A team of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) students have come up with an idea for an application that would allow to organise used cooking oil collection and reduce pollution. The new system would connect restaurants and households on one side of Lithuania with recycling companies on the other via the app. Based on current resources, the application should be launched in 2022.
Cooking oil is used in the food processing industry, restaurants, and households. Oil waste affects sea life and water resources when it is being mishandled and not properly collected. In the previous 17 years, global vegetable oil production has doubled, reaching 185 million tonnes every year. According to Nicolas Drouby, a KTU student from El Mina, Lebanon, oil recycling could prevent problems related to pollution and could also be used to produce biodiesel which can replace diesel and contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.
“We plan to develop an app to properly organise and plan oil collection. The purpose of the application will be to link oil consumers in restaurants and households from one side of Lithuania and the oil recycling company from the other. The application will also include point system rewards to encourage people to use our platform and give oil to be recycled” says Nicolas, a KTU student at MSc Industrial Engineering and Management.
The prototype applicable throughout the world
While participating in a joint European university – ECIU University – challenge “Efficient management of resources in Kaunas city”, organised by KTU, Nicolas and his team found out that, on average, one restaurant produces about 30 litres of oil waste per week, and households – 1 litre per month. However, students research showed that used oil has no defined collection system in Lithuania.
“Throughout studies and research, I came to learn that there are a lot of resources are not reused or recycled, or the process is inefficient. Our app would reduce the pollution, make our cities more sustainable and help save the environment”, says KTU student.
Based on KTU students’ research, there are only two oil recycling companies in Lithuania, one of which is based in Kaunas. They have agreements with only a few restaurants from which they collect oil: “However, there are no means of oil collection from households because of the low quantities used. We aim that our platform would encourage more involvement from businesses, restaurants as well as households and facilitate the oil collection process”.
Today the app is being developed at KTU Startup Space. Initially, this prototype will be used and tested in Lithuania. During the testing period, the team will aim to collect information about the entire process, including the strengths and weaknesses, and work to scale it up to implement the technology in other countries.
Industry experience helped to get ahead at the university
After Nicolas finished his bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics, he has worked with multiple companies from different industries, mainly recycling and fleet management in Lebanon.
“Even though the experience was interesting, I wanted to pursue a deeper knowledge and career in the industrial management field. I researched different universities that offered this programme, and Industrial Engineering and Management, met my ambitions”, KTU student explains.
He adds that the programme was not available in Lebanon and, as KTU is ranked as one of the best universities in East Europe focusing on technology, he decided to come to Kaunas.
“At KTU, I have had a great experience: my studies, faculty, research project and teamwork were constructive and extensive. The equipment we used for our experiments at the university laboratories was very advanced. KTU offers easy access to information on its website, which helped me get information necessary for the research to thoroughly complete projects”, says Nicolas, “In addition, the dormitory is close to the campus, so I save time commuting”.
Lithuania feels like second home
According to Nicolas, because of the circumstances and political corruption, many young Lebanese leave to start a better future, hoping to help the country from abroad.
“Lithuania represents all that I was thriving for and needed in order to innovate. Honestly, it started to feel like my second home”, he says.
Since joining and completing the ECIU University challenge, Nicolas is now motivated to start his own start-up company in the near future. The experience of solving the challenge made him more aware on the peculiarities how to build a start-up company from zero. However, he is most excited about having found the mentor that helps his team to develop an application idea and turn it into business.
“ECIU University challenge not only allows to tackle problems and find answers to them, but also to come up with applicable solutions. It prepares students for the real-life projects. During the challenge, the lecturers always consulted us. Also, during the seminars, the guest speakers were sharing their experiences and giving the students tips on how we can build a company”, says KTU student.