The Top 10 Student Recycling Inventions

From a bin that eats rubbish with bacteria, to a computer that aids you in recycling, students from across the world have been helping create some revolutionary ideas for ways in which we can save the planet. 

Here at James Waste, we’re always looking for new ways to help the world turn a little greener. So, we’ve scoured the web for the brightest prospects in recycling and found some gems! Below are some of our favourite inventions designed by students. 

Bacteria-eating Digester 

Styrofoam is one of the most stubborn items to be recycled. Often, many people result to dumping it in their rubbish because they don’t know how to effectively deal with it. However, a group of students from Folsom, California, have designed a ‘digester’ that uses bacteria to eat Styrofoam! 

Not only does it dispose of it but it turns it into energy and biodegradable plastic. Emily Miner is one of the inventors of the digester and she too believes Styrofoam to be “a big problem in the world right now.” Styrofoam is constantly getting into waterways and negatively affecting the environment. Miner’s team is now one of 20 semi-finalists in the First Lego League Global Innovation Award, that pitches students from across the world against each other to help create inventions to aid recycling. This is definitely a concept to look-out for, because Styrofoam has been plaguing our lives for far too long. 


More often than not, when people throw their rubbish into a bin, it ends up in the wrong place. To change this, a group of Bay Area secondary school students looked into their school’s rubbish to find out what people had been putting in them. 

They put a sorting contest into practice in order to help students and staff alike place the right rubbish in the right bins. The first phase of the test saw a 58% accuracy increase but the students weren’t done there. They then designed a robot to aid them, specifically a Raspberry Pi-based device that takes a picture of the rubbish and uses photo classification technology to tell someone which bin to use.  

The most impressive stat about this invention is that it can improve accuracy to more than 90%! 

FIRF (Food into Renewable Fuel) 

This device was created with food wastage in mind. A small team comprised of year 5 and 6 students created a concept for a device that transforms wasted food into fuel for natural gas appliances! The way it works is fairly simple; microorganisms break down the food, which makes methane gas that can be used to fuel hot water heaters, furnaces, stoves, you name it!  

Bacteria Buster 

Plastic bags are the bane of everyone’s life. They swarm our oceans and clog our landfills. The main reason plastic is damaging our environment is because it’s made from polyethylene, which can’t be recycled in most recycling bins.  

To tackle this, a group of Canadian students designed a plastic ‘composter’ that uses bacteria to biodegrade polyethylene over a 15-week period. This process will eventually create CO2 which can then be reused in other products. It can also be used as biomass which can be sold as fertiliser. 

Plastic Zero 

Similar to the thought-process of the Bacteria Buster, Plastic Zero focused on banishing plastic from our lives. Plastic packaging, often, ends up in landfill, which isn’t good. So, 5 students took it upon themselves to design a new type of reusable packaging.  

The material used is called ‘shape memory polymer’, which can be easily flattened if heat or light is applied to it – but can additionally pop back into its original shape. The students’ thinking was that this material could be used for packages that could be sent back to manufactures, creating an endless loop of packaging. This would make the creation of additional bags useless and swiftly put a stop to wasting such items. 

Hay Bale Wrap 

You might already know that hay bales are always wrapped in about 8-10 layers of thick, plastic film before the hay is stored outside. It helps preserve the nutrition of the hay for the animals but it simultaneously floods more plastic into the world.  

Students from years 8 and 9 sought to banish this by designing bioplastic made form plant starch and fibre. Not only does it make the use of plastic on hay bales redundant, but the bioplastic can break down into an edible product, or be used as fertiliser! 


A small group of year 8s, who had been working together on a project for three years now, have a patent-pending process for disposing of Styrofoam waste. Similar to the Digester, this Styro-filter seeks to turn Styrofoam into carbon, which can then be used in water filters! 


I hope you enjoyed my top 7 student inventions that could help save the planet! Are there any you’ve made in your home and garage that could make my list? Or, if you’re looking for inspiration, why not check-out my blog here? I’ve written numerous articles on the world of recycling, so why not give a few of them a read! 

Author: Ben Taylor

Eco Warrior! Recycling Buff! Owner of James Waste Management LLP, UK recycling over 90% of waste.

2 thoughts on “The Top 10 Student Recycling Inventions”

  1. Great Article!! its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. it is really valuable. thanks a lot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *