20 September 2019 • HNTB
Students call for a mini waste centre at elementary school
“When you are working on such a project, you get a real taste of what it would be like to have a job. It’s really fun. We did have some stressful days. But this project really brought my degree programme to life.” Marit de Best is a second-year Finance & Control student (faculty of Business, Finance & Marketing). Together with three fellow students she created a plan for waste separation in Leidschendam-Voorburg.
This Dutch municipality just outside of The Hague features the Platform Economics, Education & Labour Market (Platform EOA). Through informal meetings, the platform promotes work, education and entrepreneurship in the municipality. On Sustainability Day 2018 the platform organised a dinner with entrepreneurs, students and municipal staff. Round table discussions during and in between courses provided the perfect opportunity to mix business with pleasure. The research assignments were developed during these meetings.
Elementary schools and waste
One of these assignments involved waste separation: a study on how elementary schools in Leidschendam-Voorburg can separate waste effectively. Marit de Best, Gabriëlle Sturrus, Dewi Hemradj and Renée van Santen, all second-year students in the Finance & Control degree programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, were happy to accept the challenge.
They took on this assignment as part of a consultancy project. The project had a particular focus on social skills. To listen to the customer. To look at opportunities and possibilities and see how the processes flow. The four students were supervised by Harrie Ozinga, founder and programme manager at Huygens Labs, a platform that creates innovative connections between educational institutions and the corporate sector.
“From the very beginning Harrie assured us that this would be our project,” explains Marit de Best. “He would only provide guidance if needed. I was a bit nervous. As second-year students this was our first time working for an external client.”
“The assignment undertaken by these four young ladies was all about behavioural changes,” says Harrie Ozinga. “How do you change behaviour as early as possible. For example by starting in elementary school. I had already started a dialogue with the company Afval Loont (Waste is Worthwhile). The idea was to implement mini waste centres at elementary schools. But the idea also raised a lot of questions. What does it entail? What about the logistics of waste? How would parents feel about waste being stored separately at their children’s school?”
Plenty of challenges for these four students to tackle. They contacted Afval Loont. They checked to see which elementary schools were interested in the project. They taught a class at one of the schools. They researched which permits were required to set up a mini waste centre.
Their final presentation included six recommendations, which they presented to city councillor Astrid van Eekelen (Environment and Sustainability), the director of Afval Loont and several school staff members. In their recommendations the students made it clear that there is still a lot of work to be done in Leidschendam-Voorburg: increase awareness, improve communication and properly monitor the financial and legal aspects. Marit: “After our presentation we immediately saw that the attendees began to discuss how they could apply our recommendations.”
Marit: “This was a relatively new topic for us. At school we talk about sustainability, but not necessarily as part of the degree programme.” When asked if the project related to her studies, she paused to think: “I gained a lot of new insights. I learned to think differently. These skills also came up during the interviews. At school we are working on social skills. For this assignment we had to contact a lot of people, get them excited about the project. That involves social skills.”
She sees this second-year project as great practice for the internship in year three. “During this project you get a taste of what it would be like to have a real job. Including some stressful days which is only to be expected. Because I was able to do something nice for someone else, it made my degree programme more relevant.”
Full of energy
Harrie Ozinga doesn’t hide his enthusiasm. “These ladies are so full of energy. They were deeply engaged in the issue. They asked many excellent, critical questions. Very refreshing. It was partially thanks to their efforts that Leidschendam-Voorburg created a lovely process.”