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Developing scientific literacy in order to solve real local problems using rubbish

Rubbish Science

Dorset Uk
Creating a global group of collaborative problem solvers using only freely available materials (plastic bottles, bags etc) to make fly traps, hydroponic bottle gardens etc. The program creates a level playing field in that all learners from the poorest to the richest have access to the same materials irrespective of their other circumstances.

Premise of Rubbish Science

“We empower people by systematising their thinking, to solve real local problems using rubbish as a resource. At the same time, we try to create Global collaboration and understanding. Neil Atkin ”


What we do?

Many of the young people we work with live in extremely challenging conditions.  Using only locally available discarded materials we help these children create a degree of health, food and water security. So for example, if flies and mosquitoes present a significant health risk we make fy and mosquito traps from plastic bottles. If nutrition is inadequate we grow plants hydroponically in water and nutrient efficient bottle gardens. Clean water can be produced using plastic bottle solar stills or UV sterilisation methods.  We are working on developing activated charcoal filtration.

We don't provide optimised solutions to these problems, instead, we equip our students with the tools they need in order to find their own solutions. We are respectful of indigenous knowledge and only systematise it using design thinking and scientific literacy. 

Rubbish Science aims are greater than simply improving the independence and quality of lives of our students. We are creating a global network of connected problem solvers in some of the richest and poorest communities in the World. 

Why we do it?

Lives can be transformed using items that are freely available and considered as rubbish. We aim to change the paradigm, to see rubbish as a resource. To unlock latent talents to systematically create and develop new ideas that can make life better.

Having taught in many areas of the World I have been struck by how incredibly similar we are.  Irrespective of race, religion, level of privilege or other perceived differences, that which seperates us is almost insignificant compared to what binds us together. 

Politicians in many countries often try and create a fear of other nationalities. Rubbish Science aims to do the opposite. All students carry out the same activities with the same equipment. Often those with the hardest lives outperform those with the most privileged. We aim to create empathy in these wealthy students, not guilt and an understanding that really only circumstances, not talent separate them from the poorest. 

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Innovation Overview
10 - 18
Age Group
Tips for implementation
Either use these ideas to improve health, food and water security to people living in difficult conditions or set as a problem-solving scenario day for the more privileged Resources are all available on the website and are free to use for non-profits.
Contact information

See this innovation in action

Sierra Leone Workshop with the Orphans from Freetown Dump – Rubbish Science
Rubbish Science at Le Rosey Festival of Education – Rubbish Science
Rubbish Science and Google
Rubbish Science
Rubbish Science in Vietnam – Rubbish Science
Lessons learned from Rubbish Science Sessions in a Sierra Leone Rural School – Rubbish Science


Achievements & Awards


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