Video exploring the life cycle of toothbrushes wins EPA ‘The Story of Your Stuff 2019’ competition

Date released: April 09, 2019

A project that creatively explores the life cycle of toothbrushes has won the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ‘The Story of Your Stuff 2019’ competition. The video entry by Shurooq Azam, Aldiana Hoxha, Kar Cong Leong and Tomi Ayibiowu, students of Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School, Dublin 15, examines the history and manufacturing process of toothbrushes, explores the environmental impact of improper disposal and highlights eco-friendly alternatives. Ms Azam, Ms Hoxha, Mr Cong Leong and Ms Ayibiowu received €500 for themselves and €500 for their school.

The winner of this year’s competition was announced today at the inaugural national finale event at University College Dublin (UCD), which brought together the five finalists, their classes and their teachers.

Now in its third year, ‘The Story of Your Stuff’ challenges second-level students to investigate the life cycle of an item they use every day.  They are asked to use their artistic talents to visually tell the environmental story of that item. This year’s competition entrants looked at the story of items such as pizza boxes, straws, mobile phones and deodorant.  They creatively told these through mediums such as stop motion video, animation, hand-drawn story board, PowerPoint and infographics.

The top five shortlisted entries showcased at the finale event were:

  • Alex Sullivan & Aoife McLaughlin, Sutton Park, Dublin: ‘The Story of T-shirts’.
  • Alex Baciu & Sophia Lawlor, Coolmine Community School, Dublin: ‘The Story of Plastic Bottles’.
  • Nina Jeff Balolong, Kingswood Community College, Dublin: ‘The Story of Teabags’.
  • Ella Valencia, Sabrina Alom & Kashmira Concha, Saint Vincent’s Secondary School, Cork: ‘The Story of Nappies’.
  • Shurooq Azam, Aldiana Hoxha, Kar Cong Leong & Tomi Ayibiowu, Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School, Dublin 15: ‘The Story of Toothbrushes’.

Commenting, Dr Jonathan Derham of the EPA and chair of the judging panel, said:

“We want to extend our thanks and congratulations to all the students who entered ‘The Story of Your Stuff’. The quality and creativity of the entries shone through the various formats and made it very difficult for us to narrow it down to a top five to bring here today.

“The EPA was delighted to see a record number of entries from students across the country – 143 submissions from 60 schools. Young people who influence the trends of today will be the decision-makers of tomorrow It is heartening to see so many young people engaging with the competition.  We have no doubt this will make them more discerning and sustainable consumers.”

Students attending the finale event at UCD O’Brien Centre for Science were given a guided tour of the UCD campus and participated in a series of interactive demonstrations on 3D printing, new plastic research and the evolution of plants over 500 million years, delivered by top UCD researchers from the UCD Earth Institute, the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, the Science Foundation Ireland BEACON Bioeconomy and I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Centres. The Story of Your Stuff ambassador and environmental scientist, Dr Tara Shine delivered the key-note address.

Dr Shine said:

“I’m honoured to be the ambassador for ’The Story of Your Stuff’. One of the best things about this competition is that it encourages young people to engage with STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) both to research and learn about everyday objects, and to use their communication skills to tell a compelling story. The competition empowers young people to make positive environmentally-conscious decisions, to be effective advocates and to mobilise change. We can all make a big difference with each small change and decision we make.”

Concluding, Deputy Director of UCD Earth Institute, Professor Emma Teeling said:

“It was fantastic to welcome some of the brightest young minds in Ireland to UCD for the finale of TSOYS. The competition aligns closely with the mission of the UCD Earth Institute to find sustainable solutions to the most pressing environmental problems facing us today. We were delighted to partner with the EPA on this event and to introduce the students to some of the research projects we are working on at the moment. We hope to see some of the same faces back here on campus when they move on to third-level education.”

To view the winning and shortlisted entries, visit The Story of Your Stuff website.

Contact: Stephen Moloney / Joanne Ahern, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-7858522 / 087-9881837.
Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office, 053-9170770 (24 hours) or

Notes to Editor

  • Spokespersons from the EPA are available on request.
  • The Story of Your Stuff ambassador, Dr Tara Shine is available for interview on request.
  • Fennel Photography will issue photos from the finale event to picture desks this afternoon.

‘The Story of Your Stuff’: ‘The Story of Your Stuff’ is a nationwide competition for secondary school students run by the EPA. The competition challenges students to investigate the life cycle of their everyday ‘stuff’ through a creative medium, considering the entirety of the item’s life cycle. The EPA’s Ireland’s Environment website has a range of resources to assist students’ research. It offers easily accessible research and reports on topics such as climate change, biodiversity and waste management. Visit The Story of Your Stuff website for more on the competition, and follow The Story of Your Stuff on Instagram @storyofyourstuff.

Dr Tara Shine: Dr Tara Shine is an environmental scientist, entrepreneur and science communicator with over 20 years’ experience working at the international level. She has recently returned from a trip to Antarctica, where she was part of the Homeward Bound global leadership programme for women scientists. She is Director of Change by Degrees, an award-winning social enterprise, in partnership with Madeleine Murray. Change by Degrees aims to change the conversation on sustainability in Ireland and create a movement for convenient sustainability.  It provides educational services to individuals, communities and businesses ranging from awareness raising videos to workshops for employees.  In January 2018 Dr Shine also co-founded Plastic Free Kinsale with Madeleine Murray. It is a community initiative to reduce the use of single plastics in the town and increase awareness of plastic pollution and the impact on our marine environment. In January 2019 Dr Shine participated in an expedition to Antarctica with Homeward Bound, a global leadership programme for women in science.  Tara presents wildlife documentaries and swims in the sea to connect with nature and stay sane.

UCD Earth Institute: The UCD Earth Institute is the University College Dublin’s institute for environmental research. The Institute has a membership of over 80 academics and more than 150 postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers spanning 18 UCD Schools and has active links with a wide range of collaborators and stakeholders. It is home to state-of-the-art research laboratories in the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science and is a focal point for UCD’s environmental research.  It engages with researchers at all career stages and across disciplines including Biology, Business, English, Economics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Law, Computer Science, Geography, Agriculture, Archaeology, Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Policy, Earth Sciences and many others. The Institute fosters interdisciplinary research within and beyond UCD through an active programme of events and activities designed to bring researchers together from these different disciplines, to start new conversations, spark new ideas and support new initiatives relating to research and education, policy and governance, innovation and enterprise and engagement and society.