I recently heard about this group of young students on Instagram working away in Waterloo, Ontario to develop an App that is going to help minimize single use containers! I knew I had to learn more about them, what they were up to, and how their amazing initiative would have a positive impact on our environment.
Qianxu, Mitraa, and Sam founded Trash To-Go™ and have been working hard to put everything in place to launch their App. I am always astounded by the entrepreneurial spirit, ambition, and innovation that this generation of youth exude. Join me in learning more about these 3 young entrepreneurs and their mission through the development of Trash To-Go™ .
Who is Qianxu and what motivates you? What are your favourite subjects in school and what do you plan to do after high school?What are your future career aspirations and why?
I see myself as someone who strives to always showcase her best work. I take pride in doing things within my own power to positively impact the current world. Having lived in a city with severely-polluted air, I have witnessed the consequences of humanity’s destructive actions and realized, change needs to happen immediately. Unlike Sam, I am not an athlete by any means, but some of my interests are baking, math, (downhill) biking, and doing DIY projects. By developing Trash To-Go™ and taking part in environmental protection, I am showing responsibility toward our future — I want humanity to not have to fight over resources and still be capable of being a community in the future.
In school, I like math, physics, chemistry, and business. I am unsure of my plans beyond high school, but I know I would like to study in a STEM- or business-related field at university and be able to use my skills to further the development of Trash To-Go™.
Since I am still in the process of exploring different professions, I am clueless about what careers I want to pursue. What I do know, though, is that I want a job I love. To me, the pay is secondary; in fact, I don’t want to envision myself coming to work each day just to earn money. I want to do something that I truly enjoy, and that truly makes a difference in some way.
Who is Mitraa and what motivates you? What are your favourite subjects in school and what do you plan to do after high school?What are your future career aspirations and why?
I am a cheerful extroverted introvert who enjoys getting involved in many different initiatives and activities such as hackathons, community volunteering and business challenges. My interests include travelling, trying new foods, science, and exploring the vast world of shopping malls. I deeply care about the environment because I find it very unfair that human consumption and greed is ruining the lives of innocent animals as well as the Earth as a whole. I envision Trash To-Go™ encouraging everyone to step up and do their part in saving the planet.
Some of my favourite subjects in school are chemistry, biology, and business courses. After grade 12, I wish to earn a degree in business and use the skills I will gain to make our global community a better place to live in.
I am not entirely sure of a specific career that I would like to pursue, however, I know that I want to enjoy coming to work every day. I would love to have a career that lets me utilize my potential and my knowledge for an objective that I am passionate about. It would make me especially happy if I can help change lives for the better through my career itself as it would give me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I also wish for my career to involve travel and allow me to live my life to the fullest.
Who is Sam and what motivates you? What are your favourite subjects in school and what do you plan to do after high school? What are your future career aspirations and why?
I am a curious, passionate individual that is driven by empathy and interpersonal connection. I am a bit of an old soul in the way that I have learned to value how precious life is, you never truly know what will happen. This is why I live each day to the fullest and try to live and breathe my passions. I want to give others the opportunity to discover the beauty of life themselves, which is why I’m motivated every day to help others reach their full potential.
To be honest, I cannot pick a favourite subject. I just really enjoy learning and have never had a subject that I particularly despised nor cherished above all others, I guess it has to do more with the teachers as I am a social butterfly and love connecting with others. After high school I plan on going to university because I want to keep learning, I will probably study engineering and environmental sciences as I love to learn how things work. I will also keep up with my passions because that is how I personally feel fulfilled in life. I also hope to grow Trash To-Go™ on a global scale.
I have too many aspirations. I don’t exactly know what I want, which is fine since life rarely turns out according to plan. I know that I want to make Trash To-Go™ grow on a global scale because it can make a big impact on helping the environment, which is my passion. I am also interested in biomimicry and designing engineering technologies to help the environment. I definitely want something engaging so it allows me to have a good work life balance so I can continue to positively influence the world.
How do the 3 of you know each other and what led you to develop Trash To-Go™?
Sam attempted to run a similar initiative at our highschool (SJAM) where students earned coupons for bringing reusable containers when eating out at lunch. She presented the initiative at a school wide assembly where Mitraa and Qianxu heard her speech and knew they wanted to get involved. Out of nearly 2000 students, Mitraa and Qianxu tracked Sam down and asked if they could form a team in a local app and business development competition named Technovation. We have now been working together for nearly two years and have developed Sam’s school program into a business that will hopefully reach millions around the world.
What is the mission behind your organization?
Our goal is to give users the urge to build sustainable habits, one scan at a time. Our vision is that one day, all single-use containers at restaurants will be eliminated and replaced with reusable options.
What is it that your App does?
