These women entrepreneurs will make you rethink the way you see trash


Meet Andrea Garcia Lopez from Mexico.

Currently, there are two main methods of getting rid of garbage: landfills and burning. While landfills pose their own threats to the environment, burning trash is actually the world’s leading cause of dioxins, one of the world’s most toxic chemicals known to science. Needless to say, the global trash crisis is one that affects every being on this planet. Why, then, is it so overlooked? And what are people doing to fix the problem?

Who knew that a simple class project could create such a major impact on an entire community? Andrea Garcia Lopez, a young student from Mexico challenged with creating a project for class, took the opportunity to get creative with her friends and created an initiative that goes way beyond the classroom.

Competing for the Hult Prize 2016 Challenge, the mission itself was relatively straightforward – together with a group of other students, they were to think of a way to double the income of one million individuals by the year 2022.
It is estimated that, by 2100, global waste rates will triple, rising to nearly 11 million tonnes per day. In one year, we throw away upwards of 1.3 billion tonnes of waste
After being carefully selected by the organization, Andrea was stunned at the opportunity that had been provided to her and her group mates. The objective of the challenge was to compete against the top universities in the world and bring their ideas to light. Andrea and her team knew they were more than capable of accomplishing it.

Her team, consisting of one media manager and three architects, started fishing for knowledge in areas they didn’t have expertise in so they could develop their business model in the hopes of helping millions of people with their core idea.
Together, they decided to turn their attention to something that affects everyone around the world: trash.
Turning to their university, TEC de Monterrey, for help, the institution assisted the team in gathering resources, scaling their company, and implementing their project so that it would become a reality. They began by going around their local towns and asking users if they would exchange their trash for financial incentives.

In Mexico today, residents are able to use their trash for other means. For example, residents are able to turn their garbage into fuel usage to better the economy. According to Nick Michell, “Mexico City generates 12,500 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day and it has reduced the amount going to landfill to 5,500 tonnes, through the recycling program and by diverting 1,023 tonnes of waste into energy and converting 507 tonnes into compost.”
With fuel already established as a means to repurpose garbage, a financial incentive solution was another great way to benefit the economy and its residents. The exchange was successful in ways that Andrea’s team could not imagine. In particular, the exchange did not only result in the basis of a great idea, but also created a bond with the people of Mexico, generating close ties that would never be broken.
The day they felt truly successful, however, was the moment they realized they created a company that could facilitate new opportunities for people living in crowded urban areas.
After many hours of hard work, analyzing and iterating, it was time for the team to head to the Regional Finals of the Hult Prize Competition in Boston. Even though they did not end up winning the competition, the impact Andrea and her team made was more rewarding than any trophy could be. They continued to work on the project they started together, and are still going today. With the help of their friends, family, and community members, they were able to receive support for years to come.

In the end, watching this small idea grow into a fully-functioning business that positively affects people every day was the most rewarding part of the entire experience. Today, Andrea and her team have developed three ProTrash centres that are operating properly at full capacity.

About the Author

Kelly Lovell is the founder and CEO of ChangeGen. She is globally recognized for her expertise, particularly on engaging Millennials and Generation Z More