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Net Impact and Colorado University Leeds School of Business with sponsor Ball Corporation created a sustainability competition this spring, awarding $12k in prizes.

Over 60 teams from prominent US colleges and universities tried to solve this problem:  how can municipal recycling collection be increased? University of Washington Foster School of Business students answered this challenge by designing a mobile application which maps recycling locations and motivates users by showing where nearby recycling bins are located, adding facebook and geocaching quests and then completing the Loop with partnerships and mobile advertising. Their Loop mobile phone application took first prize, $7,200 and the bragging rights over the likes of University of Southern California’s Mendoza School of Business (2nd Place), DePaul University (3rd place) and other competitors including, USC, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Kansas, University of Virginia.

The Loop application cites and addresses the rather stunning statistic  that 19.4 Million Americans ages 18-35 “rarely or never” recycle.

Loop proposition delivers:

•       Advanced Smartphone Application

•       Reduced costs & greater rewards

•       Melds mobile advertising & sustainability

•       A cleaner environment because of a simpler waste stream

that closes the loop

Winning team members Lindsey Reh, Trenten Huntington, Nick Stiritz and Allison Takeuchi have something to think about as they move towards graduation—getting ideas implemented and working that triple pundit bottom line—people, planet and profit. Congratulations to the UofW team and hats off to Foster School of Business and Net Impact for this and their ongoing programs,  integrating real-world sustainability issues with education and technology.

A somewhat similar application was developed entirely independently,  less some of the social bells and whistles and the very key level of granular detail needed to change ‘impulse wasters’ — people who recycle at home, and might be influenced to recycle while in cities, if only they know a recycling bin was 200 yards away — this and the social aspect make Loop a unique offering, albeit one which challenges urban planners, waste managers and citizens alike to make change real.