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Taking Small Actions to Initiate Big Social Impact

Yonsei changemakers receive support to take on social innovation one cigarette butt at a time

The international community is currently facing an alarming number of environmental concerns, and a group of Yonsei students has teamed up to tackle issues found in everyday life, beginning right on campus.



Team CINDERLIER (from left): Jo Beom-su (entering class of ’18, UIC Int’l Studies),  Lee Chae-wan 

(entering class of ’18, Political Science & Int’l Studies), Park Jae-ha (entering class of ‘15, Economics), 

Cho Seung-wan (entering class of ’18, UIC Int’l Studies)



Student-led team CINDERLIER is committed to doing their part to preserve the environment by collecting and recycling cigarette butts on campus at Yonsei University. 

“We started this project when we had a chance to talk to one of our school’s janitors,” remarked Lee Chae-wan, team head of CINDERLIER. “He said, ‘I go around trash cans many times a day to clean up littered cigarette butts. I think each janitor collects around 100 cigarette butts every day.’” 


This brief conversation made CINDERLIER realize that, although people generally think of major issues such as global warming and fine dust when discussing environmental concerns, everyone is directly exposed to pollution and its impact - every day and everywhere.  


To address this problem, CINDERLIER gathered like-minded friends and formed a team for this cause. While researching their project, the students discovered that cigarette butts could be recycled. The biodegradable paper and tobacco leaves can be made into compost or inorganic fertilizer, while the plastic filters can be dissolved and be recycled into plastic materials. 


Moreover, the team came across EG-1 Bio, a Korean company that uses microorganisms to convert cigarette butts into compost and currently runs prototypes in cities and universities for cigarette butt recycling with its customized technology. CINDERLIER decided to not only design and manufacture our cigarette butt collecting bins, but to also expand their project to cigarette butt recycling in partnership with EG-1 Bio. The team designed, created, and installed a collecting bin outside the Central Library on campus and have signed an agreement with EG-1 Bio to recycle the collected cigarette butts. 


CINDERLIER's cigarette butt collecting bin on campus
(Courtesy of CINDERLIER team)

“The team name CINDERLIER comes from the word ‘chandelier’ which we changed by adding ‘cinder,’ to mean ‘ash.’ Cigarette butts, which are often casually thrown away, can be given new purpose and be shown in a new light. Our team, CINDERLIER, will always strive to achieve this goal,” said Chae-wan.


The CINDERLIER team is one of the 131 teams selected last May for the student extracurricular program “Workstation” organized by the Institute for Higher Education Innovation (IHEI) at Yonsei University. First launched in 2018, the program aims to encourage students to identify and proactively address social issues in innovative ways that can have a positive impact on Korea and the international community. With funds totaling 300 million won (about 250,000 USD) to support 729 participating students this year, Workstation has the highest funding for university-supported student activities in the country.  


The IHEI hosts IHEI Workstation SHOW-OFF FESTA events twice a year, SHOW-OFF FESTA I taking place in August for the student teams to give interim presentations of the progress they made so far, and SHOW-OFF FESTA II in the winter where they give final presentations, sharing their overall journey and project outcomes. 


IHEI Workstation SHOW-OFF FIESTA I 2019 


IHEI Workstation SHOW-OFF FESTA I 2019 was held on campus on August 27, 2019, where the teams presented their experiences and exchanged ideas on the work they have been conducting for the past three months. Before the event, they uploaded their activity videos on the IHEI Social Innovation Town online platform, receiving preliminary evaluation and feedback from more than 1,000 people including Yonsei faculty members, social innovation activists, external experts, and cooperative organizations. Three “excelling” teams were selected through this process, including CINDERLIER, ASSIST, and YSSIL. 


Event attendees included Kim Yong-Hak, President of Yonsei University and Head of IHEI, Park In-guk, President of the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies (KFAS), and Yee Jaeyeol, Director of KFAS.


“The team’s projects may be challenging and even demanding at times, but Yonsei University will spare no administrative and financial support to make the process more enjoyable,” said Jang Yong Suk, Deputy Head of IHEI. “I am confident that our students will continue to give their best efforts.”


The IHEI will actively support social participation among students to strengthen Yonsei University’s platform for social innovation. The final presentation of the Workstation teams - IHEI Workstation SHOW-OFF FESTA II 2019 - will take place on January 10, 2020 at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.


IHEI Workstation SHOW-OFF FIESTA I 2019 group photo



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