Japanese high school students praised for their project to rent cloth bags recycled from uniforms
KITAKYUSHU – A business plan written by three high school students in this southwestern Japanese town to rent reusable shopping bags recycled from school uniforms has been named one of the top 100 business ideas in a competition national for high school students.
17-year-old Ayamo Tanaka, 18-year-old Sora Hamamura, and 17-year-old Manami Senju, all third-year students in the IT department of Kitakyushu City High School, made their plan with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). United in listen. This would save natural resources and create jobs for people with disabilities. The bags themselves will be rentable through an app. And the idea is already getting praise. The 2021 High School Student Business Plan Grand Prix, organized by the government-backed, Tokyo-based Japan Finance Corp., selected it for its top 100.
The students took six months from April 2021 to create the business plan in classes taught by Nozomi Akiyoshi, 41, four times a week.
The idea fits with the SDGs also promoted by the Kitakyushu municipal government, including laying the foundation for industries and technical renewal, and striking a balance between job satisfaction and economic growth. They used umbrella-sharing services in the Tokyo metropolitan area and Kansai region in western Japan as a reference.
The trio decided that, from an SDG perspective, the bags should be made from recycled materials. They originally planned to use fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles, but scrapped the idea because “it was difficult for single students to collect enough bottles”. They then had the idea of using their school uniforms. The school had changed the design two years earlier, so they couldn’t pass them on to younger students anyway. They asked Jeplan Inc., a company based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture with a factory in Kitakyushu, if it was possible to recycle used clothes into new products, and learned that it was. Their idea had legs.
They planned to commission people with disabilities to design the bags to expand job opportunities. They asked “Wakuwa-ku” – a local non-profit organization for people with mental disorders and others who had designed customer message cards for a bank – and its disabled members to help them, and they joined the project with enthusiasm.
The younger classmates of the trio are apparently ready to continue working on the technical side of the rental system and implementing the business plan.
The High School Student Business Plan Grand Prize aims to get young people across the country interested in entrepreneurship, and there were 3,087 submissions in 2021. The “Best 100” is the second highest prize after the finalists. Hamamura, who received the certificate on behalf of his group, commented, “It was difficult to do the planning but also to do the presentation. I am glad that our efforts have been recognized.
(Japanese original by Shinichi Okuda, Kyushu News Department)