Heroes

A vending machine. That eats trash. And makes phone cases. Invented by teens.

A group of students came up with this amazing prototype. Imagine the possibilities.

A vending machine. That eats trash. And makes phone cases. Invented by teens.

Recycling should be as simple as buying a can of soda at a vending machine, right?

It should be easy to throw your recyclable items into a machine, knowing you're helping the environment with little to no effort at all.


Image via MyProAction/Facebook, used with permission.

These students in Italy thought so, too.

What started as a school project for five high school students in a small town in Sicily has now turned into an award-winning prototype.

Marco Tomasello, Daniele Caputo, Vincenzo Virruso, Vittorio Maggiore, Toni Taormina, and their teacher, Daniela Russo, came up with a revolutionary recycling concept called MyProGeneration as a way to encourage other youth to step up their conservation game.

They tell Upworthy they had no idea their project would become reality, gaining worldwide interest and earning them the AXA Italia Social Impact Award.


So what was their winning design exactly? It's a vending machine that collects plastic bottles and turns them into phone cases.

It works by grinding any plastic recyclables deposited into the vending machine's container bin into little plastic pellets, which are melted into a plastic thread used to create 3D-printed phone cases.

GIF from Junior Achievement Italia/YouTube.

Basically, it turns this:

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Into these:

Image by MyProAction/Facebook, used with permission.

They've already got four prototype machines in action and are looking for a distribution partner to get them mass-produced.

Image by MyProAction/Facebook, used with permission.

If a group of students can make recycling this fun and easy to do, can you imagine what else we can come up with?

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.