The mobile app Trash To-Go™, which is currently under development, provides users with monetary incentives for choosing to bring their own reusable containers/cutlery or refusing the unnecessary single-use packaging offered at fast-food restaurants. The application is very intuitive to operate: each time a customer brings their own reusable container or declines excess packaging at a Member Restaurant, they get to scan a QR code displayed at the cash register, adding points to their Trash To-Go™ account balance. The points system is similar to that of Air Miles®️ or other reward platforms. Each scan adds 100 points, valued at $0.50, to the user’s account. These points can be redeemed for money at any time. Trash To-Go™’s revenue model is simplistic yet unique: the company generates funding through displaying sponsors’ advertisements on the application. Sponsors will be able to choose an amount to donate and their company advertisement will be displayed on the Trash To-Go™ app until their funds are used up through user scans. The process is simplistic, secure and beneficial for all parties involved. Furthermore, this business model involves minimal participation on behalf of the restaurants and is thus appealing to them.
When do you expect your App to be released and available for everyone to download?
Our team has been working hard on developing our app as well as our company for the past year and we are proud to say that we are very close to finishing. Initially, Trash To-Go™ was set to be launched on the App Store and Google Play Store in August 2020, however, due to COVID-19 developments, we wish to wait until things have settled down and restrictions have been fully lifted so users can fully optimize the Trash To-Go™ system.
Where can people go to learn more about and follow Trash To-Go™?
- Our Website
- We are on Instagram @trash.to.go
- They can sign up for our email list on the Trash To-Go™ website
- Restaurants that are interested in getting involved can connect with us here.
Can you tell me about some of the obstacles you have faced through developing this App and what you have done as a team to overcome them?
- Students at our school were not very engaged in Sam’s initial program (she had a total of 10 uses). To solve this problem, we came up with the idea of building an app for this initiative. Not only does it make the process more efficient, it also allows us to reach a greater audience who will be more receptive to this idea, such as university students at the University of Waterloo.
- Our mentor stopped responding to us during the Technovation Competition, so we had to complete and debug our app prototype on our own. After utilizing prior knowledge as well as revisiting our app logic, the prototype finally began running smoothly. We ended up winning the Southwestern-Ontario Technovation Pitch Competition and moved on to international semifinals.
- We had very little knowledge about app development. We needed a mentor who could guide us through this process and explain some of the challenging aspects of coding the app. On a tour of a local tech company, Magnet Forensics, offered to us by a Technovation competition judge, we reached out to a software engineer that we were connected with for guidance. With her support, we have now finished coding the majority of our app and are looking forward to launching it in the months to come.
- When reaching out to restaurants asking them to join our initiative, some of them expressed that they were worried about health and safety regulations and were therefore unwilling. Several others were not trusting of the Trash To-Go™ program after seeing that it was developed by three high schoolers. We then reached out to the University of Waterloo’s Food Services who were able to establish our credibility and connect us with more restaurants on-campus.
- We were hoping to launch our app in August this year, but COVID-19 has delayed a lot of our plans such as reaching out to restaurants and advertising to university students.
Where do you (as a team) envision the future of this App? What is your 2-5 year goal?
Short-Term Goals (<5 years):
- Publish the minimum viable product of our app on the Google Play Store and App Store in August 2020, or as soon as circumstances permit
- Expand Trash To-Go™ into the GTA, including establishing restaurant relationships and advertising to residents of the area
- Have a notable number of companies wanting to advertising on the Trash To-Go™ app, instead of us needing to reach out to each individual one
- Reduce a total of 1,000,000 single-use packaging items in 5 years
- Gain 10,000 uses each week 2 years after launch
Long-Term Goals (>5 years):
- Expand Trash To-Go™ globally
- Partner with the federal and provincial governments in offering tax incentives to Trash To-Go™ Member Restaurants
- Have Trash To-Go™ be a staple brand name (benchmark app for reducing plastic waste in North America) that everyone is aware of, like Uber and Skip the Dishes
What advice can you give students who are interested in moving forward with an idea they are looking to develop further? What should be their steps to put their plan into action?
Before committing to a project, make sure that you are passionate about the cause you are working for. Don’t be afraid to ask for others’ opinions or reach out to companies or experienced professionals. We have found that most are more than happy to help out motivated youth. If we had completely relied on our own capabilities, we would have never gotten to where we are today. Lastly, know that there will be many difficulties along the way but don’t let that stop you as it will be worth it in the end. We wish you the best in your journey!
Well this wraps up another student spotlight. ReRouting will patiently await the release of the App and follow what is to come! Don’t forget to sign-up to stay in touch with Trash To-Go™ to get updates on the release of their App. Sign-up here for their updates!
Stay tuned to hear about more students doing great things in ReRouting’s Student Spotlight blog category!
Are you a student doing amazing things? Or have a friend that’s deserving of a spotlight nomination? I LOVE seeing students and recent grads inspire their peers by sharing what they are doing!! If you are a hard-working student (or know someone who is), this is for you!! Reach out via this contact form.