Trash for cash: Apps promote recycling through monetary rewards

The Jakarta Post – For many people, waste management is still considered a bothersome chore. For others, however, recycling brings them rewards, such as cash and shopping vouchers.

A newly developed app called e-Recycle makes waste management easier for the residents of Jakarta, a city that produces approximately 7,700 tons of waste per day. The app offers door-to-door waste collection services that allow residents to exchange their recyclable waste for cash.

To begin with, the service is only available in East Jakarta.

The app was launched in November 2019 by local company PT. Multi Inti Digital Lestari to promote recycling among Jakarta residents.

Users only need to download the application through the Google Play store and register their active phone numbers. To trade plastic waste, users must write down the overall weight and the app will provide information on the price, ranging from Rp4,000 (29 US cents) to Rp6,000 per kilogram.

Not all plastic waste is accepted. So far, the company only accepts plastic bottles, bottle caps, plastic cups and gallon caps. The waste will be picked up shortly after the users send a picture of their plastic waste and provide a pick-up address via the app.

“Before waste is recycled, it needs to be sorted, which many people are unaware of,” e-Recycle product head Dicky Wiratama told The Jakarta Post.

To be recycled, waste needs to be separated into different categories: plastic, glass, organic, metal, paper and hazardous.

Dicky said the app was launched out of concern for the massive amount of plastic debris in the ocean, which he said showed that people were still unaware of the importance of waste management.

This concern is not without basis, as Statistic Indonesia (BPS) reported in 2018 that Indonesia produces as much as 64 million tons of plastic waste each year, 3.2 million tons of which ends up in the ocean.

Jakarta itself has been experiencing serious waste problems, with the amount of waste produced on a daily basis continuing to increase at a rapid pace. According to a report from the Jakarta Environment Agency, the city produced 6,561 tons of waste per day in 2016, a number that increased to 6,875 tons per day in 2017 and 7,500 tons per day in 2018.

With its maximum capacity of 49 million tons, the Bantar Gebang landfill only has a few years left before it will need to be closed, with the waste volume already reaching more than 39 million tons.

The report also stated that approximately 60 percent of the unmanaged waste in Bantar Gebang was produced by households, with 30 percent of the unmanaged waste being plastic.

“People’s unwillingness to sort out and recycle their waste is not caused by economic circumstances. Rather, it’s habitual,” he added.

According to Dicky, the app has been downloaded more than 8,000 times, not only by Jakartans, but also residents of Bali, Sumatra and even foreign countries.

“They know they won’t get any benefits as our service is still limited to East Jakarta. However, that’s just how they show their support for the app,” Dicky said.

Dicky explained that the company was currently only able to collect approximately 1 to 2 tons of plastic waste per day, but has set a target for 10 tons once the user base expands.

The collected plastic waste is sent to the company’s factory in Pondok Ungu in Bekasi, West Java, where it is turned into shredded plastic and plastic pellets that can be reused by manufactures.

e-Recycle is not the only app promoting household waste management. Plasticpay, which launched in April 2019, is another Jakarta-based app that offers e-wallet points and shopping vouchers for users who actively collect plastic bottles.

Plasticpay, which is owned by PT. Plasticpay Teknologi Daurulang as part of PT. Inocycle Technology Group (INOV), has its own recycling center in Pasar Kamis, Tangerang, Banten. The plastic bottles collected by the app users are recycled to make synthetic fibres and pillows.

According to Plasticpay senior business development manager Muhammad Irsyad Ridha, the recycling center owns recycling technology imported from Germany and South Korea. The machines, he added, shred the plastic bottles and process the material into a soft and fluffy fiber similar to cotton.

“We’re not just collecting and reselling the plastic, we also manage the plastic waste. We would like to educate people about how plastic waste can be turned into valuable and reusable items,” Irsyad told the Post.

Plasticpay, which is currently only available for residents of Tangerang and South Jakarta, provides 12 plastic waste drop boxes at shopping malls, schools and retail markets. Unlike e-Recycle, which provides pick-up services, Plasticpay encourages its users to deliver their plastic waste to the available drop-boxes as it is still struggling with the logistic expenses.

However, Plasticpay is not limited to app users as it also welcomes scavengers to deposit plastic bottle in its drop-boxes in exchange for Rp 3,000 per kg, a higher rate than is offered by regular plastic collectors.

To reach multiple layers of society, Irsyad said Plasticpay also planned to cooperate with mosques in South Jakarta to encourage people to recycle.

“We can see the great enthusiasm in society, so we hope people will change their waste management habits,” he added. (trn)


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