the fold so instead of this being an individual thing, it can be a group thing, which is what brings the community in."

College of Business Dean William Lightfoot said that Brenau is trying to share the knowledge students acquired conducting the project.

"We thought it was a very clever idea, and we have already seen a noticeable improvement of recycling just in our one building with two containers," he said.

Lightfoot said that after creating the recycling bin, the graduate students figured other students, particularly middle and high school students, would be interested in learning how to create the bins.

"We are also are starting to look and see if there are other opportunities where we could create these bins and actually sell them, not necessarily for a profit, but to sustain the activity," he said.

Iben Nielsen, a graduate assistant at Brenau and facilitator for the class that the students were involved in, said that she believes the project is an eye-catcher.

"It is not what you would call aesthetically beautiful, but you get interested by it," Nielsen said. "We have had a positive response everywhere."

While the graduate students worked on creating a new recycling bin Saturday morning, video coverage was taken so they can create a how-to manual for people to follow on YouTube. About half of the cans and bottles that were being used Saturday were donated by the Hall County Recycling Center.

Despite the fact that the project involves multiple hours of commitment, Lightfoot believes that the bins could be a good service project for middle and high school clubs.

"It is the kind of idea that any of the school organizations can get behind," he said. "This can be a highly visible way to impact the community, and it is not that difficult to do - you just have to decide that you want to do it and be willing to put the effort into it."

Lightfoot said that if students can get enough groups to participate, maybe they could have the recycling bins everywhere there is a vending machine.

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