Plastic Recycling, Glass Processing, and Hydroponic Installations: Eco-Projects by Students Transforming the World
On December 13, Nazarbayev University hosted a showcase of eco-projects from the Sustainability Living Lab (SLL) program, a unique initiative promoting environmental sustainability in Kazakhstan's universities. Students from Nazarbayev University, Karaganda Buketov University, and other domestic higher education institutions presented their eco-projects to journalists. These projects focused on plastic recycling, glass processing, hydroponic installations, electricity consumption control, and other eco-innovations.
These projects were all part of the SLL program, which enables students across Kazakhstan to implement ecological projects on university campuses. The program fosters the development of creative and intellectual potential in youth, allowing them to transform theoretical knowledge into real-world projects. The Office of Sustainable Development at Nazarbayev University implements the program in collaboration with the "National Conservation Initiative" Corporate Fund and in partnership with Chevron.
The Sustainability Living Lab program was first launched at Nazarbayev University in 2019 to support green initiatives within the university community. Over the next two years, Karaganda University, Almaty University of Power Engineering and Telecommunications (AUES), North Kazakhstan University, and Aktobe Regional University joined the program.
In 2023, the SLL program expanded to encompass 12 Kazakhstani universities, successfully implementing over 70 green projects that foster a transformative shift in community thinking towards sustainable development. At AUES, students created a smart home system to enhance campus energy efficiency and installed smart waste bins that reward the correct sorting of trash. The Atyrau University of Oil and Gas developed an automated hydroponic installation for growing fresh greens and vegetables. At Karaganda Buketov University, filaments for 3D printers are being made from plastic waste, and a mobile app for rational tree planting has been developed. Meanwhile, at Shakarim University, students can charge gadgets and spend leisure time in a pavilion equipped with solar panels.
"The SLL program has become a platform for developing ecological initiatives and a catalyst for changing ecological consciousness within the university community. We see how students turn ideas into real projects, influencing sustainable development on our campuses," noted Kanat Baigarin, Advisor to the President of Nazarbayev University.
As part of the program, participants also engage in Boot Camp sessions where they gain valuable skills and knowledge, exchange experiences and ideas on greening campuses. The SLL Network now includes over two hundred participants nationwide, with the number of students with a "green" mindset growing rapidly each year. Additionally, the Sustainability Living Lab program encompasses both offline and online workshops on sustainable development and a series of educational videos on YouTube detailing the implementation of projects.
"The SLL program not only improves the environmental indicators of campuses and raises awareness on sustainable development, its key significance lies in forming 'green campuses' and uniting student initiatives, creating a network of youth with innovative ideas," emphasized Aruzhan Kaparova, a participant in the SLL program and president of the "Green society" student community.
Media tour participants had the opportunity to discover a variety of interesting projects implemented on the university campus under the SLL program:
Mediterranean biome – a project to create a special zone with subtropical plants in the university atrium.
NU observatory – a project for building a small observatory with a 50 cm diameter telescope. The dome rotates 360 degrees. University students, staff, and city residents can observe planets in very high quality through binoculars.
Smart geopolymer – a project for creating environmentally friendly materials and various useful items, such as statues, road paving stones, benches, and curbs from glass and plastic waste instead of sand in concrete.
Topyraq – a project for creating vermicomposters for organic waste recycling.
Precious plastic – a project for recycling plastic using self-made devices, giving used plastic a new life in everyday items.
Tile glass – a project for recycling glass waste. Students reduce the negative impact of broken glass on the environment and create useful household items like organizers, lamps, and jewelry boxes.
Just reprint – a project for recycling plastic waste into filaments for 3D printers.
Green Horizon – a project for creating additional useful space with green plantations. The use of a membrane layer quadruples the lifespan of the roof.
Bulan – a project for creating an electric attachment for wheelchairs, enhancing mobility and convenience.
Lumisolcoat – luminescent and hydrophobic coatings for solar panels based on nanomaterials. Unique nanoparticle properties in thin coatings transform destructive UV light into visible light, thus increasing the efficiency of solar panels. The hydrophobic properties of the developed coatings provide self-cleaning of the panels.
V-elec – a stationary bike that generates energy from physical activity. Students exercise and charge gadgets.
Hydrohouse – a project for creating automated hydroponic installations. The installations can be operated without constant human oversight through a Telegram bot using sensors to monitor light, acidity levels, and temperature.
NU Energy Dashboard – a platform displaying the real-time energy consumption of each building on the campus in an interactive and easy-to-understand format.
Art-Eco – a project for creating canvases from textile waste and paintings on environmental themes.
Coal soil – a project for transforming ash into mineral-organic compost. Mixing ash waste and organic matter in certain proportions creates a beneficial substrate for depleted soil.
These projects represent innovative ideas contributing to the creation of sustainable campuses. They demonstrate the importance of efficient resource use and waste recycling to produce useful and environmentally friendly products.