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Students pitch in to help solve plastic problem in Ethiopian national park

The solution aims to transform discarded bottles into products that will boost local revenue

Monkeys digging through trash pile

A plastic problem in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park is impacting the lives of rare gelada monkeys. Image by India Schneider-Crease/ASU

May 01, 2024

This weekend, nine students from Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will take an 18-hour flight to northern Ethiopia. Their mission? To tackle a damaging plastic problem that has impacted the lives of rare gelada monkeys, as well as flowers and fauna, in the area’s Simien Mountains National Park.

Want to help?

Donate to the project's GoFundMe fundraiser.

The ASU students are partnering with the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology to leverage solutions to the pollution problem in order to both protect the environment and provide alternate revenue streams for people living around the park. 

Using mostly locally sourced materials, the ASU team will build machines that they have been prototyping for two years. This technology will take plastic bottles discarded by tourists and transform them into products that the community can buy and sell to tourists, and eventually the local market, for profit.

The project was born out of research from India Schneider-Crease, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. 

Video by Steven Filmer/ASU Media Relations

ASU News will be following the story of the students as they work to put their prototype into practice.

Editor's note: A previously published version of this story said that 30 students were traveling to Ethiopia. Thirty students are involved in the project but nine are traveling at this time.

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