How do you solve a problem like a non-biodegradable plastic water bottle?

That question was among those being asked at the University of Waterloo’s first-ever “Hack the Plastics” event, where students spent the weekend dreaming up ways to mitigate the environmental damage wrought by single-use plastics and pitching their ideas to a panel of judges.

Students were also asked to work together with at least one person from a different academic faculty to come up with these ideas.

Organizer Carly Huitema said that was crucially important, because solving a problem as intractable as plastics pollution will require co-operation from many areas of society.

She also pointed out that great ideas have a tendency to go sideways when there isn’t enough input from different kinds of people.

Trevor Charles, who is director of the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research, agreed.

“It’s important for engineers to realize that they need to work with scientists and need to work with business people and people who work in the environmental field and everybody needs to come together to solve these big problems,” said Charles.

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