In a remarkable feat, two first-year undergraduate students, following the Polymer Science/Chemistry/Physics combination of the Faculty of Applied Sciences, Rukshika Fernando and Thisal Vitharana, secured first place in the esteemed SustainAble Climate Action Challenge, an island-wide innovation competition organized by the European Union and Dilmah Tea Corporation.

Inspired by their studies in polymer science, they envisioned a single unit named ‘EcoSort’ that would harness the power of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to efficiently identify and mechanically segregate individual plastic types into separate compartments. Within the tight timeframe of six weeks, the duo not only conceptualized but also brought their idea to life: a functional prototype with a digital display and a proximity sensor to automatically turn the detection laser beam on and off. EcoSort currently segregates high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which will be expanded to other polymers in the future to be used on a commercial scale. Throughout the process, the students were mentored by Dr. Dhammika Weerathunga, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Polymer Science, and Mr. Dhanushka Dharmasiri, Lecturer at the Department of Physics.

To fortify their proposal, Rukshika and Thisal conducted extensive research, engaging with key stakeholders involved in plastic waste management.

Their victory not only contributes to global efforts for sustainable practices but also inspires fellow students to actively engage in finding solutions to critical issues, shaping an eco-friendlier future. This accomplishment places these first-year undergraduates on the map of environmental innovation and marks a significant milestone for the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. As we celebrate their success, let it inspire future generations to explore, innovate, and contribute towards a more sustainable world.

Dr. Dhammika Weerathunga (first from the left), Rukshika Fernando (second from the left), Prof. Upul Subasinghe Deen of the FAS (middle), Thisal Vitharana (second from the right) and Mr. Dhanushka Dharmasiri (first from the right) with the invention.